Behind every great invention is a great team of people – and DeGrey & Mason are no exception.
Using only sustainably sourced gemstones and 100% recycled precious metals, DeGrey & Mason create pieces for those who want to own luxurious and fine jewellery at an affordable price. Each piece is created with the upmost delicacy and care, and the new Theia™ collection is a phenomenal example of this.
The TheiaCut™ acquired its name from the Greek goddess who bestowed the gifts of both lustre and brilliance to gemstones and metals. The cut is created using both traditional and contemporary lapidary techniques; it attracts light like a moth to a flame, and unlocks a gemstone’s ability to shine in every environment it’s placed in.
According to DeGrey & Mason Director Ben Dixon, there are three main words to describe the TheiaCut™: unique, scintillating and vivid. It's clear that a huge amount of effort and treasure has gone into this new creation, and we recently sat down with Ben to discuss the never-before-seen TheiaCut™, and how his upcoming collection came to be.
Hi Ben. For those who are unaware, would you just like to tell us a little bit about yourself, your brand, what its values are, how you got into the business...a bit of background really!
“Hi, okay – well, I started my journey in jewellery right here in this building. I was here in 2004 when GemsTV first started, and I was actually working as a producer on SnatchIt (the shopping channel that was running alongside it). I worked for Steve Bennett for probably ten years before that, in IT sales – but jewellery was really where I found my passion.
“I was working in football just briefly before that as well.”
That’s a bit of a career change!
“A massive career change, yes. I was working at Birmingham City, for Karen Brady from The Apprentice, so it was a huge career change for me. But it’s something that I’m really happy to have had happen to me. It's consumed my life since then – I'm really a confirmed gemstone nerd now, I guess!
“The journey of DeGrey & Mason has been that I left Gemporia in 2016 to set up the brand. I wanted to introduce the High Street to a different type of jewellery, and to design a silver set with an amazing array of gemstones. Unfortunately, the High Street wasn’t ready for that; all the meetings I had to sell the brand ended up being meetings where I took on consultancy to help them with their outsourcing, and to help make them greener and more ethically aware.
“So, my journey to create jewellery has been a long one! Really, I’ve been working as a consultant in the jewellery and gemstone trade for the past six years, and De Grey & Mason is only now, in 2023, about to launch.
"It soft launched in the summer, but we are looking to launch properly in 2023.”
Exciting! So, was the concept of bringing new jewellery to the High Street kind of what drove you into the industry? You obviously had an interest in it from the beginning, because going from football to jewellery is a massive jump!
“Yes, and I want to share that passion. I love gemstones – it's amazing to think that things we wear, things we treasure, things we collect are the product of such a miraculous moment in time.”
It’s an incredible story isn’t it?
“It is. I mean, people get obsessed by wine and other things like that – and actually it’s very similar. The terroir of where the wine comes from, the provenance of it, and the fact that one wine is created from that one vine in that one place and can be worth thousands of pounds.
“Millions of years ago, Mother Nature did that inside the earth – it was only that one perfect moment in time when the chemicals, the heat and the pressure were at the perfect mix to be able to create that gemstone.”
It's truly remarkable, isn’t it – and something that everyone should know about!
“It’s amazing, absolutely, and that was really my crusade when I left Gemporia – to share that with more and more people.
“But now, I’m getting the opportunity to do that, which I’m so excited about.”
We're excited to have you! So, when it comes to gemstones, a lot of what’s remarkable about them is the way that they’re cut.
Obviously you’re bringing a new cut to Gemporia: the TheiaCut™. But, what inspired it? It's named after a goddess, isn’t it?
“It is, the Greek goddess of light. She’s reported to have bestowed the gifts of lustre, brilliance and intrinsic value on Gold, Silver and on gemstones. So, the TheiaCut™ took us a year to develop, and I couldn’t be more pleased or proud of it."
“I’ve had the cut in the background of my mind for probably the past ten years. I shouldn’t really be saying this, but I was involved in Marketing at GemsTV and it kind of came to me while I was here – and I’ve kept it to myself. But now it’s the perfect moment in time to use it for a gemstone that loves light.
“That’s the thing with the TheiaCut™ – it just loves light. It loves every single lighting condition; it looks different if you’re out in the bright sunshine to when you’re inside in lower lighting. It even attracts so much light than if you put it under the table in a candlelit environment, it’ll still have colour and it’ll still have some brilliance.
“But yes, it’s amazing.”
It really is. Honestly, the amount of lustre you can get from a gemstone cut like this is just incredible.
There’s a real art to lapidary, so how is a cut as fine as the TheiaCut™ actually achieved? It must be such a meticulous process.
“It is. In the DeGrey & Mason collections, I've got two other signature gemstone cuts: the Star Cut and the Deck Cut. However, the Theia™ takes probably twice as long to cut; it takes between three and five days to move it from one side of the lapidarist bench to the other.
“The real benefit of the TheiaCut™ is something called ‘cascading’, that we do on the pavilion. First, we match up those pavilion facets to the facets that we put on the crown – and it’s all done by hand, so it takes forever.
“They put on one row of facets, then they have to take it off the dop stick, clean the stone, test it by eye, reapply it to the dop stick, put on the second row of facets and do it again on a 12mm stone.
“There could be eight rows of these facets – some of them have got ten. So it has to be taken off, cleaned and reset that number of times. So yes, it’s a huge process.”
Quite a repetitive process, as well!
“It is, and unfortunately, we do have some issues when that happens because if one of the facets is misaligned it just throws everything out. If this happens, we have to re-cut that stone into a traditional cut, then we either sell it or use it in another collection.
“But yes, it’s very meticulous and very time consuming. But, the results are really worth it.”
The results are just priceless, aren’t they? So, is such a delicate process what you think sets the TheiaCut™ apart from other gemstone cuts – like the Star cut, for example? Could you really compare the two? It's in its own grade by the sounds of it.
“They’ve got completely different aesthetics, but the same care and attention is taken on all of them – it’s just that you need more care and attention on the TheiaCut™."
“The interesting thing with the Theia™ is that its inspiration is the Portuguese cut, which was really the start of this journey. Some of the private clients that I work with and some of the high-end brands were always asking, ‘we love Portuguese, can we do a Portuguese collection?’, and unfortunately the answer has always been no.
“This is because the Portuguese cut – as beautiful as it is, and it’s one of my favourite cuts of all time – needs a very specific type of gemstone in order to cut it. Plus, the result is either really wide or really thick, which makes it very difficult to set into practical jewellery.
“If you think of it, it either looks like a cigar or it looks like a barrel – they're much wider in the middle. But what the TheiaCut™ does is essentially give you a look that’s very similar to the Portuguese, but in a practical size. It's why I’ve been able to make a collection with it.
“Normally you’d only see these as one of a kind gemstones, but we’ve managed to be able to – not mass produce them – but produce enough for a collection.”
So, do you believe that just being able to achieve a collection as fine as this one adds to its value and its overall brilliance? It’s such a difficult process, so seeing the end result must be a phenomenal experience.
“I’m incredibly proud of it, and I want other people to be proud of wearing it as well. The journey that it takes is why Gemporia was the perfect platform for me to actually come back to and do something like the TheiaCut™, because I know that the customers really appreciate and value the journey that the gemstone takes.
“As I found out six years ago, that’s a very difficult thing to do on the High Street.”
But because it’s so difficult, that’s what makes it special, right?
“It is, and to be able to present that to an audience of people at Gemporia who are already knowledgeable about the process it’s taken and can spot the real difference that this cut has above others, it’s going to be a real privilege for me – and I’m really excited about it.”
I know people are going to be excited to see this – and just in time for Christmas! It's a beautiful cut and a beautiful collection you’ve got coming, but something I also found interesting was how the concept of sustainability drives your brand.
As you know, we ethically source all our gemstones, and we aim to be as sustainable as we can as a Carbon Neutral Business – and that’s obviously something that DeGrey & Mason value as well.
“Yes, massively – I mean, it’s in the DNA of the brand. I set the brand up with that completely in mind; it’s not a difficult thing to do, and I find it so frustrating that other brands, jewellers and even consumers (to a certain extent) don’t care about the journey that the gemstone’s taken. It's vital. It's a finite resource.
“We’re really lucky to be living in the gemstone age, where we’ve got the geology and the geologists that can actually find the stones with a bit more ease than just having the luck of digging somewhere. We really are in the golden age of jewellery and gemstones at the moment, and the amazing planet that we live on has created these things.
“I feel really lucky to be able to use those gifts of nature to create something, and it’s vitally important to do that with a social conscience, both to the world and also the communities that it comes from. So, we try and give back at absolutely every stage, and we’re really methodical with our supply chain.”
That’s wonderful – it's important to give back, because it’s essentially Mother Nature that created our industry, so we’d be completely ungrateful if we didn’t. It’s true that the better the environment the finer our jewellery will be - so it’s a very give and take industry, is it not?
“One hundred percent. Plus, it’s not necessarily just about the stones - I'm very committed to only ever using recycled precious metals in all of the collections that we create. It's a very simple thing to be able to do because we’re a very small business; as we grow, then obviously things become a little more difficult.
“Ultimately, when you’re consuming more and more of a natural resource, then you need to look at things in a slightly different way. But, at the moment, we can be sure that we’re not taking any first mined metal and that everything is sustainable.”
But it’s important that you’re taking those necessary steps now, because as your brand grows you have a foundation to be able to continue to do that as much as logistically possible.
“Definitely - and, like I said, it takes a little bit of effort to do it.
“It takes a little bit of effort to find the right sources for the material. It takes a little bit of effort to find the right people to make our packaging. It takes a little bit of effort to find somebody that can actually print our marketing materials with vegetable dyes. It costs a little bit more and takes a little bit more time, but it’s not hard to do.”
But it pays off, clearly! So, in terms of your collection – before you show it to us, are you able to tell us anything about it?
“I’m not sure! I think there’s a lot of technical bits and pieces that I’ll probably go into in more depth on the show. But in terms of secrets, not really!"
Are you just excited to be able to reveal it?
“I am – I'm nervous as well, because obviously this is the first time that I've introduced the brand to a wide audience. Like I say, I've mostly been working on a consultancy basis for the last six years.
“I have got a little thing that I’m going to probably say on air. It's not a hundred percent signed, sealed and delivered yet, but I think I’ve got a very exclusive online retailer who will also be taking the TheiaCut™ in the new year.
“So, I’m quite close to being able to give you an answer on that – and hopefully by the show I will know.”
That’s so exciting – and we absolutely can’t wait to have you. We're so thrilled to have this cut on air and to be able to bring it to our audience, because it’s such a beautiful piece of art.
“Thank you so much. It is, and I’m really lucky to be working with a team that can be produce this kind of thing and who have supported me all the way through it. They have been very tolerant of my somewhat dogmatic view of what I wanted, because it actually changed halfway through!
“Halfway through, we had something that looked a bit like the Portuguese cut but there were some things that were happening inside of the gemstone which were just too good to be ignored. We were starting to get this almost 3D look that was coming through the crown; so, we developed it further to be able to make that a part of the actual cut.
“So yes, the team have been absolutely fabulous, and I'll be eternally grateful to them.”
Of course, absolutely – and as you know, the result is just phenomenal. The TheiaCut™ is amazing, and you should all be proud of what you’ve achieved. We can't wait to see it live! Thank you so much for sitting down to discuss it!
“Thank you, I’m looking forward to it!”
To watch Ben Dixon launch his Theia™ collection live on Gemporia, tune in at 8pm on Wednesday 14th December and 11am on Thursday 15th December.