Hot 100 2013: James Deakin and Henry Deakin

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Creating eye-popping cufflinks while maintaining a 200-year heritage.

By Steve Spear

"Managing a brand that’s been around since 1786 is a challenge,” say brothers James and Henry Deakin. But after more than 200 years in existence and now under its seventh generation in the same family, Deakin & Francis is a trendsetter.

It may have taken a couple of centuries or so but from their workshop in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter the brothers’ heritage brand is now leading the way for dapper gents with its range of breathtakingly imaginative and skilfully rendered cufflinks. Sales are up 28% year on year and the brand is now stocked in landmark retailers including Selfridges and Harrods.

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It marks a key moment in the illustrious history of the UK’s oldest family jeweller, but it’s all just a reflection of the brothers’ ambitions. “We’re working on new collections as well as new countries,” they say. “We’re really ambitious about our family business. We have carefully chosen the direction for the company, taken aim and fired. Having just successfully completed a five-year plan early this year we enter another with motivation and drive.”

James and Henry started travelling to work with their father in their school holidays. James says: “I joined my father at work and enjoyed melting and pouring lead into moulds and filling up the finished pieces in the stamp shop. The goldsmiths and silversmiths would keep me entertained with piles of metal to be cut into different shapes. I started enamelling at eight years old and was fascinated by the enamellers’ attention to detail and finish.”

So in many ways this life was preordained. What was not determined was the eye-popping level of design the pair would create. Their collection of mechanical and moving pieces really are a wonder to behold and familiarity with the Deakin & Francis collection widens any chap’s sartorial horizons.

The mainline collection is constantly evolving with new additions to the line such as the Bugatti Cufflinks made from Bugatti Type 57 engine, launched in April, or the sterling silver skull cufflinks with moving jaw and popping ruby eyes and a Mohican hairstyle, launched in May. Current highlights include the limited-edition Diamond Jubilee Cufflink made from 18ct white gold and diamonds with opening jaws and jutting diamond eyes and sporting a purple velvet and diamond-encrusted crown.

The brothers’ favourites? For Henry it’s a traditional pair of yellow gold, clear enamel cufflinks with cabochon sapphires in the centre and a pair of conversation-starting sabre tooth tiger cufflinks. As for James, he says: “It’s always the design I’m working on right now.” In a departure from tradition, a womenswear line was launched for the first time in May 2012, based on the bestselling cufflinks. It all suggests a brand in rude health for the next 200-plus years.

This Hot 100 Tresor Paris Trendsetter profile was taken from the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 book. To read the digital book in full, click here.
 

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