You may have wafted through Mayfair’s Piccadilly Arcade on a carpet of citrussy scent courtesy of Santa Maria Novella, when your gaze is arrested by a dazzling display of cufflinks; quite unlike any you may have seen before! Artfully articulated, jewelled and enamelled creations, behold Deakin & Francis “D&F” the jewellers, with over two hundred years of heritage, not to mention their modern-day twist on exemplary wrist management!
The centuries old craftsmanship that saw the firm creating a cache of covetable bejewelled objets d’art from silver, gold and gemstones for Asprey’s of Bond Street and other renowned Mayfair houses is admittedly jaw droppingly impressive, but the work under David Deakin during the 1960s and 1970s is what originally captured Baroque Rocks’ beady eye.
This was a heady era, where previous jewellery conventions were thrown to the wind and the intrinsic value of a piece of jewellery was no longer solely attributable to its stones, but to the artistry of the piece itself. Jewellers metamorphosised into artists; viewing precious metals and gemstones as vehicles for self-expression, often dramatic and gloriously audacious. These jewels were wearable pieces of art, made for the design conscious who heralded this modernist flamboyant spirit. (Those in the know are aficionados and collectors.)
Deakin & Francis today is still very much a family affair, currently run by the seventh generation Deakin brothers. By a happy set of coincidences, and chiefly owing to our passion for the 1970’s D&F pieces, we were invited to meet with the company’s creative force, James Deakin at the beating heart of the company situated in Birmingham’s bustling Jewellery Quarter. The Deakins refer affectionately to their head office as ‘The Factory’, but this is no ordinary factory!! This emporium is to magpies, what Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is to the chocolate fanatic. Manna.
We are shown into the boardroom, where crystal cabinets adorn the walls, filled with eye- catching treasures, and a once deep emerald green - now gently peridot - carpet. In the centre of the room, an oversized mahogany table spills a mound of papers with detailed drawings, various era’d photographs, jewellery moulds, and an array of exquisite, uncut stones.
As our eyes dart this way and that, we notice a heavily laden drinks trolley with spectacular silver necked decanters, hosting various exquisitely enamelled animal heads together with a few bottles of British distilled Chase Gin! Tempted to sneak a snifter, we spot a large photograph of David Deakin with his sons, Henry and James beaming down on us. And then, as if on cue, the photograph James enters the room.
Mr Deakin is charm personified, with abundant energy and a tremendous humour – all of which is imbued through his own clever creations. He proffers us a cup of instant coffee, for which he is endlessly apologetic, stirring it with an oversized white gold skull & cross-boned signet ring clad paw whilst telling us about studying at the revered Gemological Institute of America and becoming a Gemologist. The Gold Blend tasted as if it were sprinkled with gold dust – it probably was!!
Baroque Rocks has two extraordinary pieces of Deakin & Francis, both coincidentally dated, 1977, and made by David Deakin over forty years ago. James hands us a grainy photograph, the original snap taken of the Sapphire and Diamond pendant: an open work gold cartouche, with the surmount designed as overlapping textured crescents, before the oval-cut sapphires and brilliant-cut diamonds had been added (see photographs below).