A London Jeweler Updates Its Home to Rediscover Its Past

The St. James’s district of London is known for its gentlemen’s clubs, aristocratic residences and craft specialists including tailors, milliners and perfumers. Recently joining them is the 175-year-old British jeweler Hancocks & Co., which last month relocated its showroom from a shop within the Burlington Arcade in the Mayfair district to a renovated Georgian townhouse on St. James’s Street.

The 2,000-square-foot site has increased the shop’s retail space tenfold, the company director Guy Burton said, calling the move a “full circle” moment that returned the jeweler to its 19th-century glory days.

Hancocks opened in 1849 on Bruton Street in Mayfair as a jewelry, silverware and gemstone merchant. “From the descriptions we have, it was actually kind of a similar vibe to this,” Mr. Burton said during a tour of the new showroom, designed to resemble a private home, with antique-inspired furnishings, paneled walls and working fireplaces.

He described the three retail floors as galleries, named after previous Hancocks locations.

On the ground floor is the Sackville Gallery. Hancocks was on that Mayfair street from 1916 to 1970. The gallery showcases “a bit of everything,” said Mr. Burton, including signed vintage jewelry, antique tiaras and Hancocks’ own designs.

One floor up, the Bruton Gallery displays antique and vintage jewelry from the Georgian era to the mid-19th century in brass cabinets hung against teal velvet drapes. And still higher is the Burlington Gallery, with its Art Deco-inspired chandelier, pink lime-washed walls and Champagne bar concealed inside a cupboard. Here the focus is on Hancocks’ newly created jewelry, predominantly repurposed antique-diamond rings.

The top floor contains offices and a photography studio.

The larger space requires a larger staff and so, Mr. Burton said, he planned to increase the head count from four to 12. In addition to those, he and three other family members own and run the business. His sister, Amy, curates the vintage selection and creates bespoke designs, while his mother and father are company directors.

The Burtons, however, are not descendants of the founder, Charles Frederick Hancock. The year he opened, the jeweler received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria: a mark of recognition awarded by members of the British royal family to companies that supply goods and services. It was the first of four Royal Warrants awarded to Hancocks.

Queen Victoria also tasked Mr. Hancock with crafting the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration of the British honors system, awarded to members of the armed forces for acts of extreme bravery. Hancocks still makes every Victoria Cross, an honor which is “far more important than any Royal Warrant we’ve ever held,” Mr. Burton said.

The new site also showcases a set of control copies of the Victoria Cross, which Mr. Burton described as priceless because of their historical importance. The crosses and other archive pieces were previously kept in a safe and part of the appeal of moving to a larger space, Mr. Burton said, was the chance to display and celebrate the house’s heritage.

He also said he had hired a historian to “unravel” the stories behind the company’s clients and commissions.

One source of information is a company diary started in 1866 by Mr. Hancock.

“It might say, ‘John who cleans the silver died — consumption’,” Mr. Burton said. “It might be ‘the Emperor Napoleon came to visit today.’ One of my favorite ones is, ‘last night drunk prostitute threw stone through shop window’.”

The diary can be viewed in the ground-floor gallery, and Mr. Burton said he planned to digitize it and publish it online.

In 1970, the house moved from Sackville Street to a shop on Burlington Gardens, off Bond Street, and focused on silverware. But by 1977, the last descendant of Mr. Hancock had retired. In the 1980s, the house risked going into administration, a legal process similar to bankruptcy. Mr. Burton’s father, Stephen, had opened an antique-jewelry shop next door and acquired Hancocks in 1992: He “rescued it, by bringing it back to what Hancocks always used to do,” Guy Burton said. In 1998, the company moved to the Burlington Arcade. Mr. Burton joined the business in 2008 and specialized in trading antique diamonds. In 2011 he reintroduced Hancocks’ own line of British-made jewelry now priced from 4,500 to 600,000 pounds.

Mr. Burton said he had long hoped to expand. The Burlington Arcade shop could only display half of his stock, most of which was in window displays. He felt that the traditional layout with counters and a lack of private space didn’t provide an elevated customer experience or give the unique pieces the treatment they deserved.

It took four years to find the right spot, he said, and work began on the St. James’s townhouse in November 2023.

Now, its walls are lined with evidence of Hancocks’ history, including the crests of the royal families it has supplied — from the kings and queens of Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, to “The Shah of Persia” and “The Sultan of Turkey.”

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