Designer Spotlight : Chalfen

Chalfen is a jewellery brand with some serious history. The back story is fascinating and each piece they create offers a little story of its own. We just had to find out more.

Here we go behind the brand to find out more about the history behind it and so much more…

When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
Since before the turn of the 20th century, the Chalfen family were proud watchmakers who worked from a jewellery shop in London until Simon Chalfen’s untimely death in 1934. His son, Harry Chalfen, had been working for a jewellery wholesaler, until after the war – when he started on his own, buying and selling second hand jewellery. Although this was an important aspect of trade post wartime, Harry convinced his brother-in-law Alec, already a licensed diamond cutter, that it was time for something new. In 1958 they formed the jewellery design house H. Chalfen Ltd. Their goal: to manufacture diamond jewellery for the trade.

What’s your background?
I was trained by the Hakimian family working for Yoko London for 14 years. I travelled the world with Yoko spending many months of the year away from home at trade shows in Las Vegas, Dubai, Italy, Spain, Hong and many other countries as we sold pearls to the world. My knowledge grew as I dealt with all types of businesses from Cartier, Tiffany, Graff and Asprey’s to much smaller county independent retailers. This made me an expert on all types of pearls and pearl jewellery and a point of contact for a great many shops and manufactures around the globe. In my time at Yoko London I rose to one below the Managing Director Michael Hakimian and had no intention of leaving until one day Brian Chalfen approached me to join Chalfen as the Sales Director. Brian’s children had no interest in the jewellery trade and as the last family member involved, he pledged to train me to one day take over when he retired. In February 2015 and after 12 years I took over as manging director.

How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
Chalfen of London started as a small boutique family business and although it is not now run by the Chalfen family we have remained a small boutique factory. We feel that by remaining small we are able to keep focused on quality and are able to control every step of the manufacturing process from choice of diamonds to design and from model making to the finished product.

If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
I don’t think so. Of course, there are instances that I wish I could revisit and do differently but the core concept has kept us all interested and excited to come to work every day. This is all I could really have wished for when I took over. Saying that, we have plans for 2017 that will be a very large departure for Chalfen and open a whole new direction for us. We are buzzing with excitement to see how they are received.


What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
The changing economy in the UK with pre-Brexit jitters and then the full Brexit vote and the drop in the pound has been challenging. The other challenge has been to educate the retail shop staff and the public in general about the differences in diamonds. It’s all too easy to rely on the certificate that comes with most diamonds these days but understanding that this does not describe the quality of the diamond is hard to get your head around. The certificate is like a spec sheet for the diamond in the same way that a car has a spec sheet describing the engine size and the colour. It does not tell you the quality difference between a Renault and a BMW – how one will be just a much more comfortable ride or a lot more fun to drive. A certificate for a diamond does not describe the sparkle and is the only thing that marks a diamond out from another stone. After all a piece of glass can be D colour and Flawless. It is all in the cutting and spending the time to understand the process will change the way that you look at diamonds.

Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I am a total geek. Although I work in the jewellery trade and have a passion for watches my everyday watch is a Google watch and I miss it when I am not wearing it. This has been known to get me some disdainful looks when I am showing a wonderful item of diamond jewellery to a retail outlet that sells really fantastic watches like Rolex and Patek Philippe.

2017 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
We never wish to rest on our laurels and this year we will be pushing three new brands that will expand the Chalfen experience. A connection with a well-loved charity will show a different face and another is set to really innovate the industry. The last one is fun and will lower the entry level to Chalfen whilst showing something never seen before. I can’t say too much but watch this space to see what we will be launching.

To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Honestly every day is a highlight. Every item we design is like my baby and I get such excitement when I get to see a new finished article. That combined with my pride with where we have taken the Chalfen of old as a brand. Every new piece of branding from a new box to a new advert gives me a buzz almost as much as a new piece of jewellery.


Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
I don’t know Paris at all and I love New York but there is no real comparison. I didn’t really understand until I started travelling all over the world, visiting so many capital cities for work but there is no place in the world like London and I wouldn’t want to have my base anywhere else. Hong Kong would actually be my next choice if I had to leave London.

Style means….?
I like to think that style is looking like you haven’t tried too hard but on closer inspection the quality of what you are wearing shines through, exuding an air of confidence and class.

Best thing about London to you?
It’s the sheer size, beauty and variety of the architecture. Buckingham Palace, The Tate, The V & A and buildings like the Shard and the Gherkin. The restaurant scene is also fabulous featuring some of the best chefs in the world. Our Christmas party was held at Jason Atherton’s fabulous restaurant overlooking the Gherkin with floor to ceiling glass windows, set in a moody dark atmosphere. Truly memorable.

Statement shoe or statement bag?
As a man, the handbag doesn’t hold the same sway for me so I would have to say shoe.

If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
It would be a pair of jeans that I bought when visiting the Philippines.

Favourite love song?
Depeche Mode – Somebody


Best place for a coffee?
Coffee is a luxury that I normally forget. I get so engrossed at work that I can go all day without even a glass of water.

Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
Make sure that you are proud of everything you produce and if it is not good enough for you then it is not good enough.

Guilty pleasure?
I love to sit at home in front of my TV and watch a movie. All types of genres are fair game but as I get home so late from work, it means that we do tend to go to bed very early in the morning far too often.

If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
A truly fabulous hotel in Asia. You know, one that has everything you could ever wish for at breakfast, amazing service and a fabulous room. Sitting by the pool and not thinking about work. To me there are no hotels in the world like the best of Asia and it is just such a luxury to be able to switch off from work.

In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
We have great plans for 2017 and the expansion of the brand will take us into territory that we have never ventured before. Who knows where we will go from there. Watch this space!

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