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Chris Nash

Chris Nash on jewellery brilliance

By Chris Nash

Business Owner, FANCI

Beginning his career with a business in security, Chris Nash’s interest in jewellery was sparked when he was getting married, with the idea of selling wedding rings to people at home. Within two years, Chris had 24 wedding ring reps nationwide.

He later opened FANCI, a jewellery store in Southampton, and being increasingly let down by suppliers and quality, started making jewellery in-house.

With fine bespoke jewellery delivered through technology combined with traditional techniques, FANCI shines as a five times finalist in the UK Jewellery Awards. But, as the keen golfer and father of three explains, the brightest accolade is the joy and sentimentality brought from creating and reviving treasured pieces.

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How are you using technology in the design and production of bespoke jewellery?

We use a lot of technology – CAD, 3D scanning, 3D printing, laser welding, and laser engraving.

Jewellery is a really interesting industry, and I think one of the reasons why the business works is because I don't come from the jewellery industry. I’ve embraced change from the very beginning. For a company of our size to have the amount of technology and the traditional manufacturing skills under one roof is highly unusual.

The technology allows us to provide an unrivalled service to our customers. We can design, fit, restore, and repair pieces without them needing to be sent anywhere. Our 3D scanner will take an image of the piece while the customer is in the shop. We can then use our CAD design software and 3D print them a life-sized version of the jewellery to try before the manufacturing. Because of the technology, we never end up in a situation where the customer is unhappy, which as bespoke jewellers is really important.

Can you talk us through the FANCI store and studio space?

Our primary source of business is face to face in the shop. The front of house is a very relaxed lounge-like consultative area – it's all about experience and making the customer feel comfortable.

In the shop we have the 3D scanner on display, it’s important to us that the customer is involved in the whole process of design and able to see the technology being used.

Behind the scenes we have an area with our laser engraving machine and laser welder. An office where our two jewellery CAD designers work and a manufacturing workshop where our goldsmiths each specialise in different aspects of the jewellery manufacturing process: preparing casts, setting diamonds, and repairs.

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As bespoke jewellers, what pieces are you seeing demand for?

The beauty about what we do, and one of the things I like most about the jewellery industry, is less about the product and more about the people. It’s the stories and the sentiment.

One of our big revenue streams is jewellery remodelling. A customer might come to us with jewellery they’ve inherited, it’s sentimental but it’s not to their taste. We can create something new using the original piece so they don’t lose any of the sentiment.

We do a lot of things that are very personal to people. Something that is increasingly popular, is setting some ashes inside jewellery, and laser engraving things like fingerprints on jewellery.

What are the 4Cs of diamonds?

Cut, color, clarity, and carats.

The cut is the shape of the stone, its finish, angles, and its ability to reflect light.

The color is how clear the diamond is. A perfect color assignment is D, then the farther down the alphabet you go the cloudier and yellower the stone becomes.

Clarity is if there are any flaws or imperfections in the stone.

Carat is a measurement of weight; it has no bearing at all on quality. Many people think if you’ve got a one carat diamond it must be good quality, but it could be poor color and clarity. A quarter of a carat diamond which is perfect color and flawless could be a nicer stone.

It’s our job to try and find the best diamond we can achieve for the customer within the budget they want to spend.

"The beauty about what we do, and one of the things I like most about the jewellery industry, is less about the product and more about the people. It's the stories and the sentiment."

What is FANCI’s approach to ethicality and sustainability?

We’re very forward thinking in our approach and offerings to customers. Over the last couple of years, lab grown diamonds have become increasingly popular. They are grown in a laboratory under the replicated conditions of mined diamonds, they are molecularly identical to a natural diamond, but they are 100% ethical, 100% environmentally friendly, and they are cheaper than mined diamonds too.

We have people come to us specifically for these for the environmental and ethical reasons and we can also offer Fairtrade gold. Manufacturing jewellery from Fairtrade gold and lab grown diamonds is completely environmentally and ethically friendly.

What details in your work especially make you proud?

Seeing the customer’s reaction when they collect items is by far the best and proudest part of the job.

We’ve worked on some lovely items. The Royal Navy commissioned us to repair the First Sea Lord’s naval mace, which was nearly 300 years old. They came to us because of the technology we have in CAD design and laser welding to be able to repair it.

We have circumstances where the repair costs more than the item’s face value, but the sentimentality is so high. We’ve had a gentleman with a signet ring given to his great grandfather by Benjamin Disraeli, and a lady with an original suffragette’s ring. It takes on a different dimension when you’re given that sort of information.

The response from the customer when we give them their completed piece, and they’re over the moon or burst into tears because they’re so happy, is the greatest achievement.

"Manufacturing jewellery from Fairtrade gold and lab grown diamonds is completely environmentally and ethically friendly."

Chris Nash - Business Owner, FANCI

Where would you like to take the business in the future?

My plan is to grow the retail side of things. I would like to relocate the store at some point, we’ve outgrown it and we need somewhere larger, but it needs to be in the right area.

I would like to open more stores. We’re all about personal service, we’re the highest rated jeweller in the area on Google reviews and it’s because of the service and the quality. I’d like several small boutiques that don’t lose sight of service and quality rather than one great big store somewhere.