In November, just as she was about to open her second boutique in London, the jewelry designer Jessica McCormack welcomed the first client to the new “snug” in her flagship store.
The word is a traditional term for a small private room at a pub. But Ms. McCormack has been using it for the renovated workshop, where she has created what she sees as a different kind of jewelry retail experience: A way of putting craftsmanship front and center, in its rightful place “at the top of the food chain,” she said.
Since March 2015, when the designer installed a basement workshop in the Mayfair flagship, her team of craftspeople had grown from two to 14. And as she planned the second shop, in the Chelsea neighborhood, she knew more production space would be needed.
So this past fall, the original 596-square-foot workshop was expanded to 990 square feet. The space included a furnished viewing lounge, separated from the work area by a glass wall, where clients may watch the goldsmiths and setters at work.
Ms. McCormack likened the new area to a teppanyaki bar or open kitchen. “It’s where all the best, fun things happen,” she said in a phone interview from her native New Zealand during a holiday visit to her family.
In the renovation, she said, she wanted to dispel the stereotype of a “dusty old workshop” and instead inject a “joyful feeling as well as a mechanical, industrial, cool vibe.” The workshop’s bespoke benches were painted green and fitted with mismatching, brightly colored handles. All of the machinery was spray-painted orange. And the walls were hung with framed still lifes, portraits and landscapes, expanding the art collection that appears throughout the other four levels of the converted Victorian townhouse.
The snug was designed to resemble a traditional British living room, with muted lighting, alcove bookshelves and a cacophony of patterns in the dusty pink floral wallpaper, Nina Campbell sofa and upholstered ottoman.
Ms. McCormack said the privacy of the viewing area made that first client feel comfortable enough to display her own diamond jewelry as they were discussing remodeling some of the pieces. A goldsmith even resized the client’s ring as she watched him work.
Being able to “see firsthand making and crafting in the heart of Mayfair” was particularly important in an era of homogenized luxury, Ms. McCormack said. “People want something that’s handmade and thoughtful.”
Opening a workshop to clients is “great for storytelling” and could drive both brand loyalty and sales, said Achim Berg, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company. And being able to see a diamond ring or pair of earrings made would help to justify the cost, he noted, as clients would gain a greater understanding of the time and skill involved.
Customers also would be able to tell other people, “I was at the workshop and I saw how they did it,” he said.
Ms. McCormack, however, is not the only jeweler who has invited clients into workshops. Jeremy Morris, managing director of David Morris, wrote in an email that clients occasionally received a private tour of the 12-artisan atelier above the business’s Bond Street boutique, continuing a practice established in the 1960s by his father, its founder.
Hirsh, a family-run jeweler, has invited clients into the workshop above its boutique since it moved in 2020 to Conduit Street, also in Mayfair. “They can ask questions, be shown demonstrations, have a look at rare gems before they are set and really see what handmade fine jewelry entails,” Sophia Hirsh, the house’s managing director, wrote in an email.
Such visits, she wrote, make clients “look at jewelry in a different way, appreciating the craftsmanship involved on a whole new level.”
Ruth Tomlinson, a jewelry designer and maker, has her workbench right in her showroom in Hatton Garden, a jewelry manufacturing district in East London. And in a workshop on the floor above the shop, three goldsmiths craft her organic-style designs at workbenches made by her husband, who is a furniture designer.
Ms. Tomlinson wrote in an email that she had offered behind-the-scenes tours to any client “who has a passion for craftsmanship,” adding that those who visit the workshop tend to “become a client for life.”