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Derbyshire's C W Sellors Fine Jewellery celebrate 40 years of business

PUBLISHED: 14:25 30 August 2019

C W Sellors in Ashbourne Photo: Michael Hope-Smith

C W Sellors in Ashbourne Photo: Michael Hope-Smith

Three Six Seven Nine

Founded in 1979, C W Sellors Fine Jewellery remains firmly rooted in the manufacture and retail of hand crafted jewellery, specialising in British Gemstones and Derbyshire Blue John.

Chris Sellors at the Carsington siteChris Sellors at the Carsington site

2019 marks 40 years in business, over which time the company has seen consistent expansion and development which now operates 15 retail boutiques, a range of dedicated ecommerce websites - including www.cwsellors.com - and a network of over 300 live trade accounts. With a busy calendar each year of industry and retail shows, throughout the UK and overseas, since the concept was founded in 1995 C W Sellors have also operated Christmas Wishes - Fine Jewellery and Watch Showcase. Firmly established as the UK's largest retail event of its kind, in just one weekend we welcome over 3,000 guests to our purpose-built marquee in the grounds of Chatsworth House.

Chris was also recently appointed as Vice Chair of National Association of Jewellers (NAJ).

Starting at the beginning, how did your journey begin and what/who were your early influences?

Chris at Treak CliffChris at Treak Cliff

Looking back at my formative years, I was in a fortunate position from which my hobby became a vocation. A supportive family environment was very much an early and collective influence, with a mix of constructive advice and encouragement. As I began to develop early jewellery pieces from the workshop in my parents' garage, the belief from local outlets which sold my Blue John designs - including Chatsworth House - was instrumental to how I would progress. In what was to be a lasting friendship of support and personal interest in the growing business, it was a privilege to have Deborah - Dowager Duchess of Devonshire open our purpose-built Ashbourne workshop 1989.

Where did your early jewellery design inspiration come from?

As an aspiring jewellery designer, you can ask for no better inspiration than to be close to the source of a beautiful gemstone. From an early age, the visits to Castleton and the introduction to the Blue John offered perfect inspiration for many early and simple settings. As I continued to work with the gemstone the designs developed over the years to include more intricate work, but the Blue John, as it does today, remained the main focus. When time allows I still enjoy visits to Castleton as I did all those years ago and still find the formation breath-taking.

Blue John and Faberge design to mark 40 years in businessBlue John and Faberge design to mark 40 years in business

You have remained committed to opening shops across Derbyshire, do you have plans for more?

The retail boutiques - and the wonderful staff that have been on this journey with me - have undoubtedly been the foundation to the success of the business. In a world where the digital shopping 'experience' continues grow, I still feel strongly about providing a unique customer experience in-store. You cannot match the journey a customer is taken on when given a more personal approach and as such I have a desire to continue to develop our Derbyshire stores, whether that is through the many planned re-fits we are working on or opening new boutiques if the right opportunity arises.

Competing against the London elite and Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, what has kept your passion for staying in Derbyshire?

I think the answer is in the question - or at least the wording! My 'passion' for the area remains as strong today as it was forty years ago, both in a professional and personal capacity. I have always felt remaining close to Castleton and the home of Blue John is integral to our story and its future success. I have also been fortunate that travel has played a big part in the business, during which I have seen many locations where precious and semi-precious gemstones are sourced, yet the unique Derbyshire landscape and formation both above and below ground remain the most impressive.

Blue John has obviously played a big part in your success, do you have a favourite piece or collection?

I wouldn't want to pick a favourite jewellery design, there are so many. However, with an interest in collecting many antique pieces, I would probably pick my most recent acquisition as my current favourite. The set of three 19th century Blue John and ormolu mounted urns have an attractive and unique banding, with the use of a particular part of the Blue John formation which is rarely seen in such designs.

Throughout the county, your development of Carsington remains of much interest and seems a very personal ambition, what stage is the project at?

There isn't a day goes by I don't get asked about the Carsington development, which I put down as a sign of the great interest and support the project continues to generate. Having had the access road and entrance put in we are finalising contractors and working through the finest details of every fixture and fitting inside the building and hope to start its construction within 12-18 months. I speak for all the team involved when I say it has been an eye-opening journey so-far, not least with just how much further potential and opportunity that has presented itself since our plans were approved, which in turn has extended the time on the main build.

Having been around the industry for 4 decades, what do you feel have been the most significant changes?

With a design and manufacturing hat on, there aren't many shortcuts to handcrafting a piece of jewellery. As I take a look at our current workshop we are still using the same tools and processes I remember when starting out, the most significant changes being the computer aided design (CAD) facility and rapid prototyping which has been a great addition to the life of a jewellery designer. Through our retail boutiques, the advent of online shopping has provided a more significant and global change and challenge.

What are you doing to help mark your 40th year in business?

As a business we were presented with a unique opportunity to work with Fabergé in 2019 to mark our 40th anniversary with a limited-edition jewellery collection. Working closely with their London atelier workshop, we have combined to create delicate Blue John pendant eggs that contain Fabergé's trademark surprise - in this case finely wrought flowers. Each pendant has been hand crafted with collection quality diamonds arranged on intricate guilloche and precious glass enamel. A truly fitting way to mark 40 year! Personally, if I get the chance to quietly reflect on the last 40 years, I may enjoy a glass of red wine whilst doing so!

How would you like to see C W Sellors develop over the coming years?

Although I am not planning any retirement parties for the foreseeable future, the integration of my son James and daughter Rebecca into the company has offered a new generation to help steer a growing independent manufacturing jeweller, that operates both on the high street and online. They share an appetite to build on what has been achieved so far and realise the need to shape the customer experience we can provide in whatever capacity they engage with us.

A focus on our Carsington development and specialist collaborations hold personal appeal, along with a continued ambition to raise the awareness of British gemstones both at home and abroad. Working with prestigious names in the world of jewellery such as Fabergé and our own development of setting Blue John with diamonds and the finest precious metals, it is my desire the company continues to elevate this unique gemstone of the world - and the wonderful county of Derbyshire - to a worldwide audience.

What advice would you give someone a passion for jewellery and wishing to start a career in the industry?

Whether it's for a career or personal accomplishment, have fun and enjoy what you are doing. Take a risk or two and build a strong online/social presence as it's a window to the world for those just setting out. I would also recommend visiting the National Association of Jewellers website - www.naj.co.uk which is a comprehensive resource for information on careers and education within the industry.

If you could write a famous quote, what would it be?

Approach anything and anybody in life like a diamond, enjoy the sparkle but beware of the flaws.

Favourite fact file

Derbyshire village - Kniveton

Derbyshire Town - Impossible to answer

Pub - The Gate at Brassington - wonderful food in a wonderful setting

Restaurant - Given the recommendation for food in Derbyshire above, Albert's Eatery in Whitby is well worth a visit should you be visiting!

Walk - Anywhere Bentley takes (My Weimaraner and best friend for 12 years)

Beauty spot - Lathkill Dale - on a quiet day!

Building - Yet to be built…

Famous person from the past etc. - Matthew Boulton - enough Derbyshire links to qualify

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