Jewellery king Adrian Buckley tells Stephanie Smith about his passion for design … and putting something back.
Adrian Buckley is the Yorkshireman putting the sparkle into the eyes of millions of women around the globe.
To be more accurate, he’s putting the sparkle into their earlobes, onto their fingers, round their neck and wrists, and pinned onto their clothes.
His creations have been worn by society’s most fashionable and celebrated – the Duchess of Cambridge, no less, has worn Buckley’s crystal encrusted poppy to Remembrance events.
Adrian is a jeweller who launched his own company, Buckley Jewellery, in Leeds in 1989, with the aim of designing and manufacturing quality fashion and costume jewellery at prices that wouldn’t break the bank. Under this umbrella is also vintage-inspired brand Attwood & Sawyer and the sterling silver Bouton brand.
Born in Bradford in 1962, Adrian had an early introduction to jewellery. “My grandfather had a jewellers’ shop in Shipley and as a young boy I would watch him repairing watches and more excitingly selling diamonds,” he says.
A first job with Cadbury Schweppes was followed by a spell in Swaziland working for this uncle. When he returned from Africa aged 22, he needed a job, so a neighbour, the late Peter Rosenberg, introduced him to Michael Lever, chairman of gold jewellery supplier Abbeycrest. Adrian says: “It was Michael who spotted my talent for product design and offered me a job as a product developer. This experience provided me with the skills to develop my own costume jewellery range.”
Striking out on his own, he created his first collection of 24 brooches and 80 pairs of earrings after deciding that he could design better jewellery pieces than ones he had bought elsewhere.
“My first ever model was a feather brooch, which remained our top-selling brooch for many years,” says Adrian, who lives on a farm near Harewood House on the outskirts of Leeds with his wife, Rachel, and their four children, Grace, Freddie, George and Alice, who are aged eight to 13.
The company employs around 40 staff in Leeds and many more around the world. Adrian says: “Our costume jewellery is currently made in Italy, China and Thailand, our silver jewellery is again made in Italy and Indonesia,” he says.
The Attwood & Sawyer brand was founded in 1956, inspired by jewellery pieces given by King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson and once sold in Harrods and onboard the QE2. Adrian points out that many vintage Attwood & Sawyer pieces are traded at vintage jewellery sales – testimony to their quality and the enduring appeal of the designs.
Of his own designs, Adrian says: “I draw inspiration from all things quintessentially British and the neo-classical style in fashion, art and architecture.” Attention to detail is key, he says. For example, inspiration for the signature Bouton button comes from the important role buttons have played in fashion and jewellery down the centuries. Adrian says: “Henry VIII once wore over 20,000 buttons on his clothes as he received the French king, who in turn was wearing 25,000 buttons – just out-doing our own king.”
Close to Adrian’s heart is the Poppy Appeal, for which he designs crystal poppies for campaigns in collaboration with the Royal British Legion. “I wanted to create a unique Buckley Poppy with all proceeds going directly to the British Armed Forces. The first Buckley London sparkling poppy was launched in 2012, and we’ve brought out a new poppy each year since to raise money for this cause.”
Raise money they have – to date, Buckley poppies have raised more than £5m for the Royal British Legion.
Encouraged by the success of the poppies, Adrian set up his own ABC Trust to help children in difficult circumstances around the world. He returned to Africa and the trust’s first project was completed last year with the opening of the Kyasira Home of Hope orphanage in Uganda.
Buckley Jewellery is a great British success story, selling all around the world, with more than 80 per cent of sales export, and stocked in the UK in House of Fraser, H Samuel and independents, as well as online and on planes. Adrian says: “Since the recession in 2008 only companies offering something innovative and beautifully styled have been able to prosper. Our rapid growth suggests we are doing something right.”
• Visit www.buckleylondon.com www.bouton.co.uk. and www.abctrust.co.uk