Piotr Jajszczyk - master jeweller at Ogden of Harrogate
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 November 2018
Piotr Jajszczyk is a master jeweller who works for a 125-year-old Harrogate firm that has made jewellery for kings and presidents.
I remember the first time I saw Harrogate. I thought it was very pretty and elegant with wonderful buildings and gentle, polite and friendly people. Although, I have to say, Lublin, the city in Poland where I come from, is also very beautiful. I’m a master jeweller with Ogden of Harrogate, a family business that was established in the town in 1893. I’ve worked for the firm for seven-and-a-half years now, albeit with a break in between. I’ve been in the jewellery business since I was 20, when I started an apprenticeship in Poland. I’m now living in the heart of Yorkshire designing, making and repairing jewellery using precious metals, large precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds and rubies and semi-precious stones.
I saw the position advertised on an industry website when I lived in Poland. I’d never been to the UK before, but I applied and was asked to come to the Harrogate premises for an interview. My first impression was wow. Here was a traditional Edwardian shop with a stunning black and gilt frontage and an ornate interior with antique furniture and chandeliers. More than that, I was struck by the variety of the jewellery in the window and the size of the stones. It was all exquisite. There was everything from tiaras and grand heirloom pieces to modern jewellery and watches.
My favourite part of the building is the workshop, which was redesigned in 2014 and now features glass walls so that clients can watch me and the team at work. I don’t mind them looking. I just carry on with my business and it’s nice to be able to interact with them. I like the connection between the jewellery and the customer. Almost all clients love the look of the building and its historical furnishings and features. Maybe some of them feel slightly overwhelmed by it because it is quite an opulent space but then again, it’s not intimidating and there’s a special ambience here.
Another favourite part of the building is the front window. In fact, during my lunch break I can often be found standing outside the shop looking in. That’s because I arrive for work at 8.30am and then I’m upstairs in the workshop for most of the day, so it’s the only time I get to see what’s on display. There’s a small museum in the shop, too, featuring various artefacts that were found in the attic during a recent renovation, plus items from the firm’s history such as first company ledgers, old marketing and advertising posters, records of important sales and information about Tutankhamun (founder JR Ogden was a renowned historian, specialising in Egyptology and acting as adviser to Howard Carter). It’s also home to the very first pocket watch the company sold in its first weeks of opening, which was donated by the family of the original owner.
Christmas is a hectic time on the shop floor. In the two to three weeks before Christmas the workshop is very busy with sizing rings and adjusting pieces of jewellery that have just been sold, so that the customer can walk out with them immediately. We enjoy the atmosphere, and the shop looks beautiful with all the decorations and displays. There’s certainly a little bit more excitement than usual with the large number of customers in the shop.
As a jeweller, I work with state-of-the-art equipment, such as laser welders, polishing tools and setting tools but we also have old equipment which has been here for decades. In fact the whole building has a history because the firm has made pieces for Sir Winston Churchill, the Roosevelts, King George VI and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (later known as the Duchess of Kent). It’s nice to be in a place with that sort of past, and those clients are certainly prestigious but it doesn’t faze me, either. A job is a job, as far as I’m concerned. I’m just out to create perfection, whatever I’m working on and whoever it’s for.
Piotr Jajszczyk was talking to Tony Greenway