HISTORY

Woolfe Jewellery opened for business in 1988. In 2002 John Woolfe was commissioned by the Tower of London to create a necklace and earring set to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. This set is displayed in the Jewel House of the Tower of London. In 2005 Woolfe opened the shop in the Centre MK, Milton Keynes. In 2008 the company moved to its present larger premises in the Centre MK.

We have established our reputation as both the premier destination for diamond and coloured stone jewellery, as well as for bespoke pieces, in the area.

MEET JOHN WOOLFE, THE FOUNDER OF WOOLFE

How did Woolfe come about?

I used to work in ceramics, I had my own company designing and producing plant pots and vases for garden centres and florists, which were made in a factory in Stoke-on-Trent. It was a successful business, but hard physical work. I used to sell to most of the best garden centres and florists in the country.

In the manufacturing process there were inevitably some pieces which were seconds. We used to destroy the worst pieces, but some were almost perfect and too good to destroy, so occasionally I would book a stand in a marquee at a county show and I used to sell them there.

I will never forget one day I was at the New Forest Show in Brockenhurst. I had had a really good first day and sold nearly every piece. Towards the end of the day a man came around looking at everything in the marquee. He said, “What are you doing? You have hired this space with two big tressle tables and you aren’t selling anything.” I explained that I had done really well that day and sold just about everything. “Oh” he said, “You should be in the jewellery business!” His name was Neil Stirling and he had a company which imported inexpensive fashion jewellery from the far east. I said I’d think about it overnight and I decided to take a chance.

The next morning I bought some of this fashion jewellery which I put out on the tables and sold. It wasn’t long before I started designing all the jewellery myself and I now have some help from Des Smith, our very knowledgeable and talented shop manager. Over the years I have moved onwards and upwards and today we have this lovely shop in the thecentre:MK, Milton Keynes shopping centre.

Which is your favourite Woolfe piece and why?

My favourite Woolfe piece is the mabé pearl, emerald and diamond pendant. There is something very intriguing about the piece and the way it is designed. It’s also a piece that can go with any outfit, for any occasion.

Tell us about your design inspirations?

My mother was an art teacher and used to drag me around all the art galleries and museums when I was younger. Somehow all that entered my mind and stuck with me, and so I have such a lot to thank my mother for.

I used to know a very talented jewellery designer, Jack, he was an absolute genius, no other description will do. He could be a bit standoffish if he didn’t like you, but he took a shine to me and used to let me sit with him for hours when he worked. I studied everything he did and I learnt such a lot. He had a certain way of designing a piece of jewellery which he taught me. I will always be grateful to him, sadly he is no longer alive, but his design methods live on.

What are your favourite gemstones?

I love most different beautiful gemstones, they all have their unique qualities, but my favourites are rubies, diamonds and sapphires. If I am really pressed, my absolute favourites are rubies!

I have a passion for beautiful gemstones of quality. When I have the opportunity to buy an exceptional gemstone I always buy it. The thing that surprised me most was a vivid memory that came back to me from my childhood after I had been working as a jeweller for some years. I must have been four years old and I remember getting a box of crayons, a pencil sharpener and one of those metal trays with small square compartments that you could put in a freezer to make ice cubes. It had a lever to pull that dislodged the ice cubes when they had formed. I remember turning the different coloured crayons in the pencil sharpener, so that the different coloured shavings dropped into the different compartments in the ice making tray. Then I filled the tray with water and put it in the freezer. That’s how I “made” my first gemstones when I was four years old.

What qualities do you look for in your staff?

The qualities I look for in my staff are experience, enthusiasm and talent. You have to have enthusiasm to do this work, how can you not be enthusiastic about working with such beautiful jewellery and gemstones? As for talent, I believe you need it to succeed. We can teach knowledge, but without talented jewellers the jewellery will not be beautifully designed and made.

What is your favourite book?

I must admit that I would like to read more, but I would choose Tai-Pan by James Clavell. I couldn’t put it down, it is full of excitement, intrigue and wonderful characters.