By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
In a small workshop behind London’s bustling Oxford Circus, a team of goldsmiths file, solder and polish the metal castings that in a few hours will become dazzling diamond rings.
The process can vary with the design and metal, but once completed and checked for quality control, the band is given to diamond setters who carefully add the sparkling stones.
Belonging to jeweller 77 Diamonds, the workshop is an unusual sight behind one of London’s busiest shopping streets, where many stores usually sell necklaces, rings and earrings often made in China or India.
“For a standard ring… we’d receive it as rough castings and it will be in components… that will go to our goldsmiths. That’s when the initial stages start of forming the metal, making sure it’s smooth, making sure it’s polished and assembled together,” Tarun Taylor, head of production, told Reuters.
“They’ll use various techniques… with files, emery papers, soldering the components together.”
Some 60 items pass through the workshop each day, Taylor said. Engagement rings are 77 Diamonds’ biggest seller.
“Diamonds aren’t always uniform, they’re not exactly the shape that you want them to be,” Taylor said.
“A Princess cut or a Marquise which has got a point, that’s something which takes a lot more care and attention to make sure not only the diamond is secure… Diamonds aren’t indestructible.”
Beside hammers and chisels long used by the craftsmen, there is also more modern equipment – lasers and a microscope, which helps putting tiny diamonds on bands.
“It’s made everything more precise, more accurate and what it allows for is us to showcase the diamond more,” Taylor said.
77 Diamonds produces its own collections and bespoke pieces, born through computer-aided design.
Bespoke pieces, where clients pick the diamonds and design, take more than a month to make. Sometimes clients are inspired by celebrities’ jewellery.
A popular 1 carat solitaire engagement ring can cost around £5,000 (€5,573), while a 3.5 carat sells for £55,000 (€61,300).
The company, which has a showroom nearby and sells jewellery online, prides itself on its pieces being made in Britain.
“We buy directly from manufacturers, there’s no middleman,” Sophie Lomax, head of design, said, adding that customers were also increasingly concerned about the ethics of “how a piece of jewellery is made”.
“Our solitaire engagement rings, all are made from recycled metal so gold or platinum. And all of our diamonds are through the Kimberley process,” she said, referring to the initiative to prevent the sale of so-called blood, or conflict, diamonds.