The story of the Works Manager
For over 230 years, our team at Deakin & Francis has been making stunning jewellery and high quality pieces in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, and this impressive milestone couldn’t have been achieved without the commitment, hard work and expertise of those who have stepped into our historic factory through the years.
In celebration of our incredible team who continue to help Deakin & Francis thrive in 2020, we wanted to share an insider-look at what makes us tick and the people that ensure that every piece of Deakin & Francis jewellery has our famous creative edge!
Meet our Operations Works Manager, Sue Tolliss
Having been with Deakin & Francis for 25 years, Sue is an invaluable member of the team who has been with us through industry changes, incoming and outgoing trends and worked her way up to become our Operation Works Manager.
“For 25 years I’ve been at Deakin & Francis and I’ve been within industry virtually my whole life due to my parents having their own business in antiques and jewellery. So I was brought up working in their shops. Evoking an interest within the jewellery trade.”
Prior to her role with us, Sue completed her gemology course before working as a stone dealer and then moving into retail and jewellery production. These roles gave her an in depth understanding of the industry and jewellery trade which was valuable to her work at Deakin & Francis. When she first joined our team, she started in our workshop before moving into our sales and pricing and then moving into production – first as our Assistant Production Manager and then Operation Works Manager.
Learning through the trade
Known for our innovative designs made using traditional techniques and craftsmanship, there’s a lot of history that goes into each and every piece of jewellery that we create! Sue’s first-hand experience of learning through the trade and broad knowledge of our unique techniques makes her vital in bringing our designs to life.
Since she first started in our factory, Sue has witnessed the industry expand and change according the industry trends and how this has influenced the range of products that we offer.
“Throughout the Deakin & Francis journey we have made many specialist silverware pieces, commemorative medals, awards and trophies, as well as many one-off bespoke commissions. We are known for bespoke! From turning a painting or photograph of a family treasure into a pair of cufflinks, pendant or much large statement works of art.”
Known for our reputation for creating beautiful bespoke pieces for our customers, Sue has seen quite the range of unique work come through our doors over the years;
“At times it has been very challenging. We have made items that are very small or very large! One especially memorable piece was a full-size armoury set with chain mail. There have also been items that should sit in art galleries, including large potpourri bowls, manufactured from 18ct yellow gold with a rock crystal bowl, they were very intricate challenging pieces that were developed over many months.”
Although new trends and technologies may have influenced our work, our team’s ability to adapt has meant that we have continued to create innovative and iconic pieces for our customers;
“It’s great that we have these new technologies which are combined with a strong backbone of traditional techniques that we can draw on and harness when needed. There’s a lot of years of experience in the workshop, so they can go back to their old techniques as well as incorporating the new technologies into what they are making.”
A family story
During her time with us, Sue has worked on a range of historical pieces that have passed through our factory, including the Birmingham’s Mayoral Badge!
“I love to see the mayoral badges, because they are so intricate and tell a rich history of people’s time in office. There are so many processes in between, you have to make sure that it all comes together. It’s all split up at certain stages, and it’s just so rewarding when you see it all come together and finished, fitted in a nice box and being safely delivered. You see the mayoral badges featured on the news, and you think ‘ the workforce at Deakin & Francis have had a big part to do with that’”.
“It’s a family story, isn’t it? It’s gone from generation to generation. Deakin & Francis has a base here which is great for the Birmingham jewellery industry and its heritage. The factory itself with its heritage provides us with a great base to work from. The team have a wealth of knowledge and use of machinery that many other companies may not have. It shows there is longevity to not only the building but the Deakin & Francis brand. When I talk to people about the company, they know we have been here for a long time and we have a rich history.
Looking to the future!
In recent years the team have been developing our women’s jewellery range by creating pieces designed for different audiences, while still retaining our classic Deakin & Francis edge with all the new accessories and cufflinks that we create.
“We launched our dreamcatcher collection, some exquisite necklaces, dazzling decanters and we have made some amazing bespoke rings and signet rings. To grow our collection further, we are researching to explore the most valued pieces, so we can create truly wonderful items of women’s jewellery that have the classic Deakin & Francis twist. We have noticed that women’s jewellery is changing now to the point where it is unisex like our new adjustable bracelets and statement rings. Pieces don’t have to be super floral, and I think it’s linked to the empowerment of women; something may look like it’s designed for a man but our female customers will wear it anyway! It’s about wearing what you want to wear, and that’s where we can do quite well.”
If you are looking for inspiration or gift ideas and want to speak to our specialists contact us, we would love to help!