Metal-gurus-deakin-and-francisFor England’s oldest family jeweller, going back over 200 years, Deakin & Francis is a remarkably young operation.

We spoke to James Deakin, who runs the company with his brother Henry. The family factory in the Jewellery Quarter was very much a playground for James as a young boy, when he dreamt of becoming a carpenter. But when his father showed him the merits of melting, pouring and bending metals, James was entranced and took his natural place at the firm, 18 years ago. He took over the running of the company when his father retired in 2005.

Henry joined 6 years after James, and is now the MD, while James designs everything and concentrates on d&d and oversees production. He also travels the world and spreads the word, attending 16 trade shows last year and only recently back from China, Thailand and Vegas. “We’ve haphazardly become a bit of a brand over the last 10 years, slightly pushed by the Americans. Before that we were a white label manufacturer making for other retailers, but then we realised they were telling our story over their counter.”

So what is it about cufflinks that turns James on? “Aside from a watch I can’t think of a better way for a man to express personality, but there is nothing ostentatious about today’s cufflink. Think of The Great Gatsby, all white tie and formal events. Now cufflinks are deemed as more everyday; you don’t need to be going to the opera. They’re fun, but very serious”

Although jewellery making is a traditional craft, technology has more than made its impact, with CAD modelling – akin to the car industry – now taking its place alongside hand carved mock-ups. It also inspires themes that have never existed before – James is currently working on a collection with an electronics company. “We’re very traditional in the way we work, but we love technology. And I also like hearing the workshop hammering out a cygnet ring.”

James sees cufflinks as “grown up boys toys”, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the most popular models are little red racing cars. But where does new inspiration come from? “It’s a little bit perverse, but I almost never stop thinking about design. I’m a farmer and live in the country, and came up with an idea last night while on my tractor.”

While researching their cufflinks credentials, we came across a women’s section. When did all that start? “If you’ve had a factory for 235 years doing precious metal, you can’t get away without doing stuff for ladies. In fact, we’ve been doing women’s work for a lot longer than cufflinks.”

And so the ultimate test of James’ modernity; what does he think of cufflinks on women? “I can’t think of anything hotter.”

Deakin & Francis
Regent Place B1 3NL
0121 236 7751