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News, inspiration & jewellery advice from the world of Phillip Stoner
Although Managing Director Jonathan Stoner is ever present in the business now, his history in the company has rarely been given its own spotlight. From accompanying his parents to work as a child, to apprentice Goldsmith and then owner and MD, it’s safe to say he’s explored every facet of the jewellery industry.
Topic UK Business Magazine chose to feature the history of Phillip Stoner The Jeweller and Jonathan in their latest issue.
“After graduating from Bradford Art College, Phillip Stoner began working as an apprentice Goldsmith for a fine jeweller in Harrogate, whilst doing a milk round to make extra money; later becoming a wedding ring sales representative.
An ambitious Phillip, enamoured with the world of fine jewellery was keen to start his own business, so in 1982 the family re-mortgaged their house, borrowing £5000 and giving them the opportunity to open the first Phillip Stoner Jewellery store in Shipley.
Over the years, the business evolved from a typical market town jewellery store selling clocks, christening gifts and 9ct gold jewellery, to a bustling retail business and manufacturer, carrying out repair work for several well-known high street jewellers.
Further boutiques followed, opening in Pudsey, then Halifax where a loyal customer base was established. It was around this time that the focus of the business shifted towards fine jewellery and bespoke design with the opening of an on-site jewellery workshop. The knowledge gained during these early years is still used today to ensure the company offers both exceptional quality and value for money.
It was around 2003 when the family business took its biggest leap. The Light, an award-winning shopping centre had opened in Leeds City Centre and looked impressive with floors of retail units, offices, and a hotel. For Phillip Stoner, opening a boutique in the city would mean much bigger costs, increased staffing, a brand makeover, and a move into more expensive fine jewellery, it was a huge undertaking, but the time felt right.
The company quickly established itself as a contemporary alternative to many of the traditional jewellers that had been in Leeds for decades. The new Phillip Stoner shop had a sleek modern aesthetic and carried a mixture of fine jewellery brands and unique pieces that were designed and made in house.
It was around this time that Phillip’s son Jonathan moved to the forefront of the business. From a young age, Jonathan was fully immersed in the family business and could often be found in one of the stores orexperimenting in the workshop. He left school at 16 and began working in sales at the Pudsey store. His parents were keen to instil a good work ethic in him and understood the importance of earning his colleague’s respect, working his way up from the bottom. “I remember, despite traveling to the same place of work as my dad every day, he would make me find my own way there, even if it meant catching multiple buses.”
Guided by his parents, Jonathan trained as an apprentice Goldsmith and for five years worked on the bench alongside skilled craftsmen, learning how to work with precious metals and gaining an extensive working knowledge of the technical aspects of creating and repairing jewellery. After work, Jonathan studied Gemmology, the science of identifying gemstones, enabling him to work with diamonds and precious stones with confidence. In 1994 he became a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and was the youngest person to pass that year.
He had a hands-on approach in the workshop, he was business savvy behind the scenes and had a presence on the shop floor, this established him firmly in the business alongside his father and brother.
Following a period of ill-health for Phillip, in 2008 Jonathan bought the business and became both owner and managing director. Phillip now enjoys semi-retirement, but is still a large part of the business, offering his valuable advice, help and knowledge when needed.
With an ambitious Jonathan at the helm, further expansion was inevitable. In September 1990 The Victoria Quarter shopping centre had opened in Leeds and was regarded as the place to be for any retailer. It had had extensive refurbishment of the Victorian and Edwardian arcades and the creation of a contemporary arcade through the pedestrianisation and glazing over the adjacent Queen Victoria Street. At the time, this was the largest work of public art in England and the largest secular-stained glass work in the world, covering three blocks between Briggate and Vicar Lane. The Grade II listed building soon become home to many prestigious brands and high-end independent stores and had gained a reputation as ‘The Knightsbridge of the North’.
Jonathan had set his sights on opening a store within the historic arcades and when the opportunity arose, he jumped at the chance. However, it wasn’t straightforward. The shopping centre was permanently at 100% occupancy and only a like-for-like business would be considered to replace an existing retailer. This meant Jonathan had to make the bold decision to buy an existing jewellery business based in County Arcade before transforming it into Phillip Stoner The Jeweller.
Within a few years a neighbouring unit became available and without hesitation Jonathan made the decision to expand the boutique and bring the jewellery workshop, which was still based in Halifax, to Leeds, where it remains today, nestled underneath the flagship boutique. Encouraged by Jonathan, employees have forged careers in jewellery design, customer service, buying and website design and management, with many positions held by women.
Unlike many jewellers on the high street, Jonathan has made a conscious effort to move away from working with well known brands, now choosing to showcase the work of only a select few designers in store. This means the business can put a greater focus on sourcing, designing, and creating unique collections, not only guaranteeing exclusivity, but also giving greater control to pricing. This ensures Phillip Stoner can offer the high-quality customers have come to expect as well as flexibility in design and great value for money.
Over the years Phillip Stoner Jeweller has been asked to make several high-profile commission pieces. “We have made cufflinks in Norman Wisdom’s likeness for charity, the Dickie Bird Clock which sits in Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s Headingly Stadium and Darren Gough’s retirement trophy,” Jonathan told us.
“Many years ago, a fashion designer approached us and asked us to make a series of military style badges and buckles in 18ct gold,” he continued. “They were in the process of making a jacket that they described as one of a kind and the most expensive they had ever made but didn’t divulge further details. We took on the challenge producing the items they had asked for, handing over to the designer without further thought. A few months later, he arrived back at our store with a photograph of himself standing with Michael Jackson, sporting the military style jacket, including our badges and buckles, made for one of his stage shows.”
More recently the company has been honoured to make unique engagement rings for sports stars and celebrities, including one that has recently been seen all over the world following the couple’s high profile engagement announcement.
The business has gained an incredible reputation for high quality and value for money, and this has led to subsequent stores opening in Manchester City Centre and Trinity Leeds.
Today Phillip Stoner offers one-of-a-kind designs, an unrivalled collection of both classic and contemporary jewellery, significant expertise and impeccable customer service ensuring every visit is truly unforgettable and as a result, customers return again and again.” Article as published in Topic UK Business Magazine Feb 2023