The heart of the UK’s diamond trade, Hatton Garden’s global reputation has much to do with the family businesses that have made it their home. Among these is Mark Hicks, a third-generation independent jeweller, who founded Farringdons Jewellery in 2006 as a stall in The Heart of Hatton Garden Jewellery Emporium. Mark’s son Liam joined the family business in 2011, when Farringdons moved to its current home on Greville Street.
We spoke to Mark and Liam about fly-pitching, buying vintage and one of London’s best kept culinary secrets...
How did you catch the jewellery bug, Mark?
My Dad worked the markets – Bermondsey, Camden Passage, Covent Garden, Portobello Road – specialising in pocket watches and jewellery. It started as a hobby when he was working in house clearance. He discovered a passion for old watches; taking them apart at his workbench, learning the craft. I loved that workbench and would spend hours in the cellar, fascinated by his tools.
At that time, the markets were full of people fly-pitching (putting down blankets and covering them with what they had to sell). I started doing it for my Dad at 13 and in my first week I realised I’d discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved the buying, the selling, the people, the buzz – I just didn’t know what I wanted to trade in. By 17 I’d found my niche and I was teaching Dad about the vintage jewellery business.
Pre-loved pieces are unique; they tell stories, keep secrets and the craftsmanship is incredible.
How did Farringdons Jewellery come about?
I had my first shop in Seven Kings, Ilford when I was 20, but I wasn’t ready to put down roots. I missed the markets. Then as the developers moved in, the markets started to disappear and traders needed somewhere else to meet. With its diamond heritage and reputation, Hatton Garden was the obvious choice.
Moving from my stall in The Heart of Hatton Garden to the shop was a huge culture shift, but it had to work. I wanted a legacy for my son, Liam. Now we have the shop, an e-commerce business and four workshops onsite.
Why did you decide to join the family business, Liam?
I was 15 and spending most of my weekends on the Xbox. Dad decided enough was enough and asked me to work his pitch in Portobello Road market. And like Dad, and his Dad before him, I was hooked.
In the summer after my first year of Sixth Form, Dad asked me to help in the shop. I agreed to two weeks, but stayed for six. When I went back to school, I convinced them to squeeze my timetable into three days, so that I could work in Farringdons for the rest of the week. My social life suffered, but I loved the business and wanted more.
What’s different about independent jewellers, Mark?
We understand that buying and selling jewellery is a personal, often emotional, experience because we feel the same way. We care about the pieces we sell, how they got to us and where they go next. For us, it’s not just about selling, it’s about building relationships that last for generations. That’s how it was in the markets, and that’s how it is here in Hatton Garden.
Why should I visit Hatton Garden?
For its amazing selection of jewellery and watches. For its history. For its busy streets and strong sense of community. For the Bleeding Heart Tavern and restaurants. And for its secret pub – Ye Olde Mitre – dating back to 1547 and home to the world’s best cheese toastie.
Farringdons Jewellery stocks an ever-growing antique and vintage collection, including pieces from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco eras through to 40s, 50s and 60s jewels. They also offer contemporary and bespoke pieces crafted onsite by their master goldsmith.