Boodles, from county jewellers to luxury brand

An all-British approach to high jewellery


London Editor

18 December 2012

Boodles is still a family business, with brothers Nicholas and Michael Wainwright at the helm of the company, and cousins Jody and James representing the sixth generation of the dynasty in the business. But the story goes back even further. In 1798, a small jewellery shop called Boodle & Dunthorne opened in central Liverpool, and business thrived as the city flourished. The Wainwright family purchased Boodle & Dunthorne in 1910, and began charting the journey towards an ambitious objective: making Boodles the British jewellery brand capable of competing with the finest maisons in the world.

LUXOS spoke to company chairman Nicholas Wainwright in order to find out more about the transition from a county jewellers to a brand.

"For 195 years Boodles were county jewellers with a fine reputation. We sold silver, silver plate, clocks, 16 brands of watches, antiques and jewellery purchased from manufacturers around the world. We have a passion for jewellery, so 15 years ago we decided to specialize in our own designs of top quality jewellery. We employed a team of jewellery designers and decided there and then to become a significant player in fine jewellery. This has developed over recent years so that now Boodles can compete with the world’s best jewellery houses. This has enabled the company to firstly design, promote, advertise and sell our jewellery under the Boodles brand. It is impossible to be a well-known brand when you are selling other peoples products, but now all Boodles jewellery is designed and made by our own craftsmen and has a look all of its own." (Shown below, the Wild Swan necklace):

The process was accompanied by new boutiques in various U.K. locations, Chester, Manchester, and of course London, where a long-cherished family dream came true in 2007, when the first Boodles store on Bond Street was opened. Boodles also have a great website, with e-commerce trading. How important is an online presence to a luxury brand?

"Our e-commerce website was reinvented in 2012 and so far has been highly successful, but I do not believe a luxury brand can develop primarily with an on-line presence. Jewellery buyers like the all-round service that Boodles offer, receiving top quality advice from our salespeople who often develop a very close relationship with their customers which you cannot receive on-line. Our customers enjoy actually seeing, handling and trying on from a wonderful selection of jewellery in our stores." (Below, the Ocean bracelet):

Boodles are without doubt forging their own position in the luxury jewellery sector. Louis Vuitton included Boodles in its freshly-revised City Guide London 2012, describing them as 'A British brand to watch.' But what is it that sets Boodle apart from the competition? What is its all-Brit DNA?

"Boodles jewellery is designed and made in England primarily for British jewellery buyers. We have many international customers who admire British style and this is one of the reasons that they choose Boodles; but to dramatically change our style to attract customers from Russia, the Middle or Far East is not the way we wish to go. I think Boodles jewellery can now compete with many of the major international jewellery houses."

Something of the Boodles approach can be gauged from its approach to design. Nothing is mass-produced. Detailing is exquisite. Even parts of a jewel that will be forever hidden – the parts behind the stones – are carefully hand-polished. Diamonds are set on the reverse of rings, and are visible only when you take them off. Its Vintage rings are set with over 100 tiny diamonds. Its design prowess is such that the Boodles Raindance ring is part of the Victoria & Albert Museum's permanent collection illustrating 1,000 years of British jewellery. Their design process can incorporate customers' input – if this is the way they want to go. (Shown below, the Raindance Signature ring):

"Young couples very rarely ask for a completely unique engagement ring. There is such a wonderful selection of designs readily available to look at and try on, that unless they are attempting to copy an original ring which is no longer available, they are generally completely happy with the selection Boodles offer. We have noticed in the past two years there is a move away from single stone diamonds to a diamond beautifully mounted in a vintage style setting. Also fine quality sapphire and other valuable coloured gemstones are becoming more popular again for engagement rings." Shown below, the Double Vintage Oval Sapphire ring:

Below, the Oval Vintage Engagement ring:

The gemstone is central to a piece of luxury jewellery. Each is plucked from the earth, cut and polished, and has its own story to tell.

"Boodles travel the world looking for exciting and special diamonds and coloured gemstones. After we have purchased them at really good prices, we then present them to our design team for them to decide how best to set them into beautiful rings or jewellery." (Shown below, the Boodles yellow marquise diamond ring).

Boodles have come a long way. Take a look at their website, and you'll see why key players in the luxury industry feel that they are set to go a long way further.

Further reading:

Boodles website
Jewellery for the Year of the Snake
Red-hot rubies
Pomellato 67, the new collection