Deakin & Francis
Deakin & Francis (Est. 1786) Promoting the heritage of Birmingham, England, the Birmingham Conservation Trust writes this about Deakin & Francis, “Nestled away in the Jewellery Quarter is the former home of the steam engine inventor and co-father of the Industrial Revolution, James Watt, who lived here between 1777 [and]-1790. Watt’s home is located in Regent Place, tucked away from the main streets, and you wouldn’t really know it was here unless you accidentally stumbled upon it.
”Today the building is home to Deakin and Francis company, who also hold the claim of being the oldest surviving jewellery manufacturers in England, having been established since 1786.”
As England’s oldest family jeweler, Deakin & Francis has been producing and manufacturing the world’s finest luxury cufflinks and accessories since it was founded. It has operated successfully in its historic building in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter ever since.
Deakin & Francis has always dealt in sterling silver and other precious metals. For many decades until the 1970s, the company made traditional silver tableware plus study and dressing table accessories such as mirrors and cigarette boxes. However, since then they have specialized in cufflinks, signet rings and small silver accessories such as decanter stoppers. They still retain the molds and ability to make any of the larger antique silver items.
Today, brothers James and Henry Deakin are the seventh generation of the family to manage the company. Now celebrating more than 230 years of operation that boasts creative craftsmanship and a long established history of jewelry and silver manufacture, the brothers continue to build on the heritage, brand and family values created over the past two centuries.
The brand was founded by Benjamin Woolfield who was later joined by Charles Washington Shirley Deakin, who together with C.W.B Moore traded as Deakin and Moore from 1848 to 1879. Upon Moore’s retirement, Stephen Deakin joined his uncle Charles and the firm became Deakin and Nephew from 1879 to 1881.
When Charles Deakin retired in 1881, Stephen was joined by brother-in-law John H Francis and the name changed to the name as it is today, Deakin and Francis. The Francis line ceased with the death of Captain J H Francis in the First World War.
James and Henry became the heads of the company after taking it over from their father. During school holidays, James and Henry joined their father at work, watching and learning from the craftsmen and attending trade shows in London and Switzerland. James studied at the Gemological Institute of America and is a ‘Graduate Jeweller Gemmologist and Designer.’ Henry studied Gemology at the International Gemological Institute in Vicenza and is a Graduate Gemmologist.
James’ passion is designing new cufflinks – “it all begins with a sketch” and is constantly striving to think of new, inspiring, and innovative designs. His inspiration comes from traveling the world to attending trade shows or simply something that catches his eye.
Henry loves meeting customers and is passionate about the future and building the brand – “it’s wonderful when customers see the uniqueness and individuality of the collections,” he says.
According to a December 2016 article in The Telegraph in which the brothers were interviewed, Henry said, “The best advice I’ve ever had came from my father, who said ‘let people make it cheaper, but don’t let them make it better.’ That and ‘if it doesn’t work for you, don’t work for it’.
“Neither my brother nor I were trained particularly, certainly not in the “Harvard Business School” sense, but we learned on the job. We’re still learning now and it’s fascinating. The best thing we did was to have some advisers come in three years ago and really take the company apart and analyze every aspect – it helped us see the full scale of it. And in 230 years of owning Deakin & Francis as a family, we held our first board meeting only four years ago.”
The Deakin & Francis collection of cufflinks is immense. With a style to suit every personality and passion, each pair of cufflinks assures great quality, originality, and attention to detail, carefully executed and beautifully delivered.
Among their creations are beautiful, matching cufflinks and dress stud sets. From luxurious 18ct & 9ct Gold dress studs, eclectic and quirky to classic and sophisticated Sterling Silver sets through to the innovative Fundamentals collection, there is a style for almost every personality.
Crafted by hand, created with care and stamped in their factory, the Deakin & Francis manufacturing methods have remained unchanged since 1786. Handmade using the finest gold, Signet Rings are timeless heirlooms. The brand also produces and sells key rings, leather, money clips, lapel pins, bangles, tie slides, and decanters.
For the cufflinks collections, the in-house artisans create pieces with moveable parts that include skulls, rabbits coming out of hats and turtles whose heads roll along the cuff when one pulls on the legs.
Focusing on funky, stand out designs, Henry and James constantly experiment to produce unusual working cufflinks. The skulls heads have working jaws and the engine turbine cufflinks have working blades. The firm still uses processes such as hand turning which is now a very rare skill.
Stand-out cufflink creations include the Sopwith Propeller Cufflinks constructed from aircraft grade aluminum. Inside the cufflinks lie ball bearings, which cause the black cooling blades to move and the highly polished rose gold blades spin around.
The Diamond Eye Skull Cufflinks were originally inspired by the family folklore of seeing off pirates at sea in the 1600’s. The design has continued to develop into a stunning piece of jewelry that reveal magnificent diamond eyes.
The Sterling Silver Royal Blue with Maroon Red Spot Cufflinks are sterling silver, oval cufflinks with a unique design of hand-crafted enamel with royal blue and maroon spots individually placed. The added Deakin & Francis hallmarks are elegantly crafted into the cufflinks.
Deakin & Francis Viking Skull Cufflinks with Ruby Eyes was inspired by Scandinavian pirates and feature a black helmet with ruby eyes carefully and intricately fitted onto a beard. The helmet is oxidized black and the horns are carefully enameled in a clear white.
For the Christmas season, Deakin & Francis created the Santa Penguin Cufflinks that are enameled in black, white and red. The penguins have blue eyes, a sterling silver bill and a red Christmas hat.
The Shotgun Cufflinks replicate the English 12 bore shotgun with engravings on the side lock. The barrels spring up using magnets to show off beautiful gold cartridges and are complemented by rose gold casing and rhodium barrels.
The Golf Club Cufflinks are created in sterling silver and feature a golf club that has the engravings one would find on a standard iron, as well as a dimpled golf ball to add to the aesthetics an avid golfer would enjoy.
The Hairy Skull Cufflinks are sterling silver and feature a skull with a big ball of furry, black hair. To match the design, the cufflinks have an incredibly detailed knitted headband. Just like in the Viking skull cufflinks, the hair is intricately fitted to make it more authentic.
The Fly Fishing Cufflinks are extremely detailed with beautiful enameling. The fly itself has a color gradient that is hand crafted and also has slight engravings that testify to the style and craftsmanship.
The Pirate Skull Cufflinks are similar to the diamond skull cufflinks with a slight twist: these feature a black pirate hat and eye patch. In keeping with the jaw dropping feature of the diamond skull cufflinks, the jaw also drops on these and produce eye popping rubies that emerge from the skull.
A steady stream of bespoke orders also come to the firm: some of these are for cufflinks and some are for larger pieces. A lot of work is done in precious metals for overseas clients. Given the complexity of many of Deakin & Francis’ designs, Henry comments that it’s not unusual for there to be up to three years research and development to refine certain fusing and mechanical processes.
One design they’ve done is using parts of a Bugatti to create Bugatti cufflinks. It was the first time the firm had worked with aluminum and as Henry put it, “it’s a way of owning just the smallest part of a stunning car.”
The brand’s jewelers have a range of skills from signet ring stamping, shaping and finishing, to stone mounting and hand-making special commission pieces. The brand also uses traditional methods to mount the unique spring back fittings onto its cufflinks. Enamellers use traditional methods to hand paint cufflinks and create the individual paint colors. Engravers carve initials and family crests onto cufflinks, signet rings and pendants. The chief Finisher uses an assortment of tools such as a rouge mop and felt bob to perfect cufflinks and other jewelry before they are shipped to customers.
The Deakin & Francis women’s range offers charming, bold and compelling rings and pendants adorned with characters straight from childhood storybooks and are perfect for the woman who wants to make a statement. The Deakin & Francis women’s rings are crafted from sterling silver and add a little luxury to any outfit.
Deakin & Francis came in second in the innovation category at the 2015 Couture Design awards in Las Vegas and subsequently won the Professional Jeweller Collection of the Year Awards. Recently, they also made it into the Professional Jeweller’s “Hot 100.”
In August 2018, Deakin & Francis jumped on the trend for statement cufflinks with the release of a range of new wrist designs. The new color change ‘Twist and Change’ cufflinks are available in rich blue and bright green inner, with a rose gold colored outer finish or rich blue and bold pink inner with silver colored outer finish.
Speaking to the trade publication, Professional Jeweler, James said, “Cufflinks can be a statement piece [and] I really liked the idea of giving our wearers the opportunity to quickly change or update their style. The moving mechanisms inside the cufflink were really important to get right and the end result is a beautiful design with a smooth rotation that will have wearers changing color constantly throughout the day with ease!” Both are finished with sprung back fittings featuring the Deakin & Francis logo for authenticity.
John F. Kennedy gifted Deakin & Francis creations to his friends. Cary Grant wore them as did Marlene Dietrich and Coco Chanel. The emblematic D&F cufflinks and other creations add instant flair to corporate and formal attire and can be an expression of character and a token of sentiment, as well as supreme examples of form meets function.