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From Diamonds to Dubai: A Sustainable Journey with Ventura Fine Jewellery

Unveil the story of Neil Neilson, founder of Ventura Fine Jewellery. Explore how this brand combines timeless design with sustainable practices, offering a unique and personalized experience for every client.

Imagine a world where jewellery isn’t just an adornment, but a story waiting to be told. A story that whispers of heritage, dances with innovation and embraces the beauty of a sustainable future. This is the world Neil Ventura, founder of Ventura Fine Jewellery, has set out to create.

Neil’s journey is one of passion and purpose. After a distinguished career at De Beers, he didn’t settle for the status quo. Instead, he drew upon his experience and deep understanding of the industry to forge a new path. A path paved with exquisite craftsmanship, breathtaking designs and an unwavering commitment to responsible sourcing.

Ventura Fine Jewellery isn’t just about creating luxury pieces; it’s about creating heirlooms that resonate with the soul. It’s about empowering clients to tell their own stories through jewelry that reflects their individuality. It’s about pushing boundaries and rewriting the rules of what it means to experience high-end design.

Neil, you’ve had an illustrious career with De Beers. What inspired you to start Ventura Fine Jewellery, and how does it feel to extend your family’s legacy in the industry?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – call it a lifelong ambition. My grandfather was a jeweller and he piqued (no pun intended!) my interest in the industry at a young age. However, whilst I was too young to take over his business when he passed away, I narrowed down my initial career choices to a jewellery making apprenticeship in Hatton Garden in London, or to join the market leader in diamonds, De Beers, with the promise of international travel. I opted for the latter.

Over the next 34 years I had the good fortune to live and work all over the world with extensive stints in Africa, India, Europe and the Far East, where I spent a lot of my career. I built up an in-depth experience buying and selling diamonds all over the world, including numerous exceptional diamonds, and ran several businesses for the De Beers group, including a global auction business. 

And so my considerable career in diamonds has provided an ideal launch pad for a new jewellery business. Over more than three decades I built up a unique black book of the world’s best producers, cutters and polishers, and jewellery makers. Pritam, as a long-term friend and now business partner has similarly deep connections across the gemstone world: he is a 3rd generation jeweller and former ambassador of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). 

My wife, Kanta, is a former fashion designer as well as being a qualified jewellery designer.  She has an incredible eye and so between the three of us, it was a natural development that we all sat down and made a plan to launch Ventura Fine Jewellery; pooling all our knowledge, contacts and experience to build something that extends our contributions to the industry to date. It also sees me coming full circle as I follow in my grandfather’s footsteps.

How does your grandfather’s influence manifest in the designs and operations of Ventura Fine Jewellery today?

Even though my grandfather‘s operation was a small affair, two things stick with me from the hours I spent with him as a young boy. One was his painstaking attention to detail. The other was his focus on each customer as an individual. I’m determined that we bring both of these aspects into our business. Customers appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into our jewellery. And the way we have set ourselves up is entirely designed around a different and unique customer experience where each client is treated as an individual and provided with our focused attention to deliver their jewellery wishes and desires.

How do you approach innovation at Ventura Fine Jewellery, given your background in strategy and innovation at De Beers?

As a relatively new business, we fully embrace experimentation through iterative test loops across many aspects of the business from marketing activities; testing and learning different formats for our private sales events; through to our design processes. These low cost, rapid cycle tests allow us to learn quickly in order to move the business forward. 

We are also busy testing different ways in which we can integrate digital technologies into the customer experience and our overall operations. For example, we are currently testing the use of a number of different technologies that allow a customer buying a piece of a high jewellery to be able to pull up a range of content detailing the story behind each piece. This can include the original design inspiration; the diamond and gemstone sourcing; the craftsmanship journey to create a unique piece; as well as various supporting information regarding their purchase, such as certificates. Proof of ownership can also be logged on the blockchain. As we iterate on these tests and learn which aspects of the story behind each piece really resonates with customers, we will refine it and look to extend this across more of the jewellery we make. 

Innovation in design is also an important element in our business. Many of our designs are multifunctional pieces where, for example, a pair of earrings could be worn two or three different ways, creating day to evening wear pieces all in one. But in all aspects of innovation we try and put the customer at the centre of what we do, and ask ourselves if the innovation helps with our mission to change how jewellery is experienced for our clients. 

What do you believe sets Ventura Fine Jewellery apart from other high-end jewellery brands?

Our view is that over the years the typical retail jewellery experience has become stale and formulaic, even intimidating for clients. Similarly on the design front, whilst there are some great pathfinders out there, there are large swathes of similar designs that all look very similar to each other. We are therefore trying to do things differently. I don’t think one single aspect makes us unique, but rather how we are combining a number of elements together that in combination make us different. 

We tend to be quite uncompromising on our designs. Kanta is very adept at combining colours, textures and patterns in ways that create designs that have warmth, energy and a sense of adventure. We like adding elements of surprise into our designs, such as creating multifunctional pieces. For example one of our first high jewellery creations – ‘The Mandarin’ – is a ring that can be transformed into a pendant. We also like using graduation in size and colours to create pieces that have a timeless, yet contemporary edge. 

We are advocates of sustainability and go to great lengths to ensure our diamonds, gemstones and gold are responsibly sourced. To this end, we work extensively with partners who are members of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). 

We are equally uncompromising on our craftsmanship and are privileged to work with some of some of the world’s best jewellery makers. Customers frequently comment on the quality of our finishing, several aspects of which are aimed at presenting customers with jewellery that is so comfortable they simply won’t want to take it off.

We also take a different approach to customer engagement. We promote ourselves as being  trusted and knowledgeable guides for our clients. As industry veterans, Pritam and I each bring over three decades of industry experience into client engagements. The world of diamonds can be confusing; gemstones even more so; with aspects such as rarity often misunderstood. We can help cut through the noise and impart some of our knowledge so our clients can make informed choices. We choose to engage clients differently from conventional retail, by providing our clients a private space in which to spend time with us, alongside a design studio where they have the opportunity to get involved in the design process directly. We find this helps us get to know our clients better, and equally for them to understand our story and the added value we can offer more effectively through our personal engagement. We also try and bring the same elements to bear with our private sales events and exclusive pop-ups.

It’s the combination of these elements that clients tell us make us different, and engender great trust, and this is an important part of our mission and how we can change how jewellery is experienced and appreciated.

What challenges have you faced in establishing Ventura Fine Jewellery, and how have you overcome them?

Awareness of Ventura Fine Jewellery is probably the biggest challenge. We know we have the capability to create just about anything in terms of bespoke commissions for clients, and we demonstrate some of these capabilities through our jewellery and high jewellery offerings. Of course, unless potential clients find out about us, they are likely to remain blissfully unaware of what we can offer, so raising awareness through multiple channels is a key activity and a constant challenge. Friends and those in our immediate networks have provided a great starting point.

These introductions, alongside an integrated marketing campaign including conventional print and digital channels; private client sales events; pop-ups events; as well as targeted media marketing are collectively proving effective.  But equally, we are a business that sees a lot of value in collaboration and partnerships with other brands sharing similar values. All this helps raise awareness of Ventura Fine Jewellery. Our approach offers fertile ground for creating something different for clients – such as our new partnership with a leading British sculpture artist where we are bringing the realm of art and fine jewellery together to create a new ‘wearable art’ offering. 

How does Ventura Fine Jewellery balance timeless elegance with contemporary design in its collections?

Jewellery has a very rich and storied back catalogue of designs, many of which might be considered timeless or classic. These provide a great starting point for inspiration. But to keep trying to move the category forward, it’s a constant challenge to build on some of the timeless designs and find new ways to make them contemporary and relevant. Sometimes this is through changes to design; sometimes it’s through the incorporation of innovative materials that provide a contemporary edge, such as ceramic or titanium, for example.

Our new London Jewellery collection is our celebration of some of London’s most iconic markers. We have combined some classic design elements with different patterns, textures and colours to create a collection that we think represents exactly this timeless yet contemporary balance, reflecting the timeless yet contemporary edge we feel in London today. 

What has been the most rewarding part of founding Ventura Fine Jewellery?

The challenge of building a business is fun, and something I thoroughly enjoyed during my corporate career. Each new business is of course different, but I love the challenge and find a lot of joy in setting our own agenda and having the freedom to quickly move into areas that we think are promising. It has also been highly enjoyable getting back in front of clients after many years in a corporate centre. 

How does sustainability factor into your sourcing and production processes at Ventura Fine Jewellery?

Sustainability is a major part of what we do, and responsible sourcing is part of our broader sustainability journey. I think from the customers standpoint, it’s often overly difficult for them to know what they are buying. It’s not just that there are many technical aspects involved in wisely selecting a diamond or gemstone for a given piece; whether it’s subtle changes in colour or distinguishing from a jewel that is superbly cut to maximise its brilliance, or is simply well cut. There’s also just not enough transparency out there, and sometimes there are misleading images or minimal information provided, so it’s easy for customers to end up buying something suboptimal – or worse. We are fortunate given our industry backgrounds and connections that we are uniquely placed to guide clients through this maze of information to ensure they get the very best. Beyond diamonds and gemstones, the gold that is used in our jewellery is also responsibly sourced. 

Sustainability also extends beyond sourcing into other areas such as steady improvements we are making in sustainable packaging for example. We pride ourselves on the level of transparency that we provide customers, seeing every engagement as an opportunity to impart some of our learning so the customers don’t just walk away with an amazing piece of jewellery, they also feel that they have expanded their knowledge in the process.

Can you share your vision for the future of Ventura Fine Jewellery and how you plan to achieve it?

There are a few key elements to the business we are building.

Firstly, we are building a business grounded in relationships – with the people and places who inspire our creations who co-create them with us, and of course our clients who wear our designs. 

We are also building a business that is relevant. Yes, that means balancing timeless yet contemporary elements into our designs, and finding ways to make our designs recognisable as a Ventura Fine Jewellery piece. But it also means being relevant in this era of sustainability and digital technologies as well as relevance in terms of location. We are global citizens at Ventura Fine Jewellery, and so we want to build a business with global appeal. We are building out from our UK presence – we are excited about setting up in Dubai in the next couple of months, and want to expand into Asia beyond that.

Lastly we want to build a business that can contribute to changing how jewellery is experienced for our clients – where the goal is to allow our clients to explore and discover new sides of themselves and, through wearing one of our pieces, ‘look a little less like everyone else’. 

What trends do you see shaping the future of the jewellery industry, and how is Ventura Fine Jewellery preparing for these changes?

I would say two standout trends are sustainability and digital technologies.

On sustainability, the shift I see is from ‘saying’ to ‘doing’ to ‘evidencing’. We have seen a lot of businesses make claims about being carbon neutral at some point in the future. But making claims is the easy part, and credible sustainability journeys demand that steady progress is demonstrated towards these targets consistently, and that progress can be evidenced. I think the shift will continue in the years ahead. 

On digital technologies the two domains that excite me the most are blockchain and AI, particularly generative AI. Blockchain is very real, and the technology works and is not the limitation. I am fortunate to have had a lot of first-hand experience with blockchain and related technologies as I had executive responsibility for an end-to-end digital trust platform called Tracr™ at De Beers.

I think blockchain provides a great foundation for jewellery storytelling that can include origin information and subsequent steps involved in crafting a given piece, all made relevant for clients. And it is a movement that is already well underway. AI is also a real game-changer and the rate of innovation is already testament to that. In the luxury world, AI (and particularly generative AI) is already changing and enhancing the creative work of designers; numerous marketing activities from product descriptions to marketing campaigns; and the retail experience. And despite the great progress made to date, we are only at the outset of the developments with both of these technology domains.  

At Ventura Fine Jewellery we are on our own sustainability journey, and we fully intend to integrate aspects of both these technology domains into our operations and offerings over time. We are already experimenting in ways that remain client-led and client-focussed. 

Can you tell us about a memorable custom piece you’ve created and the story behind it?

One of our high jewellery pieces, ‘Lily Pads’, really caught a client’s attention recently; so much so that they worked with us to design a customised version for themselves. The client wanted a ring with two lily pads slightly overlaid on one another, with tsavorites graduating in colour from the outer edge of each lily pad to the centre. They also wanted each of the lily pads to be movable. This required some clever design enabling each lily pad to tilt and rotate so that when worn, the client’s natural hand movement, combined with the movement of the ring would ensure that the light will catch the ring from every conceivable angle. 

What role does customer feedback play in the development of new designs and collections at Ventura Fine Jewellery?

We often test design concepts that we are considering introducing into our jewellery collections or our high jewellery pieces with existing clients. But beyond that, through our bespoke work, our process gives clients as much opportunity as they would like to get involved in creating their unique piece. We often find clients really enjoy this opportunity to explore, learn, and create with us, and end up with a piece that they genuinely cherish as a consequence. 

How do you ensure the quality and authenticity of the gemstones and diamonds used in your jewellery?

Our extensive knowledge, technical training and deep industry experience sets us apart here – no one is going to pull the wool over our eyes. Cut is everything for us and so we usually start there. A diamond or gemstone that is superbly cut simply looks incredible, interacting with light to sparkle as it should, and subtle differences even amongst well cut diamonds can make a big difference. We know what questions to ask about diamonds and gemstones to quickly ascertain the best options, filtering out any unscrupulous activities. Beyond certification, we like to pull together a broader suite of information so we can evidence the origin of the gems in our pieces. This for Ventura Fine Jewellery, is a critical part of the story. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to invest in high-quality jewellery?

Buy the best examples you can find and afford. Everything is becoming rarer, and so it pays (even if only from an insurance replacement value perspective) to buy jewellery that features diamonds and gemstones that are superbly cut and that exhibit the best possible colour and so on, and we encourage clients to avoid compromising on this. Over time a better cut diamond or gemstone with great colour credentials will remain rarer, and thus more valuable, than an averagely cut gem with average colour, all other factors being equal. 

We also encourage an understanding of relative rarity. White diamonds are rare, but there are many gemstones that might have been less well marketed that are even rarer. Tanzanite for example has much more rarity, as are Paraiba Tourmalines. We help clients looking to invest in a piece of high quality jewellery to understand gemstone rarity and the details that underpin that rarity. 

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

South America is high on our bucket list primarily because it’s somewhere that despite our global travels we have never been. India is always on our bucket list, and even though we have lived there; worked there; and visit frequently, there is simply so much to see and explore. India is a constant source of inspiration. Incredible India is indeed incredible. 

How do you stay inspired and motivated in an industry that is constantly evolving?

The constant evolution of the broader luxury sector, and developments beyond our sector is what I find motivating and inspiring. I’ve often held a belief that whilst there is some inspiration in your immediate industry, it’s really important to look up and out into the broader sector and beyond. In the case of jewellery I think that what is unfolding in fashion is something of a bellweather for what will then wash across the jewellery and watches space. So I mostly look for inspiration in places beyond our immediate sector. 

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

If it were easy everyone would be able to do it. 

Finally, what future projects or collections can we look forward to from Ventura Fine Jewellery?

We have recently come together with Winterburn Fine Art, one of the U.K.’s leading sculpture artists. The Winterburn Ventura collaboration will see us launch our first collection of ‘wearable art’ and we are really excited about this crossover. Through our partnership we have worked out how to take stunning full-size sculptures and transform these into wearable pieces of art such as broaches and pendants, retaining all the incredible detail of the original sculpture. We have chosen one of Winterburn‘s iconic sculptures, ‘Grounded Serenity’, as the basis for our first limited piece collaboration together. We will be launching this soon. 

I’m also looking forward to refining the ‘digital storytelling’ approach behind each piece using the digital technologies that I described earlier. We think this sits well with our mission to change how our jewellery is experienced, and adds a digital element to our offering.

We are also excited to be expanding the business into Dubai where we have a growing clientele interested in our creations. Our plan is to complete our set up there in Q3 this year. 

Inspired by Neil’s vision? House of Coco is dedicated to showcasing the journeys of passionate individuals who are shaping the future of luxury. Explore more inspiring stories and discover a world of creativity, innovation and timeless elegance. 

Want to learn more about Neil and Ventura Fine Jewellery?

Head to their website www.venturafj.com or give them a follow on Instagram and Linkedin.