How Hamilton & Inches is embedded in the fabric of Scottish life and culture

Buying a piece of jewellery is an emotional purchase that can connect us to significant events in our present and can also link us with people from our past when an item is passed down to future generations.

Assistant store manager Crystal So. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Hamilton & Inches team understand the power of these special purchases, bought from the store decades earlier, mean to people who bring them back in for repair or alteration.

The five-storey George Street store reopened last month after an extensive refurbishment to its showrooms and workshops which has created a "destination" for watch and jewellery enthusiasts keen to make the experience a special one.

A new Rolex Room, which sits in the original garden courtyard, is also accompanied by a lifestyle area where clients can relax while browsing with a glass of champagne or coffee while VIP consultation rooms are available for a more intimate and discreet shopping experience.

Silversmith David Ramsay. Picture: submitted

Here we see speak to three staff members of Hamilton & Inches, which was founded in 1866, about what it's like to work at the Edinburgh store and how items of jewellery made in its workshops are passed down the generations.

CEO of Hamilton & Inches, Victoria Houghton, said: "Everyone purchases for a different reason but it is usually an emotionally-driven decision, be it for an engagement, anniversary, birthday or someone may have saved up to treat themselves.

"People come to us who have inherited jewellery and it has a special meaning to them but may not be to their tastes. We can redesign it so that it has a modern appearance instead of just sitting in a drawer. This also adds to the sustainability of our business, as we look to remake and regenerate pieces of precious jewellery, rather than always looking to buy new items. "

Victoria said that the refurbishment was sympathetic to the history of the Edinburgh institution while also reflecting how important purchasing a special item of jewellery can be.

CEO of Hamilton & Inches, Victoria Houghton. Picture: submitted

She said: "What sets us apart is that we have that heritage and longevity stretching back over 155years. People's grandparents came to us, their parents came to us and now they come to us.

"We wanted the refurbishment to reflect this history and connection that people have to the jewellery they buy therefore it was crucial for us to create a destination experience where they can come in and learn about our products in a relaxed environment, with our expert sales team.

"On special occasions, people can also visit our workshops and see where everything is made and then sold in the one building. That is hard to find amongst jewellers, and we are extremely honoured to have such expert craftspeople in the same building as our showroom.

We can offer something truly special for our clients by giving them the opportunity to meet the craftsperson behind their engagement ring, jewellery or handcrafted silver item, says, Assistant Showroom Manager, Crystal So.

The interior of the new Hamilton & Inches store on George Street. Picture: submitted

She said: "When you introduce someone to the goldsmith who made the ring they are buying you can see their eyes light up.

“It means a lot to them to be able to meet the person who has made something which is going to have such a special meaning to them.

"It is the best part of my job - you feel like you are part of someone's love story and you are involved in creating their happy memories."

Craft

The outside of the new Hamilton & Inches store on George Street. Picture: submitted

Craft is very much at the core of Hamilton & Inches company and, having started out with their own silver workshops, it continues to employ highly-skilled craftsmen who curate contemporary pieces using traditional techniques.

Knowledge is passed down through the generations with master polishers, watchmakers, silversmiths and engravers all taking on learnings from those who held the same posts before them.

The recent refurbishment also included the three floors above the showroom which continue to be occupied by the team’s master craftspeople and their apprentices.

Silversmith David Ramsay has worked at Hamilton & Inches since turning 16 and, now aged 31, has spent half his life working for the Edinburgh firm.

He said: "Some of the people that I work with and have trained me have been in the trade longer than I have been alive. I have had such a wealth of knowledge and skill passed down to me and I can now pass this onto new apprentices.

"There is such an incredible range of skillsets across the team of craftsmen in the building from silversmiths, master polishers, hand engravers to goldsmiths.

"We work together, get advice from each other which allows us to essentially produce a better product, constantly learning and improving."

Trophies

Bespoke commissions make up a large part of the work that comes into the Hamilton & Inches workshop.

Creations from the Hamilton & Inches workshops can be found across the sporting spectrum from the Triple Crown Six Nations trophy to the silverware at the Scottish Open and cultural and political seats of power including Bute House and Downing Street.

For David, though, it is fulfilling the customer's vision that is important. Whether it is a trophy to be presented to the winner of an international rugby match or from a father to a son at Christmas.

He said: "We got a call from an American customer to say that he wanted to commission a present for his son at Christmas. It was to be a T-Rex and to be as realistic as possible. I got a design to him and then made a mould of wax to get the process started. His also son liked watches and he asked if the dinosaur could be wearing a watch. We discussed that this would be difficult, but I said we’d try our best.

"When his son opened the box he was delighted with the T-Rex and the watch I had managed to include on the model. The father sent a letter to me thanking me for the work and I also got one from his son."

This attention to detail from staff is at the heart of Hamilton & Inches history and is shown by the loyalty of customers who return at each significant family moment to have a fresh engraving added to a treasured family heirloom.

Crystal said: "We often see generations of families coming in together. I have one client who has a new engraving added to a quaich every time a new baby is welcomed into the family. At Hamilton & Inches, we get to be part of so many stories and special events, it is a very unique place and we’re fortunate to have such wonderful clients who continue to visit us and pass on traditions to future generations.”

For more information on the new Hamilton & Inches store visit hamiltonandinches.com or follow their Twitter (@hamiltoninches), Facebook (hamiltonandinches) or Instagram (@hamiltoninches) social media channels.