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The Blacklock Story

The Blacklock story began in Sunderland, the North East of England, back in 1832.

Discover our Story
Bridge Street with Blacklock

The Beginnings

In the 1830's a successful shipwright on the River Wear, Sunderland, Robert Blacklock (1797–1880), first decided to sell what were known as 'fancy goods' – or what we might call luxury goods, including jewellery.

The first Blacklock shop was established on Bridge Street, Sunderland in 1832.


An avant-garde approach

Robert Blacklock's timing was apt - Sunderland was developing into one of the largest shipbuilding centres in the world. It was against this booming backdrop that Robert's son, Robert Hodgson Blacklock (1843–1928) went on to develop and expand the business by opening three shops in Sunderland alone. Ever the entrepreneur, he also patented an innovative bracelet that allowed the wearer to wear a watch on the wrist – a prototype wristwatch.

Edwardian engagement ring

A Fine Jeweller with diamond expertise

Robert was followed into the business by his son, the rather adventurous Ralph Hope Blacklock (1883–1948). He became one of the first people in the North East to own a motorcar. For health reasons, Ralph Hope Blacklock moved to Switzerland in 1930 and subsequently travelled throughout Europe and America. Significantly he furthered the family's reputation as fine jewellery and diamond specialists, most notably with the creation of a handcrafted Edwardian diamond engagement ring.

Blacklock Receipt

The War Years

In the 1930's despite his youth, Kenneth Ellis Blacklock (1914–1987) left school at 16 to lead the family business, whilst his father was living in Switzerland. At the outbreak of war, his father Ralph came back from Switzerland to run Blacklocks whilst Kenneth Ellis was away serving in the Durham Light Infantry. During this difficult time the business retrenched its offering and concentrated on selling palladium jewellery – platinum use was limited due to its strategic importance. At the end of the war Kenneth Ellis returned to run the business. Platinum use within fine jewellery was again permitted and Blacklocks flourished.


A thriving business

Kenneth Ellis Blacklock was a fine jeweller of some note - he became renowned for his exacting standards, flair, and expertly-trained eye. Over the course of his tenure he grew the business significantly and oversaw the trading of an overlooked 24-carat-gold Arabian dagger and a five-carat D-flawless diamond.


Expansion but time to move on

Kenneth's son and current Senior Partner, Ralph Ellis McRae Blacklock (1946–), joined the firm in 1968. A Gemmologist, Ralph was the first to introduce rare and fine coloured gemstones to the Blacklock mix – something considered unusual at the time. Such was his passion for emeralds that he was able to source and sell a fine 20-carat emerald – a significant stone. Ralph opened further shops in Newcastle and Durham, cementing Blacklocks' reputation as the fine jeweller of choice in the North East of England. Ralph soon recognised how technology was affecting retail in an unprecedented fashion and boldly embraced the new order and proceeded to take the business online, doing away with the retail shops. This signalled the end of over 175 years of fine jewellery retailing in the City of Sunderland by Blacklocks.

Diamond Ring

A Fine Jeweller - Online

In 2000 with the Blacklock business online, the servicing of private clients from further afield became more important. The business focus was on offering high end bespoke and collection pieces of fine jewellery.

Following in the footsteps of five generations before him, Ralph's son Chris (1975 - ) became the latest Blacklock to join the family business in 2009.

Today, Blacklocks - a recognised trailblazer in selling the finest jewellery online in the UK - operates out of London and the North East and sells internationally. Clients are served both online and offline. The passion for creating the finest jewellery featuring the rarest stones coupled with exceptional customer service that has underpinned the business since 1832 remains as strong as ever.

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