Rob Girling - Mawdesley's luxury jeweller
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 October 2014
Selini brand founder has combined artist flair and cutting-edge technology to create outstanding jewellery
The market for designing and selling jewellery is an incredibly crowded place so, to be a success, you really need some sparkle.
Customers at the high end of the price range are invariably looking for something special – a unique piece which says something about them as well as the person who has made it.
One business that shines out from that crowd is Selini, based at Cedar Farm in Mawdesley. From their small West Lancashire base, owner Rob Girling has been busy making a big name for himself creating breathtakingly intricate bespoke jewellery.
He operates at the top end of the market - anything from £1,000 to £250,000 - and he has customers around the world, from the wealthy regions of the Middle East to Europe’s rich and famous. His jewellery is exquisitely different and so is his approach.
Rob was born into a family of Liverpool precision tool makers. At school he showed an interest in art but little else and he soon found a niche in the family firm.
The company, which is still going strong, specialises in using advanced micro-technology to create machine tools for highly complex jobs. Their customers included jewellers. ‘I suppose I was always a bit frustrated,’ said Rob. ‘I was a bit of a rebel at school. I felt I had some artistic ability but I didn’t have an outlet for it.’
He found that jewellers were increasingly coming to the business for small-scale precision tools and part of the business naturally evolved into serving this specialised market.
Eventually, Rob decided he could us his precision engineering skills and develop his passion for art by creating his own bespoke jewellery and when that proved popular he set up a workshop and then, six years ago, he opened a shop and workshop at Cedar Farm. He hasn’t looked back.
‘I got completely hooked,’ he said. ‘At first it was a bit of an obsession. I could be working seven days a week, sometimes until midnight. I didn’t see much of my young family at the time but that’s sometimes what you have to do when you start up. I’ve eased off a little since then.’
The items in his workshop reflect every facet of the business – from the laser technology, microscopes and computer-aided design software to the tools that artisan jewellers have had on their benches for centuries.
Having the right tools is one thing, but Rob knew the business needed to be different. ‘The jewellery market has reached saturation point. People who regularly buy expensive jewellery have seen it all,’ he said. ‘They want something different, they want one-off pieces. You have to have a unique selling point and this is ours.’
However, there is more to it than just exclusivity. Rob has brought a high degree of innovation to the business and that has caused quite a stir. New processes have allowed him to make highly complex pieces, mainly rings in 18 carat gold and platinum, involving many separate components. He has pioneered methods that allow these parts to blend seamlessly.
Another new process involves the use of enamel, a material shunned by most top-end jewellers because it is prone to breaking. ‘We have created shock-proof enamel. No one has done this before and I think it’s going to be one of our main areas of growth.’
Rob has developed a special relationship with a diamond cutter in Antwerp. It means he has access to some truly stunning gems, cut with extraordinary skill such as one tiny diamond cut in the shape of a butterfly. He also gets some diamonds with extraordinary colour tones. ‘Importantly, having a strong relationship means I know where my diamonds are coming from.’
Unlike many jewellers, Rob starts with the gem and designs the ring or pendant around it. ‘I sit down with the client and we put together a brief and a budget,’ he said. ‘That contact between the client and the customer is important to me. If necessary, I’ll even deliver the finished article to their home – you wouldn’t get that from Cartier!’ This approach means that Rob has built up a loyal base of clients who come back for more.
In the last six years he has had some outstanding commissions but probably none so remarkable as the engagement ring a client ordered for his fiancée.
With more than a nod to Damien Hurst, it was a platinum skull with between 350 and 400 individual diamonds. ‘It took me three to four weeks of solid work – probably around 150 hours’’ said Rob. ‘I did tell you I liked a challenge!’