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Looking At Over A Century Of Trend Setting At Wakefields Jewellers, Horsham

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Natalie Li catches up with Melanie Wakefield, managing director at luxury jewellers Wakefields in Horsham, on evolving the business and key trends in 2022

Tell us a bit about the history of Wakefields…
My great grandfather started the business in 1911 and passed it down to my grandfather and father. My brother Dominic and I are fourth generation and have been running it for 30 years. I left college to work at Wakefields and my brother joined after training in accountancy. I have a good eye for buying and I am a qualified gemologist. I feel privileged to be able to hold this business in trust for the next generation.

Wakefields has survived two wars and a pandemic. What is the secret to your longevity?
During the Great War our workshop became a munitions factory and we employed women to polish shell cartridges. We were fully involved in the war effort. We have seen so much change in the High Street, but we’ve been the mainstay. It’s hard to purchase something sentimental like an engagement ring online – you really need to feel, touch, and try it on. People are bringing valuable items to me so they need to trust that we will make it good, make it wearable or turn it into something different that they can wear. We underestimated the demand for our services after the pandemic; it was unprecedented. We’ve just had our best year ever despite being closed for six months.

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Melanie and Dominic, at front, with their team at Wakefields Jewellers

How do you continue to evolve as a business?
Last year we completed a refit of the shop in six months, and it was the best thing we ever did. We have increased the size of the shop and our interior has been inspired by Art Deco, which was popular during the time Wakefields first moved into 11 West Street in the 1930s. We are more luxury and bespoke these days – Rolex has brought a high-end nature to our business. We sell more statement pieces and a larger jewellery collection than ever before. We are also building a watch workshop to add to our existing jewellery workshop. It’s exciting to think that in five years’ time that we’ll be a centre of excellence for watches and jewellery.

Do you have any stories that have moved you during your time at Wakefields?
My son’s good friend lost his dad, so the whole family came to us to make bespoke rings and insert ashes into the ring. We engraved “I love you daddy” inside. The family wear these all the time and it gives them comfort. It’s emotional what we are dealing with, and I feel privileged to share in these life experiences.

Do you have some top tips when it comes to choosing a special watch?
If someone wants to buy a watch in Rolex’s factory, Tudor watches are like the baby brother of Rolex. They’re incredible value for money and the detail is impressive – an iconic brand.

What is popular now and what are customers looking for?
My clients want something that’s unusual. I try to sell unique pieces and our bespoke side of our business is unreal! People want something that they can’t get elsewhere. There’s a demand for teal-coloured sapphires, yellow diamonds, and cognac – and even pink diamonds. People love something with a story. Remodelling is also huge right now. We redesign inherited jewellery to create something in keeping with our customers’ style. Jewellery lasts a lifetime and it’s considered an investment, so people don’t mind spending money on it.

Wakefields ©toby P Photo
The site is beautifully designed

Tell us about the current trends we’re seeing this year?
Green is huge! Emeralds, teal sapphires and green sapphires. I’ve been asked a lot about coloured diamonds which follows celebrity culture. The Toi et Moi rings, which features a coiled band with two gemstones nestled side by side, is also popular, influenced by Megan Fox’s engagement ring.

Cocktail rings surrounded by an edge and diamonds by the yard – stones dotted along a chain – are big right now. The layered necklace is still on trend and rings worn on every finger now, or stacked, is becoming popular. The ear wardrobe is huge, and people want high-end and bespoke pieces. Yellow gold is massive and mixing metals is taking off.

What does the future hold for Wakefields?
Technology is helping us to become more efficient, we have a 3D printer which is a massive advancement in our workshop. You can’t replace the customer relationship – coming into the store to touch, feel and see jewellery. Having a conversation can never be replaced – it’s important we never lose that level of service.

wakefieldsjewellers.co.uk

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