She’s got the design cred, a roster of hot clients including Sienna Miller, Charlize Theron, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. She’s got the big townhouse flagship in Mayfair — and two industry investors. So what’s next for the diamond jeweler Jessica McCormack?
Growth is on the agenda — but not the runaway variety, and scaling quickly would be impossible anyway: McCormack creates diamond jewelry using Georgian and Victorian techniques in the workshop in the basement of her flagship on London’s Carlos Place. Also, she sees herself as a family jeweler and actually enjoys interacting with her clients, convincing them that diamonds are fit for everyday.
She transforms their vintage heirlooms into new pieces, consults on engagement rings and urges them to wear diamonds fearlessly and instinctively, whether they’re bespoke pieces reworked from a grandmother’s jewelry box or simpler items such as her Tattoo necklaces or signature button-back hoop earrings, with small diamond pendants.
“I want my clients not to be intimidated by diamonds and to build a diamond jewelry collection over a lifetime. I want to be a modern voice in the world of diamonds,” said the New Zealand-born jeweler from the red-brick townhouse where she’s been based for nearly five years.
Bespoke work is a big part of what she does, and she said she loves the one-to-one contact with clients. She recently created a jacket made from 200 baguette-cut rocks for an American client’s existing 8-carat diamond ring.
Prices start at about 2,600 pounds for the button-back earrings, and can sail up to 1 million pounds, depending on the nature of the stones and complexity of the designs.
McCormack also collects vintage wooden boxes and transforms them into jewelry cases with secret compartments and personalized messages inside. She also conducts master classes for friends and clients, showing them what she looks for in a diamond and why a purchase is, more often than not, a gut instinct.
McCormack came to diamonds from the world of art and antiques: Her father had an auction house and she spent a year in the jewelry department at Sotheby’s in London. Her business partners are certainly au fait with rocks: Michael Rosenfeld is a diamantaire who sources stones for her, while Rachel Slack is a businesswoman and a member of the Oppenheimer family, the longtime custodians of De Beers.
She also has a new chief executive officer in place, Colleen Caslin, a jewelry industry veteran who has held top management roles at Verdura and Belperron, Movado Group, and Asprey & Garrard, and who has been consolidating the business and positioning it for growth.
On Caslin’s watch, a new web site will launch later this year, while an ad campaign has recently been created, and collections are being designed with more regularity. Bridal is being built up. Caslin said the company is planning for a 20 percent increase in retail sales for 2018, and a 15 percent increase each year in the following four years.
While she and McCormack are eager for growth — they want to reach more customers and expand the brand footprint — they know it needs to be sustainable, so they’re not rushing into any third-party deals or taking on new investors, despite the temptation to do so.
“We’re still a discovery brand — we’d just like more people to discover us. We need more visibility,” said McCormack, adding that she’d ideally like to take “a little bit of this townhouse and drop it in different places around the world.” Plans for trunk shows are in the works so that McCormack can build up a bigger U.S. clientele.
While there is room to expand the London workshop, the Georgian and Victorian jewelry-making techniques; absence of any machines, computers or computer-aided design; and the fact that it takes five years to train an apprentice; all put natural breaks on the business.
Caslin admits that while “one can be so seduced” by offers for investment and potential partnerships, she and McCormack are standing their ground. “Growth is going to be about quality over quantity. It’s going to be healthy and it has to be methodical. I’m bullish – but I won’t set this company up for failure.”
McCormack, a mother of three whose youngest child was born earlier this year, put it another way: “This business is my first baby. We built it ourselves and we can support it ourselves. We’re flexible, nimble and in control. Hopefully, we’ll always be able to have our own say in what we do.”