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October 29, 2014

Miniature Masterpiece: The Making of Artisan Cufflinks at Deakin & Francis

By Neharika Padala

By Alanna Lawson

Their handcrafted cufflinks have adorned the sleeve of many a rock star, prince and political powerhouse, but if you ask for names, James and Henry Deakin of Deakin and Francis remain mum.

Founded in 1786, Deakin and Francis possesses a vibrant history that includes a pirate attack at sea in the 16th Century (the first Deakin, known as Arthur Daykun was a naval officer), the survival of three major recessions, two world wars, and an inimitable workforce of gifted craftspeople whose skill has propelled the company though the generations.

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Now the seventh generation of family to run the business, brothers James and Henry Deakin maintain the high standards set by their predecessors, and provide the contemporary glaze needed to keep their clients guessing.

Whether the cufflink set features a skull with a moving jaw and diamond fitted eye sockets, to a buzzy bee or biplane in flight, no detail is spared, and designs are not averse to a subtle joke.

Each set of cufflinks is handcrafted in the very same Birmingham studio that the company started in over two centuries ago, and many of the same techniques are still employed.

You’ll still find hand drawn sketches strewn over desks, die sinkers imprinting precious metals, mould-makers casting miniature figures, and enamellers hand painting the face of each individual cufflink.

“At the turn of the century Deakin and Francis had over 200 people working here in the building,” explains Henry, who manages the business operations.

“We are now down to 26 very enthusiastic, hardworking craftsmen, but we still very much focus on the same quality that our grandfathers had taught us.”

We ventured inside the historical workshop to get a closer look at each miniature masterpiece in progress.

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