Michael Lane of Lanes Jewellery, Holt, Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 11:49 19 November 2010 | UPDATED: 16:51 20 February 2013
King of diamonds- Michael Lane is one of the country's dwindling number of diamond mounters. He reveals to Sarah Cassells what really gives the precious stones their value.
King of diamonds
Michael Lane is one of the country's dwindling number of
diamond mounters. With Valentine's Day approaching, he reveals to Sarah Cassells what really gives the precious stones their value.
Hes every girls best friend; a man with a shop window full of diamonds and the skills to make beautiful jewellery even more stunning. In his 30-year career, diamond mounter Michael Lane has worked on collections for De Beers, set rings worth 30,000 and produced bespoke diamond pieces for some famous faces, but he still believes that true value lies in the eye of the beholder and not a sales tag.
I absolutely love beautiful things, but jewellery is an emotional purchase, he says. You could have something that was bought for 20, but it could still be absolutely priceless to someone.
Consequently, his independent jewellers in Holt has some truly fabulous diamond pieces worth thousands alongside pretty silver earrings for 5.
But whats really unique about Lanes Jewellery is that if you see something in the window that would be perfect with just a little design tweak here and there, Michael can do exactly what you want, and quickly.
As a goldsmith and diamond mounter, he has the skills to rework and reset jewellery to a customers precise requirements. On his workbench today sits a sparkling 18ct ring, set with dazzling clusters of 2ct diamonds. It will be resized and on the owners finger within days.
Lets say someone sees a diamond ring in the window that has a four-claw diamond setting, but the customer would like it redesigned to sit alongside a wedding ring or to have another two diamonds alongside it; I can do that, he says. Or perhaps they would prefer it in white gold I can source the components. I can even remodel grannys old wedding ring into something entirely different.
As retailers have begun to rely heavily on jewellery manufactured and imported from overseas, the craft of making bespoke mounts for precious stones is dying out.
There are fewer people training now, says Michael. Diamond mounting is just one of the skills this country is going to lose. I was lucky to be trained at the bench and have the formal training that people dont seem to be able to get now.
His induction into the glittering world of diamond jewellery happened through a chance encounter. In the 1970s, a 17-year-old Michael was helping a regular customer buy fishing tackle from his fathers Huntingdon shop. The man was Bob Wallace, a skilled diamond mounter working in Londons Hatton Garden then the centre of Londons jewellery trade. Having had an interest in the arts since childhood and an assortment of qualifications in pottery, photography and art but no real idea of what he wanted to do in life Michael took up the customers offer to join him on work experience at his London workshop.
Sitting beside Bob, he made a traditional coronet daisy cluster ring. It was a defining moment, remembers Michael. I was instantly smitten by this interesting trade.
Bob lent Michael some tools and, from a workbench in his parents garage, he started producing gifts made from silver for his family.
I was so fortunate to learn the trade from scratch like that, he says. Bob rounded off my education. He was pedantic in his perfection and he taught me the importance of attention to detail.
Alongside making jewellery, Michael completed a foundation art course in Cambridge, and studied jewellery manufacture and diamond mounting at Sir John Cass College in Whitechapel to hone his skills.
A position making commissions at a goldsmith in St Albans followed, which included work for De Beers diamond collections. He worked there for several years until his parents announced their plans to semi-retire to Norfolk, where Michael had enjoyed caravanning holidays as a boy.
With the support of his father, 22-year-old Michael set up the first Lanes Jewellery shop in Holt in 1981.
I had some tools and equipment and about 1,500 worth of stock, he says. My father put up 11,000 and with that we opened the shop. Two years later I was able to pay him back 13,000.
In the early days Michael worked mostly with silver, but as his reputation as a diamond specialist grew so did demand and, in 1988, he moved to his current premises on the towns Market Place. Since then his customer base has included various celebrities, politicians and local influential people names he refuses to reveal in respect of customer confidence who account for some of the shops most extravagant purchases and commissions.
Now its about having the right stock and maintaining that eye for detail, he comments. I try to source good quality, interesting and exciting designs to keep the stock fresh; its about selling what nobody else does.
In helping keep his collections modern, he credits the input of his 22-year-old daughter, Sasha. She works in sales and marketing for a Norwich company, and tells me whats hot and whats not and whats so last year, Dad, he laughs.
His son Joshua, 20, works part-time in Lanes Jewellery, training alongside his father. He doesnt know exactly what he wants to do yet, but jewellery definitely interests him, says Michael.
Along with all the staff at the shop, Joshua has taken a three-day diamond grading course at Antwerp. He was 15 at the time and is believed to be the youngest delegate to ever complete that particular National Association of Goldsmiths course.
As Valentines Day approaches, what does Michael think people should buy for their partners?
Huge diamonds! he jokes. Id recommend something with meaning; not a last minute present. And dont spend more than you can really afford because with gifts like jewellery, thought means so much more than the price.
Lanes Jewellery, Market Place, Holt, NR25 6BE, 01263 713738; www.lanes.co.uk