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A fair polish on diamonds

Cambridge Judge alumnus Tim Ingle co-founded a jewellery company that tells customers where and under what conditions their diamonds and other precious stones are sourced.

Ingle & Rhode

Tim Ingle

Tim Ingle

Tim Ingle, co-founder of jewellery company Ingle & Rhode, can talk about diamonds, sapphires and emeralds for hours on end, as he knows every single aspect of the industry. But that was not the case 10 years ago when his friend suggested to start a business together.

“It was a long road till I ended up in the jewellery business,” says Tim. After studying natural sciences at Jesus College (1994-1997), University of Cambridge, and Management Studies at Cambridge Judge Business School (MST 1996), Tim went to work as a management consultant. During his 10-year career Tim gained valuable experience across a broad range of industries, but though he enjoyed his work, he knew he wanted to have his own business one day. An opportunity came up when his friend David Rhode approached him with a business idea.

“David was looking for an engagement ring and wanted to buy a jewellery with a conflict-free diamond that could be traced back to source. But he couldn’t find a jeweller in the UK who could tell him where their diamonds had come from, or tell more about conditions under which their jewels have been made.”

That’s how the idea arose: if there are many people who care about fair trade and want to buy ethical products, why couldn’t Tim and David sell fair trade jewellery? Tim believed that such a venture could be personally fulfilling while also meeting an unmet consumer demand.

Tim and David had quite few challenges at the beginning – raising capital, deciding on a business model for the company, finding best craftsmen and sorting out ethical sourcing. The latter was a tough one. “We wanted to do it right straight from the beginning. Luckily, we were introduced to Thomas Siepelmeyer, a German geologist who helped us to find suppliers that are ethical employers.”

Now the company is working with a small number of suppliers who they know very well and are licensed by the Fairtrade Foundation to offer certified Fairtrade gold jewellery. The company buys diamonds in Canada direct from cutting facilities and customers can track all information about them. Similarly, ethically produced sapphires are bought from Sri Lanka, emeralds from Zambia and rubies from Mozambique.

Although more fair trade jewellery firms have launched since Tim and David began in 2007, Tim says that many jewellers still “don’t know where their diamonds are coming from or under what conditions they’re produced”.

Tim says his management studies at Cambridge Judge equipped him with a solid background of business and technical skills on subjects such as business strategy, marketing, operations and finance. But those aren’t the only skills needed: “Entrepreneurs need to be very determined and resilient as there is a lot of hard work and stress. They need to be able to live with a great deal of uncertainty and risk, take some hard knocks and still keep going,” he says.

The London-based company specialises in engagement, wedding and eternity rings that are designed and made in the UK. Tim is hoping to raise customers’ awareness on fair trade jewellery, and to break the stereotype that luxury, custom-made engagement or wedding rings are only affordable for a wealthy few. Ingle & Rhode clients come from all walks of life including actors, teachers and taxi drivers.

“We want people to enjoy their special moments and can offer bespoke jewellery to our clients regardless of their budget.”

And what about trends in jewellery? “Diamonds are still the number one choice for engagement rings and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Sapphire is also very popular. Most people prefer platinum or white gold to traditional yellow gold nowadays, though we’ve seen a resurgence in demand for rose gold in the last couple of years.”

Tim is interested in hearing from…

…anybody that is excited by what we’re doing at Ingle & Rhode!