I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited a variety of reputable makers of finely-made clothing, shoes and accessories, both here in the U.K and abroad, and in doing so I’ve walked the paths that, over the course of multiple centuries, are well and truly trodden on. The cluttered workstations, battered brickwork and dusty floorboards lined with either tanned trimmings of calfskins, runaway yarns or shavings of precious metals always heightens the experience of a workshop visit. After all, there’s nothing sexy about a squeaky-clean, brightly lit and white-washed laboratory of sorts. On the other hand, an age-old workshop that’s occupied by archaic and un-improvable machinery and craftspeople that have grown old inside the four walls is without doubt far more appealing due to all of its wonderful idiosyncrasies.
Deakin & Francis is Britain’s oldest and most supreme jeweller and is a brand that ticks all the right boxes. Founded in 1786, it’s currently helmed by the seventh generation of the Deakin family, the co-proprietors are cousins James and Henry who are both accomplished gemologists. There are of course numerous cufflink-specialists honing from all parts of the world, however, none of them come close to Deakin & Francis as its heritage is incomparable as jewellers go. But, it’s mildly vexing that it doesn’t receive the justified recognition and praise as other British heritage brands — it’s still waiting on its well-deserved and overdue Royal Warrant — even though they produce jewellery for a number of luxury behemoths, the names which are unfortunately not allowed to be named, but walk down Bond Street and you’ll pass many of its clients.
One of the most attractive qualities of Deakin & Francis is that it’s been operating out of the same factory in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter since its founding. It’s easily the most impressive and beautiful workshop I’ve visited. Split across numerous levels, walking through it equates to stepping back in time. There’s machinery there that hasn't moved for centuries and has simply become part of the furniture. There’s also a lingering, ever so slightly damp smell that has a Hanoverian spirit.