Hotels usually host events for other people. But The Stafford is hosting a series of events of its own – Pub Talks, which introduce experts in luxury life including jewellers, chefs, portrait photographers and mixologists.
Patrick Wyatt’s talk on bespoke jewellery gave an insight into the world of the Hatton Garden jeweller and the customers who commission his work. The scene was set as we arrived with a glass of prosecco and a chance to chat, and various amuse-gueules included fishcakes, prawn and chorizo sticks, foie gras toasts, and oysters with basil oil (exceptional!).
Patrick Wyatt got the talk off to a good start with his admission that as a little boy he’d always wanted to be a demolition man. He’s a delightful speaker, full of gentle humour, and the intimate surroundings were just right for his approach. We’d also had the chance to inspect a variety of his work in different styles and stones (I did wonder if we were going to get goodie bags but the ring I was looking it cost £1,400, so I don’t think any amount of wheedling would have worked!).
Unlike most jewellers, Patrick doesn’t keep inventory; almost all his work is commissioned. He doesn’t even advertise (though he has a website) – that helps to keep his costs down (he claimed he could make a ring sold for £16,000 at Cartier for just £5,000). He talked about the commission process; it’s obvious he enjoys working with his clients, particularly when making engagement rings; and it’s equally obvious that some of his customers aren’t particularly well prepared when they first visit him.
His challenge is to create a bespoke piece that is right for the person involved; “that jewellery has got to represent the character of a person, and in the case of an engagement ring I have to do it without actually meeting her.” While usually it takes him a few weeks to create the piece, on one occasion he was asked in the morning whether he could get an engagement ring ready for his client to get a flight to Dublin – it was ready for takeoff and the chap proposed on the plane!
Patrick believes different gems suit different people. For instance, he sees aquamarine as “blue, fluid, liquid, spirit-like, very feminine”, whereas the strong flaming colours of Burmese rubies would suit someone with a much more fiery character.
He also talked about different styles; again, he tries to match the style to the person. For a “lady of real character” he decided to mount a diamond surrounded by very rich Burmese rubies, the reverse of the usual method of putting the coloured gem in the centre.
He also passed around a Far East, mass-produced ring as an example of bad style. “It’s very high,” he said, “it’s very metally, it’s very spindly, it’s all about show.” According to Patrick, jewellery shouldn’t be just about show – in fact, he says, “it’s really about love.”
Although some of his jewellery is expensive – his most expensive engagement ring cost £137,000 – not all of it is; he made one engagement ring for just £300. One member of the audience asked how much a man should spend on an engagement ring; there are all kinds of rules of thumb, but Patrick said the best one is just “It should make you go ‘ouch’!” (The national average for an engagement ring, by the way, is £800.)
Besides learning about jewellery and gemstones, we heard some amusing anecdotes; the lady who asked Patrick if he carried out valuations – but he saw her ‘diamond’ engagement ring was actually glass, rather embarrassing since her husband was there; another lady who got divorced and rang him to make her ‘ex’ engagement ring into a belly button ring; and the lady who swapped the diamond on her engagement ring for one that she actually liked – though her fiancé never noticed!
I asked Patrick for his expert advice on buying jewellery.
First of all, he said: “Take your time – don’t rush into it.” A good jeweller should help you make the decision, rather than force you into it. And he warned that it’s a mistake to have such a busy mount that stones don’t get the attention they deserve. He also told us that gemstones need to be assessed for their quality – colour, brightness, cut – as well as size. “Anyone can wear a big flash rock that’s full of inclusions and a dreadful colour,” he said; sometimes he has to tell his clients to buy a smaller, but better, stone than the one they’ve set their hearts on.
Bargain of the moment? According to Patrick, it’s pearls. He loves them anyway, but natural pearls are hugely expensive – a quarter of a million for a single row. Freshwater cultured pearls, on the other hand, have improved in quality and offer good value right now.
The Stafford will be hosting further pub talks – open to interested visitors as well as hotel residents. If the speakers are as engaging as Patrick Wyatt, they should be well worth attending.
The next pub talk is on October 4th and is being led by portrait photographer Alistair Morrison. Do e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org promptly to avoid disappointment and reserve your spot.
Photo credits: Stafford Hotel (Kempinski), Milica Sekulic.