When Neil Geddes struggled to find an engagement ring it gave him a business idea.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friends and for Neil Geddes they are his livelihood.
Neil is the owner and managing director of NJ Geddes Fine Jewellery – an exclusive jewellery concierge and private couture diamond buying company based in Leeds (he works from Aspire), Manchester and London.
He’s one of only a handful of private jewellery concierges in the UK and his clients are some of the richest and most famous people in the country.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Seven years ago Neil was an account manager working for a large UK training company.
It was while he was trying to buy an engagement ring for his then girlfriend that he became frustrated with what the High Street was offering him in way of expertise.
“I was excited and apprehensive as I set out on my trip, and expected to have one of the most exciting, and expensive, days of my life as I decided what ring to purchase,” explains Neil who was just 24 when he proposed.
“However, unfortunately the reality was quite different, and what I experienced was a distinct lack of knowledge and personalised service from many of the stores and jewellers I visited. I wanted to know more about what I was buying but hardly anyone could give me what I wanted.
“This frustrated me; after all, I was about to make one of the biggest purchases of my life and wanted to ensure that I was 100 per cent happy with what I chose, as well as making sure that it was perfect for my fiancée.”
This frustration then got Neil thinking.
“ What if I could make a business out of this so that nobody had to have the same experience? From there, I was spurred on to learn more about jewellery and to create a personal service akin to Savile Row but for jewellery. My business idea was born.”
He eventually found a master jeweller who not only helped him find his perfect stone, but also piqued his interest.
He started to study more about fine jewellery and gems, while still doing his ‘day job.’
“It went from an interest to a hobby to a business model. I’d go out for dinner or meet clients and I would find myself looking at their jewellery and wonder where the gems came from. There are so many differences when it come to gems, it is a fascinating subject.”
He started to offer to source gems and jewellery for friends and then decided to take the plunge.
“I had a good job with a lot of responsibility at a young age, but just I couldn’t see myself working for a big multinational for the rest of my life.”
After gaining the necessary qualifications Neil set up NJ Geddes Fine Jewellery Concierge in 2008 and has been running the business ever since.
He works with some of the UK’s wealthiest individuals to source the finest diamonds and gem stones from across the world.
“It is all about trust,” he says. “You have to get to know people, to build a relationship for them to really find out what it is they are after. That is the part I really enjoy as well as the buying.
“The jewellery business is very traditional. I wanted to bring the idea of couture within the fashion industry to jewellery.”
His aim is to bring some of the nostalgia and service back to an industry that, on the whole, has lacked it.
“My vision was to look at what they were doing in the 1920s, the personal touch and service coupled with professional workmanship. We have some of the most skilled diamond setters in the country.”
He specialises in helping clients to buy or sell high-end jewellery at international auction houses including Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London, Geneva, Hong Kong and New York.
Neil, with his designers and jewellers, also specialises in creating bespoke pieces for clients. Prices range from £2,000 to over £100,000.
Although many of clients are very wealthy they are poor on time and that’s where Tim comes in, although he stresses that he also has clients on more modest incomes.
Most of his clients comes to him via word of mouth from other satisfied customers.
Neil’s business wasn’t really hit by the recession as many people decided to invest in tangible good such as fine art and jewellery. However the Brexit vote has already seen the cost of diamonds rise.
“Diamonds are traded in dollars, so when the pound drops against the dollar the cost of diamonds goes up.”
Neil’s job entails a lot of travel, which has become harder since he became a dad to Theodore just a few months ago. Talking to Neil it is clear he is passionate about his job, not just about the precious gems he works with but he is also passionate about passing on his knowledge and love of jewellery to others.
He talks about sapphires as if they were his children, and you can sense his frustration in most people’s lack of knowledge about a subject he is so passionate about.
“There is so much people just don’t know,” he says. “People just think rubies are red, but they aren’t. Some people are more concerned about size, but it is our job to make them understand that it is about quality and provenience and the cut, not just about the size of a gemstone. That is the exciting part.”
TOP TIPS - HOW TO BUY AN ENGAGEMENT RING
Always start with your budget. Set one that you are comfortable with. Make it affordable. Don’t forget the wedding rings.
Understand your partner’s current likes. This means doing some in-house research. What do they currently wear? Is it classic and contemporary or vintage? Would they prefer diamonds, or perhaps a coloured gem?
Knowing how diamonds are graded and therefore valued is very useful. This is determined by the famous ‘4 Cs’; cut, clarity, colour and carat.