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Bentley & Skinner moves house in Mayfair
By James Clatford

LONDON, August 16, 2009 - Bentley & Skinner, renowned for its Royal Warrants and ties to Britain’s art elite, has said goodbye to London's Bond Street jewellery quarter and moved across Piccadilly to Mayfair’s Regency-period Burlington Arcade.

After its lease owned by neighbour Graff Jewellers expired, Bentley & Skinner moved in July to take the largest shop in the Burlington Arcade, having resided in Bond Street since Victorian times.

The shop, which has two Royal Warrants underlining its status as a jeweller and silversmith to the British royal family, is stuffed full of vintage jewellery treasures.

These include a rare Art Nouveau gold brooch from Masrera y Carrera, dating from 1895, available for 36,000 pounds; a platinum and diamond Art Deco Cartier brooch, circa 1925, with 1.65 carats of diamonds, in its original box, for 16,500 pounds; and an unsigned Art Nouveau dragonfly brooch, circa 1895, with applied enamel and cabochon sapphire, for 39,500 pounds.

Prized items in the shop are a Faberge thermometer from the 1890s, which is on offer for 150,000 pounds, and an extremely rare Art Nouveau necklace from artist-jeweller Rene Lalique, in aquamarine and enamel, for 165,000 pounds.

“There’s a huge premium to pay for a name – like Cartier or Boucheron,” said Bentley & Skinner’s senior sales representative Alessandro Borruso.

He said young customers had a taste for Art Deco rings and earrings, while the middle-aged clientele might more typically go for big Victorian bangles.

Sophie Wooton, Bentley & Skinner’s spokeswoman, said she had noticed an increase in footfall from U.S. customers recently, often looking for estate jewellery, possibly helped by a weakening of the pound against the dollar. Japanese tourists had a penchant for Victorian pieces, she added.


Apart from its links to jewellery of the past, Bentley & Skinner is known for its ties to Britain’s artist establishment and for the skills of its craftsmen. It has a workshop in its Burlington Arcade premises.

Bentley & Skinner was commissioned by British artist Damien Hirst to create a life-sized diamond encrusted platinum skull, which sold in 2007 for $100 million amid massive publicity.

As well as the rare vintage pieces, Bentley & Skinner also stocks more affordable jewellery such as its own range of engagement rings starting at 1,000 pounds.

Its allure is very much tied to its history and its image as a traditional purveyor of luxury jewellery.

"Woody Allen just recently filmed scenes from his latest movie here," Borruso said. The film will star Antonio Banderas and Naomi Watts.

Graff Jewellers, who were targeted in Britain's biggest ever jewellery heist when two armed men snatched $65 million of their jewellery and watches on August 6, are expanding into the former Bentley & Skinner store on 8 New Bond Street.

The robbery shocked the jewellery trade in London. Jewellers have called for beefed-up policing.

"You have to be as vigilant as you can. It reminds you that when something like that happens, there was very little the security could have done," said Wooton. “You have to be prepared and cautious – and aware of everyone,” she said.



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