Mappin & Webb is one of the oldest British companies, having been founded by Jonathan Mappin in 1775. A long time has passed since it first won the recognition of its clients, which include some rather well-known names: the Romanov family, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and the former French queen, Marie Antoinette. The portraits of these illustrious clients can be found hanging in the flagship shop on Bond Street. Mappin&Webb received its first royal warrant in 1897, indicating the high quality of the workmanship of its jewellery and silver objects. Now however, the company has two warrants; the warrant of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Prince of Wales. In 2012 one of Mappin&Webb’s craftsman was appointed as the Crown Jeweller.
Despite the fact that the company is already two centuries old, Mappin&Webb’s approach to the creation and sale of jewellery is entirely modern. You can find this out for yourself by taking a chance to try the By Appointment service, which offers something between a piece of jewellery made to order and buying a ready-made piece. You can create your own design for an engagement ring online – a process that can take just five minutes, or can be prolonged much longer if you get carried away with choosing the key parameters: the design of the mount, the type of metal and also the shape, size and colour of the central stone.
You can visualise how the ring will look with an oval diamond or a coloured precious stone, with a princess-cut stone surrounded by a diamond pave, with a heart, pear and emerald-cut diamond, set in yellow gold or platinum. In Mappin&Webb’s online selection, the seven most popular models are named after English roses: the classical solitaires Hermione, Ena Harkness or Belvedere, a ring with a diamond on its shank, Boscobel, a model with a single halo of diamonds around the central stone – Amelia, and Alba – with a double halo. A ring with three stones, Ena Harkness Trilogy, was added very recently. On pressing the “Buy” button you begin the ring’s manufacturing process, which usually lasts about a month. A representative of Mappin & Webb will update you on the progress of the work every week, so that you don’t have to guess about what’s happening with your order.
I wanted to know more of what happens ‘behind the scenes’ and decided to pay a visit to the company’s workshop, which is located in the Hatton Garden district of London. As with many jewellery companies, here the design of an engagement ring begins with a 3D model. Many mistakenly assume that since Mappin & Webb has prepared certain rings models, that on pressing a button, a computer creates new pieces itself, according to the requested parameters. In actual fact, each order is drawn from scratch by the 3D modeler as the very base of the ring and the number of diamonds encrusted varies depending on the size of the central stone and the finger size.
Next, the wax prototype is cast in gold or platinum and then the ring is completed by hand. It is precisely this last stage that takes up the most time, since the ring needs to be prepared for the setting of stones. Having carefully shaped the cut-outs for the stones, Mappin & Webb setter fixes diamonds firmly in metal, then the result is polished, and the company’s hallmark is stamped. By the way, rings made through By Appointment have their very own hallmark which is made in the form of a crown.
As soon as the client receives a letter about the engagement ring being ready, they go to collect it in store and get a pleasant surprise. The ring will be ceremonially handed over to them at Mappin & Webb together with certificates and also a gift box with a bottle of champagne, in order to mark the significant life event. It is in such details that the British company’s philosophy is reflected – that every client is a very important person.