Henry Pruwer is a diamond expert who learnt his art in the diamond capital of Antwerp, and now creates beautiful, bespoke pieces of jewellery, including diamond engagement rings, from his Hatton Garden studio in London.
1) Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was around 7 years old when my fascination with diamonds began as it was then that I became aware of our family’s involvement in the diamond industry. My father moved to London from Belgium after World War II, but the rest of the family stayed in Antwerp, which was and still is, the diamond capital of the world. At our home in London, my Uncle Oscar would visit once a month on the way to the regular De Beers Sight where he was one of the few afforded the privilege by De Beers of being able to purchase a package of rough diamonds. Even then, at such a young age, seeing Uncle Oscar’s black Austin Princess limousine pull up outside our house for this exclusive event, and hearing talk about these precious stones, gave me a tantalising insight into the world of diamonds. Antwerp’s diamond industry now has some of the most stringent security in the world, but in the 1970s diamond trades were conducted quite openly in local cafés. The buying and selling of diamonds became part of my DNA. After learning the fundamentals of the jewellery trade as a young man, I spent 15 years in Antwerp, working alongside my brother Marcel who was president of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse, becoming a certified diamond grader with the HRD Antwerp Diamond Centre and advising African regional government on employment creation, education and ethical diamond practices. After my time in Antwerp, the time had come to set up on my own in 2015. I became a member of the London Diamond Bourse, and chose Hatton Garden as my base, the heart of London’s diamond and jewellery industry.
2) How did the idea come to you for the company?
There are very few industries where trust and reputation are quite as important as the diamond industry. It takes an incredibly long time to amass the skill and experience to be able to source the best quality diamonds, and I wanted to put that skill and experience to good use to guide others through the process of buying a bespoke piece of jewellery. For most people, the thought of creating a bespoke piece of jewellery is quite daunting, because they don’t know a great deal about the topic, but also because of the huge amount of trust you need to place in your bespoke jewellery expert. My vision for Henry Pruwer was to create a brand in which customers could place their trust, creating pieces of both beauty and quality. It’s not the amount of money a client is investing in a particular piece that dictates the level of service. Every client deserves and receives the same high level of service, and access to the best ethically sourced diamonds within their price range.
3) How did you achieve awareness?
The majority of my business in the early days, and even now, comes through referrals. I have been very fortunate to have developed a loyal customer base; what may start as an order for a bespoke diamond engagement ring often leads to a request for me to create a couple’s wedding bands, or an anniversary piece. As trust is so inherent in the diamond industry, I feel that when you are looking for a piece of bespoke jewellery, particularly if it’s your first time buying bespoke, you will often ask friends and family how they approached the process first.
4) How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Growth and development for Henry Pruwer has been steady and largely organic. I work alongside a small team of jewellery designers, goldsmiths, diamond setters and polishers to create each piece of bespoke jewellery. It was important for me that the growth of the brand allowed me to maintain my commitment to quality, giving each client that time and space to create the piece they’ve envisioned in their mind, and something that will be treasured always. My skill set lies in sourcing the best diamonds and in the creation of exquisite pieces of jewellery. It isn’t in digital, so that’s where I worked alongside a digital agency, Bravand, to create a new website, www.henrypruwer.com, helping to align my core business values with a refreshed brand identity.
5) What are the key successes?
For me, success is measured in how happy clients are, and it can be quite an emotive process. A client might be quite apprehensive when they first come to me to create a diamond engagement ring, a special birthday gift or something for themselves. They need guidance and reassurance at every stage, from advice on the style of ring to suit a particular lifestyle right down to aftercare advice. We go from an initial sketch of a piece, which I create alongside the client, to an engagement ring or piece of jewellery that represents an emotion, perhaps love, commitment, promise or achievement. Hearing how much a client or their partner love a piece and becoming a part of their story is incredibly satisfying.
6) What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
After moving from Antwerp to London, the greatest challenge I had wasn’t in accessing a supply of quality diamonds. I could arrange for diamonds to be securely couriered to me in London from around the world, just as easily as I could in Antwerp. What was more difficult, was developing that circle of artisans to work alongside, such as goldsmiths and polishers. In the jewellery trade, each aspect of the creation of a piece of bespoke jewellery requires the skills of an experienced craftsperson. The right goldsmith can take my initial sketch and create a 3D CAD design that enables the client to visualise how the final piece will look. A polisher can find and remove minute scratches, or breathe new life into an existing piece of jewellery. It was only once I had this circle of artisans around me that I was finally able to offer the type of service I aspired to at Henry Pruwer.
7) What are your plans now/for the future?
The majority of my work is bespoke pieces, created to a client’s particular specification and budget, primarily diamond engagement rings. One of the things I would like to do in the future is to create a range of diamond engagement rings for men, featuring designs and styles that men would be happy to wear. The most popular choice for a diamond engagement ring is a round diamond, but the options are immense in not only diamond shape, but cut, colour, clarity and carat. Then there is metal, the choice of setting and complementing stones. Pushing the boundaries of what an engagement ring should look like interests me. Education is something I envisage doing more of in the future too. As a diamond expert, I regularly speak at events and one thing I am asked about often is the difference between lab grown diamonds and natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are becoming more commonplace but with bespoke jewellery, most clients are searching for a natural diamond. The fact that the diamond was created over billions of years is part of the appeal.
8) What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I was surrounded by entrepreneurial individuals from a young age, like my father who set up a menswear manufacturing business when he moved to London. When you grow up in that environment, it lessens the fear that you might otherwise feel around starting up a business because it is normal for you. Perhaps unusually given my father’s own entrepreneurial background, he and my mother encouraged me into accountancy as they felt it would offer me a secure, professional career. I studied accountancy but I knew very early on that it wasn’t for me, and moved into the jewellery trade to learn my craft. It felt right. My advice for others is to do what feels right for you, and your circumstances.
9) Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Choose an industry, a topic or a business that you’re passionate about. If you’re not an expert in the industry already, become one through work experience and additional training. Learn from other entrepreneurs who have been in the business longer than you, even those outside of your industry can offer valuable insights. As a business owner, there are so many demands on your time. Stay focused on what is important, using your time wisely on those tasks that are essential to creating a positive customer experience. For me, that is creating a stunning piece of jewellery and providing that ongoing support and advice. Surround yourself with complementary experts that support and enhance your offering and bring in additional experts to undertake those tasks that you don’t excel at, perhaps the finance or digital side.
10) Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
My uncle, Oscar Pruwer, has been a great inspiration to me. Oscar not only ignited my interest in the diamond industry, but demonstrated first-hand how to build a business based on reputation and honesty. Through Oscar, I learnt how to look at the longer term picture, focusing not on sales but on customer happiness. Another influence has been Patrick Seboko, an administrator in the Northern Cape Provincial Government in Kimberley, South Africa, who was determined to improve the standard of living and the education of the local population through their diamond resources.
11) What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs – Forbes
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and dogs are a man’s best friend. Now you know which sex has more sense – Zsa Zsa Gabor
No pressure, no diamonds – Winston Churchill
12) What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?