The marriage between urban culture and jewellery seems as if it’s been about forever. Spanning back to the likes of LL Cool J and Run DMC wearing signature gold chains in the rap music videos of the 80’s, throw in the acquisition of wealth and accessibility to luxury, the connection between ‘the culture’ and jewellery, has never been so prevalent. Bringing a level of earned lavishness and status to a culture that was once, and often still is, synonymous with struggle, the trend of statement jewellery is one that holds meaning, and one that’s here to stay.
A big name in the UK jewellery scene is none other than A Jewellers, based in London’s Hatton Garden, the capital’s diamond quarter. Founded in 2008 by director Abtin Abbasi, the boutique has established itself as a key player in the urban jewellery scene. After waiting with Abtin’s publicist in the Pret opposite the relatively new store, myself and Eric, photographer for the day, eventually enter the shop. High security double doors and CCTV everywhere, we instantly become aware of the level of trade that occurs here. “Make yourself comfortable – I think we should go to the VIP room at the back. Does that work for you guys?”
The VIP room is decorated with gold accents and green furnishing, and Abtin, who is clearly a guy with a busy schedule, spends 15 minutes answering multiple calls and meticulously arranging soft drinks in a specific pattern before we even start. I question him on his obvious eye for detail. “The reason why, sometimes I find it hard to focus, I’ve got ADHD… but this ADHD, I think it made me who I am… your mind and energy goes onto one thing, you just like, it takes over your mind and your life and everything.” Speaking to Abtin at length, it’s clear that this mindset has helped him develop A Jewellers to make it what it is today, with no plans of stopping.
Everybody, particularly people within the music and sports scenes, has become fixated on having a plug for everything. A role that was once reserved for dealers of illegal substances, the growing fixation on opulence means that the standard plug now refers to an expert of any kind, whether that be trainers, designer clothing, cars and of course, jewellery. Once off the phone, I chat to Abtin about how he made his name as a luxury jeweller. “It’s [been] a massive journey, a really, really long journey. It wasn’t like a planned, arranged thing for me to start trying to do jewellery. It was just random at the beginning. I’ve always had a skill for buying and selling knack from a young age, being in school, buying and selling sweets and cans of soft drink in school, cos we didn’t have vending machines and stuff. And we weren’t allowed certain things. So I used to bring things into school and sell them.” Sitting in the VIP room of a jewellers in Hatton Garden, it’s crazy to think that this started from selling cans of KA in the playground. Today, A Jewellers has 155,000 followers on Instagram, and amongst these followers are the likes of UK rap stars Dave, Fredo, J Hus and Headie One, as well as sports stars Eden Hazard and Floyd Mayweather.
Making the initial transition from playground snacks to sought-after trainers, Abtin explains to me how he closed a deal on his first luxury watch in his teens, with Eric popping up occasionally to take photos of both Abtin and the intricate interior décor of the store. Offered to him at £2000 with paperwork and certificates, he explains how this flip was his first venture into the luxury jewellery sector: “I sold it in the end, and I made a good profit, and then I put the word out to a network of people to offer me more watches, and then eventually, slowly, slowly over the years, it started building up… at the beginning I was just coming to Hatton Garden to sell those watches”. This hustler mindset is something that clearly led to the growth of Abtin’s business, but something that could potentially be overlooked is his genuine knowledge of the industry, one he’s clearly passionate about. He doesn’t hesitate to educate me on the ins and outs of jewellery, words getting faster and faster as he explains to me the difference between testing for nine and eighteen carat gold, and flower setting and regular diamond setting: “[flower setting] is… where they manage to fit the diamonds so close together because of the honeycombed kind of style, it fits so close. This kind of setting takes double the amount of diamonds, it takes double the amount of carat weight, and it costs double the price. But it’s so packed that the watch goes off like crazy”. Throughout his explanation, I catch a glimpse of his watch as he uses his hands to act out his words. I ask him whether the watch he’s wearing is an example of a flower-set watch – he confirms that it is.
He continues to tell me about the ups and downs of the business – but where he gets most passionate remains the jewellery, spewing out facts and figures about Rolexes, AP’s and more, and explaining his transition from reselling the goods to designing and creating custom items. I ask about the pieces he’s most proud of, and he references pieces that went viral on social media, items he designed and had created for rappers such as AJ Tracey: “we made the K-Trap one, one of the sick ones… then we done a sick piece for AJ Tracey which blew up, like he put his trust in me”. It seems to be at this point that Abtin realised their stake in the custom jewellery market and decided to expand on it, attempting to solidify A Jewellers position at number one with every custom set. “I got in contact with Young Adz [D-Block Europe rapper], and he hit me up, wanting jewellery for his whole 29 thing. And I said I want to incorporate more to it, it’s too easy for me, it’s too simple, I want to make it special – what means something to you, what’s special to you? He said, “I believe I’m a goat; like the greatest of all time, goat”. I said “let’s make the goat the loop for the chain [to go] through and let’s put it on top of the 29”. We did a 3D goat, and it was sick, 3D horns, everything, fully diamond set the 29 and the goat. And it just came out mad. And then we put it out there and everyone was like “oh my God, this is the sickest pendant I’ve ever seen”. Everyone went crazy over it. And we did that.”
In a scene where so many people are trying to make a name for themselves – be it with luxury pieces or custom jewellery, I ask Abtin about the idea of making enough noise within the industry and maintaining that noise. His response is one of assurance – “we’ve solidified ourselves as the best in the game. People know that we can source them the classics, whether that be a [Rolex] Daydate, a [Audemars Piguet] Royal Oak, a [Patek Phillipe] Nautilus, the timepieces that people love to treat themselves to, the ones all the rappers big up.. but they also know that in the custom game, we are the best. There’s no one doing the crazy things we’re doing, to the level of detail we’re doing it, and we’ve had to work to get here, but we’re here. This is it.”
So what’s next for A Jewellers? We speak about plans to expand within the UK and then across to America, and to diversify his already-growing celebrity client list. “I’m trying to get us into bigger places, I’m trying to push us worldwide” – with no signs of slowing down and plans to only get bigger and better, it’s clear that A Jewellers is not only here to stay, but here to champion the scene in the iciest way possible.