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Gary Wroe

Supplier Spotlight: Hockley Mint

Hockley Mint is an independent, family business founded in 1953 by the first generation of the Merrell family under the name, Merrell Casting. The goal was to create a specialist casting company that offered quality precious metals and showcased the unbeatable skill of British craftsmen and women. 40 years later, the second-generation Merrell family decided to build upon the foundations their parents had set and expand into finished mounts, fine jewellery, polishing, setting and bespoke design. To encapsulate all this and more, the Merrell family set upon a fresh name: Hockley Mint. Today, Merrell Casting and Hockley Mint operate together from the same premises in the heart of Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, run by managing director Gary Wroe.

Gary started his career in jewellery manufacturing at 16 years old when he landed a job in the jewellery casting department at Engelhard Clad. He joined as an apprentice from the British Jewellery Association’s Youth Training Scheme. Gary moved to Merrell Casting, the sister company to Hockley Mint, at 17. He worked his way through the jewellery casting department, trying his hand at moulding, investing and all other aspects of the casting process. At 25, he was promoted to Production Manager and seven years later, Gary was promoted again to Operations Manager. In 2017, he was named Managing Director and was promoted by Ian Merrell, part of the second generation of the Merrell family, who was the current Chairman.

Since 1953, Hockley Mint has prioritised British craftsmanship and in-house production, proving that it is possible to offer a high-quality, British made product at accessible prices to its customers. ‘Created in the UK’ is not something Hockey Mint takes lightly, it takes commitment. From alloying all its own metals to designing white label collections, Hockley Mint is proud to show what is possible thanks to traditional British craftsmanship and expertise. Hockley Mint boasts an in-house team of specialist wax carvers, diamond setters, mounters, and polishers, as well as a new generation of CAD/CAM design stars. Combined with its dedication to apprenticeships, it ensures a future in which British jewellery manufacturing remains relevant and rewarding.

1. How have the past 12 months been for your business?

We have been extremely busy since October last year which was no surprise given it was the run up to Christmas. However, orders haven’t slowed since and our staff have continued working overtime to accommodate. We’ve also been restructuring departments within the business to help us tackle the workload. Specifically, we have seen enormous growth across CAD and bespoke design. This in turn has opened opportunities and space for promotions and we have been able to develop new roles for our employees in these departments. In addition, we have continued to operate apprenticeship programs in the last year, especially with new faces working at the bench in various departments.

We have seen a spike in demand for our products since the pandemic which we believe shows growing support for British manufacturing, plus issues with overseas suppliers. We hope that this support continues as worldwide restrictions lift and more retailers, designers, and brands appreciate domestic craftspeople, fast lead times and talent, like those found at Hockley Mint.

2. What are your best-selling collections and have these changed since retailers have reopened?

Demand for our wedding and eternity bands has never been greater. Our products are CNC manufactured to specific size, and weight, which ensures their integrity.

On the other hand, traditional Wedfit four claw setting for solitaires remain our most popular engagement ring styles. However, demand has increased for multi-stone rings and our new Halo and Laboratory-Grown Diamond collections have been attracting attention.

Our annual best seller in 2021 was our Wedfit six-claw rex setting with tapered solid shoulders and a court shank followed closely by our seven stone cut down setting with a wedding ring-style court shank. These are classic designs which exhibit a timeless elegance highly sought after by consumers.

Our new Halo engagement ring designs are performing well. In addition, Hockley Mint now offers laboratory-grown diamond jewellery. Laboratory-grown diamonds have shown they are here to stay, increasing in popularity over the last decade and we aim to stay at the forefront of innovation with this new collection.

3. What plans do you have for your business in 2022?

Moving through 2022, there will be internal developments as we shape our future and welcome an exciting time of change! We are currently in the process of integrating a new IT system to streamline our operations and improve service provision. The next step will be upgrading our website in line with our system, more to come on this in the future.

We have multiple positions available which we have been advertising rigorously, growing multiple departments across the company; design, CAD, finance, IT and manufacturing. We have a keen focus on employing more apprentices, offering the training and skill development needed to set them on successful career paths within the British jewellery industry. So far, we’ve welcomed a trainee setter and a CAD technician who’s split 50/50 between work experience and education, soon to be full-time.

4. Tell us something about Hockley Mint that retailers might not be aware of.

Since 2013, Hockley Mint has operated with an on-site Sub-Office of the Birmingham Assay Office to offer hallmarking services, authorised by the British Hallmarking Council. This benefits our customers’ lead times, reduces the movement of precious metal to different facilities and allows us to hold Jewellers own stamps, hallmarks for the many brands and designers we work with.

We are the designer and patent holder of the original Wedfit rings, and we continue to create new Wedfit designs. Wedfit mounts feature contemporary designs with the ability to fit flush against a standard wedding ring with no gap between, removing the task of making individual shaped wedding rings.

The Pure wedding rings sample selection box is provided free to clients by Hockley Mint includes a Pure sample box containing the most comprehensive offering of plain wedding rings available and access to the Pure website, a useful tool built to be both customer-facing in-store and an ordering platform behind the scenes.

5. What do you believe sets you apart from your competitors?

Hockley Mint is an independent, family-run business of 3 generations with nearly 70 years’ experience in the jewellery industry. Whether you visit us, email us or speak to us at a trade event, you will discover a true family business with an ethos of hard work that underpins our manufacturing skill. The combined efforts of multiple generations of the same family have established Hockley Mint as one of the largest independent jewellery manufacturers in Europe, specialising in everything from hand-carved waxes to ready-to-wear collections.

Times have changed. Pre-pandemic jewellery businesses looked overseas for manufacturing prowess, where factors like cost, lead times and quality are expected to reach an uneasy equilibrium. Post-pandemic we believe retailers saw growing issues with overseas suppliers, specifically factory closures and transport backlogs. Hockley Mint offers fast lead times, quality product and the talent of local craftspeople and we hope the support the British jewellery industry garnered during lockdown will continue to grow as the world returns to normal.

We have mastered techniques, both old and new, across all aspects of the jewellery manufacturing process making us a one-stop destination for retailers, whether you need large order same-day castings, finished jewellery, bespoke creations, hallmarking, stone sourcing… the list goes on.

6. How can CMJ members benefit from the bespoke service you offer?

Hockley Mint’s bespoke design service is a comprehensive solution created with our customer in mind. Bespoke catered to the busy independent retailer. Following a consultation with our knowledgeable CAD team, Hockley Mint will produce rendered CAD images and a 3D printed wax model (images provided to view as standard, wax models upon request). Once proceeded, your design will be cast in precious metal and if required: assayed, mounted, polished and finally stone set, all completed in house.

Reviving a treasured heirloom? Hockley Mint can transform an existing piece of jewellery into something beautiful to be worn and cherished for future generations.

Love a Hockley Mint Wedfit but your stones won’t fit? We’re often asked to alter our standard Wedfit patterns to cater for unusual shapes and sizes of stones with fantastic results, a great option for remodelling inherited jewels.

Feeling creative? If you have an original design, you can work with our skilled team of CAD/CAM technicians to bring it to life. If you’d like to repeat order your bespoke design in the future, or even create your own range, Hockley Mint offers a ‘Master Model’ service. A vulcanised rubber mould allows us to reproduce your design in the precious metal of your choice with the same turn around as a standard Hockley Mint Wedfit mount.

7. You offer Fairtrade gold and are RJC accredited. Why do you believe this is important?

Since 2013, we have been a member of the RJC, the world’s leading standard-setting organisation for the jewellery and watch industry. In May 2022, we were reaccredited for another 3 years, with the auditor commending our staff and praising the dedication and commitment of the team. In collaboration with the RJC, we ensure our operations and supply chain are responsible and ethical which helps secure a sustainable future for the jewellery industry. Under the umbrella of the RJC, we can connect with like-minded businesses in the industry and create strong commercial relationships whilst facilitating consumer confidence in the jewellery they purchase. Most importantly, during times of uncertainty, the RJC provides access to information on issues and challenges within the industry as well as insight into the ever-changing regulatory frameworks.

All our products can be cast in Fairtrade Gold. By choosing Fairtrade Gold you can make a difference to the lives of small-scale artisanal miners and their communities by supporting a system of fair wages, healthy working environments, and ethical practices. By choosing Fairtrade Gold, you are supporting a project that has the potential to improve the quality of life of 100 million people affected by the gold mining industry. Fairtrade ensures that no one under the age of 18 can work underground in mines and that children under 15 years should not work in mining. Miners receive a fair wage and work fair hours. Also, through the Fairtrade Premium, miners can invest in the future of their communities and support education, medical and environmental projects.

8. What sorts of retailer partners are you looking to work with?

Most of our focus goes towards providing bridal and wedding jewellery, perhaps the most sentimental and significant jewellery pieces your customers will ever own. At Hockley Mint, we love working with likeminded businesses who focus on providing such high-quality jewellery for customers to cherish.

Ultimately, our flexibility allows us to provide any service a client may need within the jewellery sector from casting to mounting to finishing and bespoke/CAD designs. It’s more about what we can do, rather than what we can’t do.

So, how can we help?

You can contact Hockley Mint on 0121 242 0042 or visit their website.

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