Life & Legacy
Discover the stories about diamonds, gemstones and the events that have defined the Blacklock jewellery business which has existed for over 175 years.
Every diamond or coloured gemstone featured in any Blacklock piece has a story to tell through its unique journey in life. This is where we tell those stories that allow our jewels to sparkle just that much more.
We also chronicle here the practices that underpin our pioneering philosophy.
The Finer Details
This stunning jewel features a 3 carat Burmese ‘pigeon blood’ red ruby. Stones such as these are comparable to diamonds of a similar size – they are exceptionally rare and have unique colouring. The colour consists of a slightly bluish-red body colour and the “purer” red fluorescent emission, which work together to give the gemstone its high-intensity ‘pigeon blood’ red colour. It must be said that Burma has a difficult ongoing political situation and we are constantly monitoring this to ensure our sourcing does not breach our high standards around ethics.
The Finer Details
Inferno Capsule (2016)
The stones used in this bespoke capsule were Type IIa – the purest known diamonds.
Type IIa diamonds have no measurable impurities and are the most chemically pure of diamonds. They are often colourless or near colourless. They are extremely rare – only 1-2% of naturally formed diamonds are Type IIa and around 1.8% of gem quality diamonds are Type IIa. In short they are an anomaly amongst other diamonds and something we are able to source on request.
The Story Behind
We were approached by a young lady who was working with a Charity to create a piece which she could wear to the Charity Gala and then the item would be auctioned off at the end of the night with all proceeds going to the charity. We created an opera length chain and pendant featuring the infinity loop which represents the idea of ‘love and hope’.
The Story Behind
Having risen through the banking world our Client wanted to celebrate her success with a statement ring. Being single and not inhibited in any way as to express herself we were briefed to ‘ensure there is colour and size but elegance at the same time’.
We created the Firebird ring which features a cushion shaped fire opal surrounded by fancy coloured sapphires and diamonds in a striking sculptural, one-of-a-kind 18ct yellow gold setting.
The Story Behind
The Lark Pendant (2001)
Having inherited her grandmother’s jewellery our Client wanted to create her own jewellery using the precious stones from it. She loved Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and was read this book by her grandmother when she was a child. So it was entirely appropriate that this would form the inspiration behind her Blacklock bespoke creation. The ‘Lark’ is an elegant bird that features in the first stanza of the poem ‘Tis the voice of the lobster’. We took this idea and created a pendant featuring diamonds in an elegant wing like form all micro set in precious 18ct white gold.
One of my first memories as a young child was being given a box of multi coloured – tutti fruiti gemstones to play with from my father. A box with 50 stones of varying sizes and colour.
My brother and myself would trade stones with each other – the best coloured being the ones warranting the biggest trade. Little did I know at that stage that I was being indoctrinated into the family business.
We were both intrigued into these beautiful bright, sparkly stones. Where did they come from? How were they formed? What did they all mean?
My appreciation of beautiful gemstones started at that moment and has grown ever since.
An Emerald Discovery
Ralph Blacklock (FGA) often visited auction houses for the off chance he might find the unexpected. On one such occasion whilst looking through some ‘costume’ jewellery he discovered a piece which was entitled ‘Yellow gold ring with green crystal’.
This piqued his interest and on closer inspection it seemed to reveal the features he was looking for. When it came to auction day he made sure he bid on the said item – luckily enough he won the bidding and he was soon in possession. What he had known all along was that yes this was a green crystal however it was a 10 carat Emerald green crystal displaying all the signs of the potential to be a beautiful cut and polished stone. Suffice to say the rough emerald crystal was cut and polished expertly and set on its way in a beautiful Blacklock piece of jewellery to be sold to a lucky customer. Emeralds have held a special place in Blacklock folklore ever since.
The Arabian Sword
In the early 20th century, Kenneth Blacklock sought to enhance the company’s reputation by discovering sources unknown to his competitors. While they busied themselves competing to cultivate relationships with mine owners, Kenneth scoured auction rooms, believing that many gems passed through unnoticed. On one such occasion Customs and Excise invited us to a London auction of items that had been retained.
His method paid off, and is epitomised by the discovery of an ornate Arabian sword at this auction that turned out to be made of solid gold, and embellished with many fine gems, including diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.
Our Journey to Sustainability: Traceability and Sourcing
The gemstone industry for 100’s of years relied on a well-defined supply chain that was routed in the times of empire and the East India Trading company. With the advent of technology and enhanced supply chains and logistics the industry has had to change and move with the times. We as a business now look to ensure traceability wherever we can – sourcing direct from mines or through trusted stone dealers who can guarantee the ethical source and we have worked with for very many years. Over the next few years traceability will become more and more important and prevalent.
Our approach is as follows but is constantly evolving.
For rubies and sapphires, we work with a mine in Sri Lanka. For emeralds, a mine in Columbia. For diamonds, we are able to source Canada Mark stones, GIA Origin stones and other diamonds directly from various mines in South Africa.
Canada Mark diamonds come from the Northwest Territories, and are cut and polished according to guidelines established by the Responsible Jewellery Council. They are fully traceable, and the larger stones are laser-inscribed.
We also sell GIA Origin stones. These stones use scientific evaluation to provide confirmation of a diamond’s geographic origin. This added transparency connects participating miners, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, the service ensures that expertly graded natural diamonds whose countries of origin have been scientifically confirmed, reach you, the end consumer.
We have also found ethical, trusted sources for almost all types of other coloured gemstones, including tanzanite, peridot, amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, and tourmaline. These gemstones often come from small scale mining cooperatives where the wealth generated by mining is directly retained by the local communities.
Our Stone Selection Policy
At the heart of every diamond and gemstone selection we make we are driven by the question passed down from Kenneth Blacklock ‘does the stone have life about it and does it talk to me?’ This approach is routed in the fact that every stone has its own story – a story of beauty and individual characteristics that define it. We appreciate the beautiful imperfections of stones!
Chris Blacklock, personally selects every stone. Large or small, diamond or coloured gemstone – the characteristics of each stone are understood and appreciated.
He follows a clearly defined process:
Does it have exceptional colour? Has it been cut to perfection? Do the inclusions (if any) interfere in its overall beauty?
And finally, ‘does the stone have life about it and does it talk to me?’
This approach ensures exceptional quality in the finer details of our jewellery, which must be seen to be believed.
‘Cut’ the embodiment of the craft
Over the years we have viewed and selected 100’s if not 1000’s of diamonds. Diamonds present the practiced gemmologist with a multitude of characteristics – the 4 C’s by which to judge the quality of the stone – cut / colour / clarity and carat. More often than not they are always detailed within an easily decipherable certificate from a well-respected gemmological laboratory – leading the customer or gemmologist to a clear comparison as to which is the finer stone.
The one characteristic that we more often than not focus on is the ‘cut’ characteristic. This characteristic is often the more subjective and requires the ultimate precision craft, undertaken by an individual or laser cutting machine to define its quality – this is the one part of diamond manufacture which relies least on the natural qualities of the stone and relies more on human intervention. The quality grade of ‘cut’ takes into account symmetry – the symmetrical appearance of the stone, proportions – the relationship between the sizes and angles of the facets and polish – the quality of polish or finish to the diamond. Depending on the laboratory these characteristics are more often than not grouped together to give a final cut grade – excellent / very good / good / fair / poor. In short an ‘excellent’ cut stone sparkles more than a ‘very good’ cut stone.
This value and true understanding of the ‘cut’ characteristic is fuelled by an occasion when Ralph Blacklock and Chris Blacklock were both once shown 2 stones for sale – a ‘D’ flawless diamond with excellent cut and a ‘G’ colour, VS clarity stone which had been cut to within 0.01mm of perfection. The 2 stones would be easily separated of course, with the finer ‘D’ flawless stone appearing the most attractive.
This was not the case – the supposed lesser quality ‘G’ VS stone sparkled and scintillated superbly, clearly outgunning the ‘finer’ stone. What it showed to us was the importance of perfection – the fine margins in how well a stone is cut, the selection process requiring a trusted eye, guidance and expertise, not simply a certificate from which you would always select the supposed better quality stone.
The ‘G’ VS stone was purchased and set into a simple yet stunning solitaire diamond engagement ring.
‘Colour’ the embodiment of the true beauty of coloured gemstones
Colour is the characteristic of a gemstone that attracts us. Colour is what you see due to the reaction of white light with the structural and chemical properties of the material. This natural alchemy creates the body colour of a gem material.
The colour of a gemstone can greatly affect its value – this is often very hard for a customer to appreciate and is often taken advantage of by unscrupulous jewellers who will, for example incorrectly categorise an Aquamarine being of a ‘Santa Maria’ colour when it is of normal blue / green Aquamarine colour.
The colour of a gemstone is also understood in terms of its hue – the attribute of a colour by which it is discernible as red, green etc, tone – scale with white and black as endpoints and shades of grey inbetween, saturation – the measure of the amount of hue in a colour. Colour is still very much an area for gemmology in which discovery is taking place.
In the recent past we were asked to source a ruby for a Client to celebrate a special wedding anniversary. Large, gem-quality rubies can be more valuable than comparably sized diamonds and are certainly rarer. Origin and colour greatly affect the value of a ruby.
In this instance we sourced 2 stones from which to choose from – one from Thailand and one from Burma. The Thai stone had a nice deep red colour with an ever so slight brown hue to the red whereas the Burmese stone had a ‘pigeon blood red’ colour to it – the stone had a hue of red, a deep tone and a vivid saturation. The value of the stones was considerably different.
The Burmese stone was selected and set into a beautiful diamond drop pendant.
Our Journey to Sustainability – Ethical sourcing, CIBJO and the Kimberley Process
As stated we follow ethical sourcing practices ensuring that we follow industry best practice and where possible we surpass it. Put simply we won’t sell stones that have not been mined, cut and polished by adults, working in good conditions, receiving fair remuneration and limiting the environmental impact.
For Coloured Gemstones we follow the CIBJO guidance and undertake the following:
We have detailed understanding of our suppliers are (e.g. through company registrations, company websites etc.), have written terms of business and as much documentation as possible on the provenance of products or materials. The company’s Responsible Sourcing and/or supply chain policy is incorporated into contracts and/or agreements with all suppliers.
Through this due diligence, we believe we are able to identify the risks in our supply chain, and have a process to assess the possibility of adverse impacts of these risks, and are prepared to engage with counterparties to encourage them to take measures to mitigate or eliminate these risks.
We have a Code of Conduct and Exclusion Policy which can be found in our Terms & Conditions
For Diamonds we ensure that all goods adhere to the Kimberley Process:
Conflict Diamonds & The Kimberley Process
‘Conflict diamonds’ is the term given to rough diamonds which are used by rebel groups to finance armed conflict against legitimate governments. They were first brought to the world’s attention in 1998 by a non-governmental organisation called Global Witness, who had evidence that a number of diamond mines in Angola had been taken over by an insurgent group called UNITA. These rough diamonds were then smuggled out of the country and sold, with the proceeds being used to buy weapons and supplies. Civil wars in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also been funded in this way.
Peace has recently been restored in these countries, but the diamond industry has worked with the United Nations, international governments and non-government organisations to implement a scheme to prevent conflict diamonds entering the mainstream rough diamond market. This is known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
How the Kimberley Process Works
The Kimberley Process was set up in May 2000, and is an International Certification Scheme controlling the import and export of rough diamonds. It gives reassurance to consumers that they are not purchasing stones that are financing wars and human rights abuses.
Forty governments around the world participate in the Kimberley Process, and 99% of the world’s trade in rough diamonds takes place in these countries. Every shipment of rough diamonds which is exported across international borders is sealed in a tamper-proof container, and is accompanied by a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate. The certificates are resistant to forgery, uniquely numbered, and include a full description of the contents of each container. The shipment can only be exported to one of the other countries which participates in the scheme.
Regulation of the Scheme
The World Diamond Council has laid down a system of self-regulation for the diamond industry to provide assurances for consumers purchasing cut and polished diamonds, and jewellery which contains them. Through this system, diamond buyers agree to only purchase their stones from suppliers who give the following internationally recognised warranty:-
‘These diamonds are purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. We hereby guarantee that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds.’
All of our Diamond suppliers adhere to this warranty.