When you visit the London DE website you are instantly blown away by the in-depth knowledge that Phil Spencer and his team have of diamonds, coloured diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and other precious stones.
Phil showcases each and every jewel on his website so that the customer can see exactly what they are buying. He also provides professional drawings of bespoke jewellery designs before the diamond, emerald or other stone is added to the piece, meaning that every single design is perfected to the customer’s requirements.
We are intrigued to know more about Phil Spencer, and how he got into the world of beautiful diamonds and emeralds.
Q. HOC. Did you start your working life within the jewellery industry, or did you come from a different background, and did you always know that you wanted to work with precious gemstones and jewellery?
A. Phil. Whilst I have always been interested in jewellery and gemstones (and coloured gemstones in particular), I started my formal career as a commissioned officer in the UK armed forces. On completion of that I spent 5 years in financial services but I always wanted to work in the luxury market and I yearned to run my own business. Finally, in 2013, the opportunity arose to strike out on my own and become an entrepreneur in the marketplace I love.
Q. HOC. Can you tell us more about what London DE is all about, as we understand that it’s not just about precious stones?
A. Phil. We’re an ethical jeweller and coloured gemstone specialist. With connections high in the Colombian emerald and Sri Lankan gemstone supply chains, we aim to cut out the middlemen and ensure the integrity of our supply chain. We operate a mine-to-market approach and offer our customers, both retail and trade, a truly bespoke service via our hybrid model. This provides the functionality of e-commerce, coupled with personalised human interaction, both face-to-face and via digital channels.
Q. HOC. You currently have a London office, based in the world-renowned Hatton Garden, and a sales office in Istanbul, why did you choose these locations for your business?
A. Phil. I am a Londoner born and bred but I have travelled extensively and lived and worked in the Middle East and around the globe. For me, London is one of the great fashion, luxury and retail centres of the world. With an outward looking international focus we are building a global brand. Via digital channels we can reach almost everyone on earth but it certainly helps to have a (small) footprint across the major hubs. Istanbul is the first of (I hope) many international sales offices we plan to open in the coming months and years. High on our target list are Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.
Q. HOC. Your precious stones and jewellery designs range in price from around £100 to over £100,000 – do you have a favourite piece from your collections that would come in under £100, and do you have a favourite piece that would come in over £100,000?
A. Phil. We offer a wide and ever-expanding range of products from cufflinks and accessories for hundreds of pounds to bespoke engagement rings and other jewellery pieces for up to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The key to the value of our products lies in the quality, uniqueness and the ethical nature of their supply and manufacture. The same care and diligence go into the creation of a £100 pair of cufflinks as it does for a £100,000 bespoke diamond and emerald engagement ring.
Q. HOC. Do you personally wear jewellery and if so what style?
A. Phil. I love jewellery but my personal taste is for it to be understated. I have a small collection of Tudor watches, I wear two 18K yellow gold rings, along with gold and silver cufflinks. I also enjoy designing small pieces of ladies’ jewellery for my wife. The one thing I have learned in this industry is that there is no right or wrong jewellery, just the pieces that you love!
Q. HOC. Your Instagram @londondande showcases some of your jewels beautifully, do you find social media helps to promote your brand?
A. Phil. Yes, social media, especially Instagram, is becoming a powerful marketing tool within our industry. We have just recruited a highly skilled in-house digital marketeer and a major part of her role will be to develop this channel further.
Q. HOC. What did you study at University, which one did you attend, and has it helped with the business you are successfully running today?
A. Phil. I read Geography at University College London. I chose Geography because I am fascinated by the world around me and I love travel. I think on balance university was a worthwhile exercise, it certainly broadened my mind and opened my horizons to new ideas and possibilities, which helped to lay the foundations for my later business career.
Q. HOC. Did anyone offer you any useful business advice before you launched London DE?
A. Phil. I gratefully received as much advise as I could both prior to launching my business and ever since. As part of our start-up funding programme the GLE (Greater London Enterprise) scheme provided me with a business loan and practical advice, as well as weekly mentorship from an entrepreneur with many decades of experience, which was invaluable.
Q. HOC. Did anyone offer you any bad advice that you followed, and later wished you hadn’t?
A. Phil. As with everything in life, advice comes in many shapes and forms. The vast majority of the advice I have received has been useful but inevitably some has not. Judgement and experience will eventually tutor the entrepreneur towards the best course of action.
Q. HOC. If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone thinking of getting into fine jewellery and precious stones, what would it be?
A. Phil. Understand your market and know your business model inside out. After cash flow, ignorance of ones’ operating environment is the fastest start-up business killer!
Thank you for taking the time to answer all our #BossBoy questions for House of Coco Magazine.