Hatton Garden characters make a gem of a documentary
Sandy Rashty speaks to the stars of a prime-time ITV programme on London’s famous jewellery district
IN LONDON’S prime jewellery quarter of Hatton Garden, doing well in business depends heavily on who you know. Perhaps that is why so many Jewish traders — from the Charedi diamond merchants to secular shop owners — have managed to prosper. An old-school way of doing business persists. Buyers still barter, sellers settle through gentlemen’s agreements and dealers know every retailer by face and name. “We’re in our own bubble — there’s nowhere else like it,” says diamond mounter Michael Lynton, one of the stars of Diamond Geezers and Gold Dealers, a prime-time, behind-the-scenes ITV documentary broadcast last night. Filmed over three months, the hour-long programme follows some well-known Hatton Garden characters — and relative newcomer Leigh Stutman — as well as shoppers looking for bespoke jewellery and jaw-dropping engagement rings. It also captures the “wheeler-dealer” lifestyle of traders haggling face-to-face. One of the many who commute to Hatton Garden from the north-west London and Hertfordshire suburbs, Lynton says the jewellery trade has traditionally appealed to Jews and estimates that more than 70 per cent of Hatton Garden traders are Jewish.
“Everyone knows everyone. We give our word on deals. You stick by your word. If you don’t, you’re not considered a gentleman. If we had a load of paperwork, there would be complete chaos.”
Lynton, 66, is shown in the programme sculpting a bird with precious stones for a wealthy client. He works on his tiaras, brooches and bangles from a windowless basement with only a radio for company. He has sculpted precious stone-encrusted pieces worn by members of the royal family and exhibited in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The Pinner Synagogue congregant was introduced to the trade by family members and served his apprenticeship at a top jewellery house after winning a competition run by the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1963.
He has seen the Hatton Garden clientele change dramatically over the decades. “Unfortunately, the aristocracy are not what they were,” he reflects. “No, many of our clients are from the Far East or Dubai. They want some crazy tasteless things but we give them what they want.” He declines to discuss what they pay.
Diamond Geezers captures a way of operating often far removed from the digitally savvy contemporary workplace. Lynton, for example, gets “lots of commissions” without the need for a mobile phone, computer, or even a business card. Many