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The Antique Jewellery Company

A Letter from our Co-Founder, Matt

The timing couldn’t have been better in 2008. Back then I was busy designing websites for a living – which was fun, but deep down I didn’t really like selling my time. What I really wanted was to set up a business, to have a product to sell online. I found that closer to home than expected… my mum! We weighed up the various pitfalls of becoming partners (family squabbles, general rubbing up the wrong way), but decided it made total sense to dive in together and give it a go. I’m very grateful my mum took a chance on her son at a time when the internet was a great unknown.

At the time I didn’t really know much about antique jewellery. I was more into branding and interface design! In truth, I saw the AJC as a way of helping out my mum and making a bit of extra pocket money along the way. I didn’t anticipate it growing into what it is today.

It was only in 2012, when things started to accelerate, that I got a feel for antique jewellery itself and discovered its full potential as an online product.

We are now into our 9th year of trading online, time really flies! So I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learnt along the way as a young(ish) person:

1. More and more people are buying antique jewellery online

I realize photos can’t ever fully do items justice, of course they are always better in flesh. But sometimes people can’t make it to our shop to view in person. With this in mind we set up Free 14 Day Returns, which means our customers can send back items for free if they don’t like them in person. My feeling is, if a customer likes an item enough on their screen, it will most likely exceed expectations in real life! Combined with next day delivery, we’ve tried to make buying antique jewellery online as hazardous and hassle free as possible.

2. People buy jewellery infrequently, and when they do they are making both a major and very individual purchase

As a dealer it’s sometimes easy to detach from the items in our stock. To forget that when customers shop with us they are looking for an item as unique as the person it is intended for. On their search customers like to view a large selection of pieces before zeroing in on a single item. We are therefore very lucky to have my mother’s large inventory to work with from the get go. Without this, it would have been incredibly hard to start up.

3. Buying jewellery is an intimidating process

The process of coming into an antiques centre and being met by a huge, spotlit cabinet of pieces and stared down by a dealer is simply not personal or fun, it’s certainly not the experience I would respond positively to. Most of our customers feel like babes in the woods when purchasing jewellery, especially when it comes to engagement rings. Often they can judge neither quality nor price. For them only one rule makes sense: If you don’t know jewellery, know the jeweller. That is why, as a family business, everything we do is underpinned by trust and reputation. We are only as good as the items we put our name behind and customer peace of mind means everything to us.

4. Having lower overheads benefits us

Jewellery is a luxury commodity, and to reflect this jewellery businesses have to sell ‘the dream’. Whenever you walk into a jewellery shop in central London, a large chunk of the eventual sales price covers their extraordinarily high overheads.
Quite often we sell to high end boutiques with street fronts and they list the very same items for quadruple the price. Inversely, we’ve had quite a few instances when people have come to us looking to sell, for instance, a Tiffany pendant they no longer want. They cannot understand why we are only willing to offer a fraction of what they paid for it, because in truth, the minute the item left the shop it lost the majority of its value.
We’ve always tried to keep our overheads to a bare minimum. We pay a relatively very small rent for our shared stall in Grays in Central London. It is a bit rough around the edges but we like it! We are a tight-knit family business consiting of just three – my mum and I and my sister-in-law, Zuleika. Sometimes my father as well. Fortunately our site has got to where it is online purely organically. We have never paid for advertising and do not go to trade fairs. And because I used to build websites for a living, I can code changes on the move without the need for a developer.
Our main overhead is, of course, the stock itself. We buy everything on display and do not take consignments on items. Then we have the cost of our jeweller, Alfred, who does all of our sizings and repairs, and Royal Mail/Fedex – both of which we offer our customers for free.
So what does this all mean? What we’ve tried to create with the AJC is an antique jewellery business that has the look and feel of a luxury retailer, but does not incur the extortionate overheads. We feel it gives us an advantage to our competitors. As our overheads are low, we are able to reflect this in our pricing.