Precious few changes on the city’s West Bow

When he went into business in 1958, art college graduate Ian Clarkson settled on a shop in West Bow, unable to afford premises in Princes Street or George Street.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 6:00 am
Clarksons, jewellery makers, West Bow, Edinburgh
Clarksons, jewellery makers, West Bow, Edinburgh

Sixty years on, he is delighted to be part of the fabric of one of the Capital’s most prestigious – and most photographed – thoroughfares.

His shop, Clarksons, started life as an outlet for the work of fellow graduates and up-and-coming artists. It was not until the 1970s that he decided to focus on fine jewellery, selling the work of individual homegrown makers.

As the business grew he moved to larger premises, still in Victoria Street, and opened his own workshop in the 1980s when his sons Michael and Keith became involved with the business. Now 83, Ian and his wife Nora retired three years ago, continuing their interest as partners.

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“My father never wanted to build an empire. The focus has always been on small, exclusive and beautiful items,” says Keith. “Jewellery has to be seen as something intimate and unique and you cannot produce quality if you are doing it on a big scale.”

Specialising in contemporary designs, along with traditional Celtic styles, much of the business is commission based, with jewellery being exported around the world.

The team also takes pride in using local materials; famously making cufflinks from a discarded cobblestone, previously used as a doorstop, and a £15,000 necklace of Edinburgh Castle Rock and 18-carat gold, which was destined for New York.

“Many people consider us to be making the finest jewellery in Scotland. Ninety per cent of everything we sell is made in our own workshop and 100 per cent is made in the UK,” adds Keith. “We have only ever supported British craftsmanship and that’s one of the things that makes us fundamentally different.”