A glittering career
PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 November 2014
Philip Edwards www.philip-edwards.co.uk
Words: Sarah Ford Photos: Philip Edwards
The blaze which destroyed the interior of his jewellery shop in Bath last year could have brought a cruel and abrupt end to Nicholas Wylde’s 25 year business.
Yet within six days the leading UK jewellery designer was operating out of temporary premises while restoration work on the wrecked property took place.
Nine months later, when Nicholas officially reopened his shop in one of the city’s prettiest passageways, the actor Robert Powell cut the ribbon. And 250 well wishers and clients were there to celebrate with Nicholas, who is one of Bath’s best known independent businessmen.
The latest chapter in the story of this master craftsman, who has created jewellery for famous personalities as well as members of the Royal Family, demonstrates his passion for his work, together with the impressive determination and ambition which helped launch his career.
Nicholas grew up in Birmingham where his father was a newsagent in the Jewellery Quarter. When I visit him in his shop in Northumberland Place Nicholas recalls the exciting discovery he made as a 10-year-old which led to his love of coloured gems.
“There was a big development in the 1970s in the Jewellery Quarter and they knocked down lots of old workshops. My sister and I found loads of gems on the building site.”
From then on Nicholas grew up immersed in the jewellery trade. When doing the paper rounds for his father’s shop, the youngster was invited into jewellery shops to help out.
Encouraged by his father to apply for jewellery college, Nicholas was one of 300 applicants who applied for 40 places. He says that it was the jewellery he made for his family and friends from a shed in his back garden which helped him gain one of the coveted places.
“I’ve still got the polishing machine from the garden shed and still use it in the shop today!”
Top of his class when he finished college, 20-year-old Nicholas left Birmingham for a job in a diamond workshop in Bath, not knowing anyone in the city.
Determined to set up on his own, Nicholas asked the estate agents Crisp Cowley to let him take on the lease for a shop in Northumberland Place. However they thought he was much too young and inexperienced to run a shop, so didn’t take him seriously
“They very kindly said go away,” Nicholas recalls.
“But for about three months I kept going in every other week and eventually they gave me a week to come up with a business plan. The next day I walked in with the plan and within a week the deal was signed and the shop was mine. I opened it just after my 24th birthday.
“I had 12 rings in the window and help and support from all my contacts in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. When I opened in 1985 the shop was very fresh and different. The jewellery trade then was quite behind the times but I opened up with a very early computer and was one of the first small businesses to have a PDQ machine.”
Since then Nicholas has won many accolades including being featured on the ‘Hot 100 most influential people in the jewellery trade in the UK’.
Nicholas designs and hand-makes his own collections, creating a unique and individual brand. A small selection of jewellery is sourced from other designers, such as pearls and gold and silver chains, and Nicholas travels the world looking for collections that fit in with his style. He is particularly interested in mixing circles and lines together, creating crisp, unfussy lines, combined with colourful gems. His patented Wylde Flower Diamond® was created to celebrate his 25th anniversary.
He explains: “I noticed a flower pattern when looking into a diamond at a dealers in Antwerp. We then worked together on our own unique design, cutting the diamond in such a way that as you look down into it from above you can see the beautiful petals of the Wylde Flower cut into the base of the stone, creating a unique sparkling effect.”
Four years ago Nicholas opened a shop in Clifton and he is full of praise for his two teams. “At both shops we have the workshops on the premises and we have a very good name for being able to do repairs.
“We do over 1,500 commissions a year. I love just sitting down with clients who test me to come up with designs. We always design in front of them and as I’m drawing I can already picture the piece three dimensionally made. I’ve trained my designers in the Bath and Bristol shops to do the same.”
Nicholas’s son Keiran, currently studying for his A-Levels, works in the shop cleaning and polishing rings on a Saturday.
Always eager to push new boundaries and stand out from the crowd, Nicholas is now creating pieces of sculpture made from precious materials.
“People can hang these on their walls and appreciate them as pieces of art. My first piece was called Posh Peacock and has 206 diamonds in it with sapphires and aquamarines.”
Before the shop fire, Nicholas was thinking about a name for a new jewellery collection he had designed of gold jewellery with fire opals, rubies and diamonds (It was an idea formulated in the bath, where he gets most of his best ideas!)
It was subsequently named the Phoenix Collection, in a celebration of the newly refurbished shop rising from the ashes of the fire.