When Spencer Matthews first started to look for an engagement ring for his now wife Vogue Williams, the former reality TV star likely didn’t imagine that the search would lead to the beginning of another significant relationship and a brand new business.
Whilst this relationship might be of a slightly different nature, the partnership Matthews has struck up with experienced jeweller Neil Duttson – who helped him design a unique piece for Williams – has proven both highly beneficial and enduring.
The pair formed a close bond immediately upon being introduced by mutual friend Hugo Taylor, and this has now led to the creation of Eden Rocks, a bespoke luxury diamond jewellery business that aims to offer high quality jewellery pieces to clients without “unreasonable” mark-ups.
A digital only business, the company was launched earlier this year and has already seen a host of high-profile customers including sporting legends Frank Lampard and Serena Williams. And, according to Matthews, a large part of the success so far can be attributed to the cooperative relationship between the two founders.
“I immediately trusted him, which is really rare for me,” the former Made in Chelsea star says of his first meetings with Neil Duttson. “There was something very lovely and very charming about him. We spent a lot of time together, we had many trips to Hatton Garden, and it really opened my eyes to the wonders of the diamond industry and just how much fun it is to create your own piece.”
And Duttson, a leading jeweller to the stars with a vast amount of industry experience, is no less complementary about Matthews. “To have a relationship and friendship with someone who has the passion that I do, but is much younger and has the opportunity to do a lot of things, has been fascinating and has just been great fun,” he says. “We get on really well, we still speak on a bi-daily basis and we’re nearly two years in of meeting!”
Made in Chelsea
To most people, Matthews will be most familiar as one of the poster boys of reality TV show Made in Chelsea, on which he appeared for four years between 2011 and 2015. And although he has to some extent distanced himself from the programme, he accepts that the platform it has given him has been a huge help in terms of his new venture.
“In my particular case, having 760,000 followers or something on Instagram can only be a bonus, whether or not they are customers, because people hear about it and people talk about it,” he says. “Everybody at some point in their life is going to know somebody who is getting engaged, and if that person happens to be a fan of reality TV then that could be a result for me, it’s free press!”
Matthews claims that he is not personally a huge fan of social media, but he is more than aware of just how important it is for a modern day business – and especially an online one – to have a social footprint. And he says that utilising the following that he amassed during his time in the TV spotlight is hugely important as well as being a good alternative to more traditional methods of promotion.
“If you’re a start-up business and you want to be covered in the Financial Times, who are you going to call, how are you going to do it? It’s easier said than done,” he explains. “A lot of these big magazines will have absolutely no interest in covering me, so I’m trying to utilise a platform which I’ve sort of put behind me to benefit me in the future.”
Duttson echoes Matthews’ sentiments, claiming that although he was “not a social media guru” he could see how essential it was for any start up business, regardless of its background, to make the most of social channels. He added that so far the Eden Rocks’ Instagram page had received about 150 messages, of which only roughly 15 were relevant. Of those 15, however, he said that there was “pretty much a 100%” conversion rate into business, highlighting the importance of the platform.
Matthews admits that he did not undertake a huge amount of research about the industry before launching the venture, but claims that he was inspired to help when discovering the huge margins in the trade. He said that the bespoke jewellery market was an experience that he thought should be shared — and one that many people might not realise could even be available to them.
Matthews says that he has often walked into a big shop and seen bangles with ‘tiny, tiny stones’ being sold for ridiculous prices, and he hopes that he can educate a slightly younger generation on what is achievable and what they can be wearing.
“For something that you can’t identify as a particular type of product — it’s not like a Lamborghini or a Patek Philippe, where everyone can see what it is,” he says. “But on a diamond, you can’t see a Cartier stamp. So if you buy the diamond from the same mine, which is often the case, you’re left with the same thing we’re selling but you’ve spent eight times more money.”
He adds: “I thought if there could be a degree of education to the business, we could teach people that actually diamonds are rare and beautiful, but they’re being marketed as almost unattainable, and if you could market them slightly differently and make them more accessible to people, there would be a really great business there.”
As with any new business, the first few months have not been without their challenges. For Duttson, the biggest of these is making sure the pieces are, for want of a better word, “bombproof.”
A large part of the experience with the business is the ability for the client to work with Duttson and Matthews and play a huge part in the design process for their own piece. And whilst this comes with obvious benefits, there are also associated difficulties.
Duttson says it is crucial to produce a piece of jewellery that is not going to get tugged by a client’s child and broken the first time wearing it, and so it is vital to make sure that everything from the design process to the actual making of the jewellery in the furnace is totally right — and similar to what someone might find on Bond Street.
He says: “We’re going in with a completely open book here and if you shop on Bond Street you expect an incredible product that is really, really bombproof. So that’s been a bit of a challenge with some of the designs we’ve got, because what looks great in the shop window isn’t necessarily practical and if something’s going to be worn every day it can’t be broken.”
Matthews says that the biggest challenge for him so far has been working out the best methods for getting people through the door. He explains that it’s rare to find someone who is wealthy and doesn’t already have someone who can get them jewellery at a favourable rate, and so the difficulty is positioning the business and riding the line between affordability and premium.
One way that the business is doing this is by focusing on the personability aspect. “People want to feel like they’re being looked after,” says Matthews. “And the great thing about Neil in particular is that he’s a real people person, he really likes people — far more than me! So Neil will be delighted to take you down to the little pub where they filmed Snatch in Hatton Garden and invest time in you so that he gets a really firm understanding of what it is that you’re looking for — and it’s nice to feel that way.” Duttson himself also says that personability is a real selling point.
He explains that a lot of Eden Rocks’ creations are very personal to the client and things that they might not be happy discussing at a shop with six or seven sales staff. “We can add additions to each piece of jewellery, whether it’s an engagement ring or a necklace or a tiara, that is very personal to that person,” he shares.
“Things like engraving and adding birthstones and silly things like that always add a bit of personalisation and a nice touch really.”
Whilst the business has got off to a promising start, for Matthews the most exciting part is yet to come. At the end of this year, the business is launching its first shop window at Eden Rocks Hotel in St Bart’s — the hotel that is owned by Matthews’ father and from which the business takes its name. Matthews claims that the market and clientele in that part of the world is particularly exciting to him, and he reckons the launch will show that he really means business.
“That’s a proper hotel, we’re a proper brand, and we’ll be rubbing shoulders with all sorts of really noteworthy names,” he says. “So all being well that should be extremely exciting.”