By  on May 1, 2006

LONDON — Theo Fennell, the British jeweler known for its sorbet-colored gemstones and bejeweled cross, key and horn pendants, is looking to grow by taking another stab at the U.S. market.

The label, founded in 1982 by Theo Fennell, a tall and dashing Eton graduate who began his career as a silversmith, is popular among London celebrities, including Elton John, Liz Hurley, and David and Victoria Beckham. But Fennell said it's time to turn the business up a notch.

"We've finally decided to go for it and not keep ourselves a secret anymore," said the designer from his South Kensington office, located above the label's flagship. "We are constantly being asked to move into new markets, but we are a design-led business and we don't have the infrastructure to grow."

Fennell, 54, who designs and produces all of his jewels in-house, said he's open to a variety of future options, including selling the business — but retaining creative control — or handing over a minority stake.

"What we're looking for is a financial partner with the skills to help us be a serious international player," he said, adding he's looking at the U.S., the Middle East and the Far East as potential markets for growth.

In addition to expanding on the retail and wholesale front, money from a potential partner would go toward investing in high-end gems.

"We're too poor right now to have enough floating, high-end stock," he said. "Ironically, we have the clients, but not the gemstones, and we'd also like to have enough stock to resupply wholesale and franchise clients quickly."

The business is listed on London's AIM stock exchange, although Fennell and board members Viscount Cowdray, Richard Northcott and Charlie Carter own 70 percent of the company.

The company's annual sales for the year ended March 31 will be released in June. Last year's sales were 16.3 million pounds, or $29 million at current exchange. The market capitalization is about 6.3 million pounds, or $11.2 million.

Fennell's latest collections have a Victorian flavor and feature gold honeycomb heart pendants with bees crawling over them, diamond pavé snakes slithering around chunky jeweled crosses, and glittering mermaids, fairies, bats and bugs on rings, pendants and pins.

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