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London Sparkles With New Gems

Small, independent jewelers are in bloom in London, opening stores to cater to a loyal clientele and attract new customers.

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LONDON — Small, independent jewelers are in bloom here, opening new stores to cater to an already loyal clientele — and attracting new customers in various parts of town.

Over the past month, Wint & Kidd, the colored-diamond and custom expert, and Cox & Power, which specializes in handmade, understated gems, have both opened second stores, while designers Kirt Holmes and Lesley Vik Waddell have opened their first shop, Jewel.

“We were bursting at the seams and needed more space. It was time to branch out and do things a bit differently,” said Vicci Cox, an owner and director of Cox & Power, which has just opened a 648-square-foot store at 35C Marylebone High Street in North Central London. “We see this as a new-generation store.”

The jeweler, which has been in business for a decade, already has a store on Walton Street in South Kensington, a concession at Liberty and a string of concessions in Japan. The new London store has an organic, futuristic feel, with blue suede walls, teardrop-shaped Murano glass lamps hanging from the ceiling and porthole-like window cases displaying the jewels.

Like luxury-seeking scuba divers, customers look through the portholes at delicate sapphire necklaces, green tourmaline rings and diamond-studded hoops as if they were exotic, underwater creatures. Every jewel at Cox & Power — starting with the sterling silver earrings, which cost 45 pounds, or $86 at current exchange — is handmade.

At the back of the store, customers can huddle with designer and director Anthony Power to commission their own jewels. Cox said one of the primary reasons for the new store is to cater to the jeweler’s mainly North London-based clientele. “Of course, we also want to attract local business, too,” she added.

That won’t be hard. Marylebone High Street is one of London’s up-and-coming shopping areas; it has an intimate, small-town vibe, and it favors independent retailers over big chain stores.

Wint & Kidd, which has opened at The Royal Exchange luxury retail center in the City (London’s financial district), is also chasing after its principal client base. “About 70 percent of our customers are City-based males, and we’re going to them,” said Gavin Chengalanee, a company director.

This story first appeared in the December 20, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re taking a bit of a chance, but Tiffany and Boodles are both there, so we thought, why not?” Overall, Chengalanee said the brand did not have an amazing summer, but the Christmas season so far is looking good.

The 350-square-foot store features the same bespoke service as Wint & Kidd’s first boutique in Westbourne Grove. Clients can buy loose diamonds, for example, and later choose from a variety of settings.

The store also showcases its best-selling commitment rings — stackable platinum bands with colored stones meant to mark special occasions, such as a baby’s birth. The rings’ prices start at 1,000 pounds, or $1,920.

Meanwhile, jewelry designers Holmes and Vik Waddell have opened their first store, in Islington, North London, at 16 Camden Passage, a street famous for its antique shops. The Jewel store spans 400 square feet, sells both designers’ collections and also offers a bespoke service.  

Yorkshire-born Holmes, best known for her use of Swarovski crystal beading, found objects and coral, has designed jewelry for Dries Van Noten, Givenchy, Matthew Williamson and Roberto Cavalli.

Vik Waddell, who is based between London and her native Norway, is a freelance design consultant for Cartier and has designed pieces for Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood. Her signature style is the use of metal lace-like filigree teamed with Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

“We’re both very established in wholesale, and to have a place where we can showcase our pieces in our chosen environment was the next step,” said Vik Waddell, whose first collection was snapped up by Harrods in 1998, and now also sells at Liberty, Harvey Nichols and Browns Focus in London and at Barneys New York and Fred Segal.

Prices range from 50 pounds, or $96, for beaded drop earrings to 600 pounds, or $1,152, for necklaces made from sterling silver and semiprecious stones. Commissioned pieces can go up to 2,300 pounds, or $4,416.

For now, Vik Waddell and Holmes are working the shop floor. “We wanted to get closer to the customer, to feel who our clients are, to meet them and know their responses,” said Vik Waddell, who has made some surprising discoveries.

“Although we have lots of really young, edgy girls who come in for long earrings and asymmetric pieces, it is often the middle-aged conservative women who buy the most amazing, modern pieces,” she said, referring to the large, showpiece necklaces.

“They come in with dresses in mind, whereas the younger girls want something they can wear with anything every day.”

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