Meet The Makers: Mitko, Our Diamond Setter
Setting a diamond or gemstone is no mean feat. It’s a skill that requires years of training to master, and can make all the difference when crafting a ring that will last a lifetime.
Diamond setters are the unsung heros of the jewellery world, so we want you to get to know our very own master setter, Mitko. Mitko found his love for craftsmanship during his boyhood in Bulgaira, eventually leading him to the jewellery industry. In 2003, he moved London to his own business and he shares with us all the insight and advice he’s gotten along the way.
How did you get started in the jewellery industry?
My journey began when I was a teenager, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I joined an after-school crafts club, run by members of the community. We would create airplanes and ships from scratch, using pieces of wood, little engines with petrol and controllers. I developed a talent for the crafts, which was pivotal for me.
In my last year of school, an Armenian jeweller came to my school looking for an apprentice. I didn’t have a plan for after I graduated, so I thought, why not? I took the opportunity, and that’s how I got my start the jewellery business.
In the first week, I sat down with the owner at the jeweller’s bench. He told me to observe the others working and not to worry about making mistakes. He showed me a box with a few rings inside. He said, ‘don’t worry if you destroy something, it’s fine, it’s only brass’. He showed me how to buff, how to drill and make little shapes. A few months later, after I had become more confident, I learnt that the rings weren’t made out of brass, but of real gold!
What made you decide to start your own business?
Starting my own business came much later. After many years working in Bulgarian workshops, I wanted to understand more about British craftsmanship so I came to London in 2003. Initially, I only wanted to come for a year. Now it’s 2020 and I’ve been here for 17 years.
It was difficult when I first arrived in the UK. I only knew a little bit of English and it was hard to get a job. My brother-in-law was here working as a builder so I worked with him, digging basements and holes in the dark to make ends meet.
Eventually I found a workshop in Hatton Garden that specialised in setting. While I was there I realised that not many craftsmen really knew how to do everything well, often just specialising in one aspect of jewellery making. Over time, I grew confident that I could start my own business. It was after the birth of my daughter that I decided to really take the plunge.
How many people work in your workshop?
At the moment we are five in total, including me and my wife, two setters and one mounter. We always toy with the idea of having a bigger workshop with more workers, as we tend to take more work than we can do. However, it’s extremely difficult to find excellent craftsmen!
What does your typical day look like?
I tend to dabble in everything. I work mainly as a setter, and check on what everybody else is doing. Every piece that comes out of the workshop goes through me. Sometimes my clients will call me or they come into the workshop to drop things off. It’s very busy, sometimes I will have two or three customers waiting inside the workshop. It’s stressful too, but when you do what you love it’s totally worth it.
What’s the biggest stone you’ve ever set?
A ten carat princess cut diamond. That was my biggest diamond. For a coloured gemstone, it was a 52 carat tanzanite. It was a pale blue and huge! It took me half of a whole day to set the stone. It had a huge claw, about four millimetres thick.
What is your favourite gemstone to work with?
My favourite gemstone to work with are diamonds. I don’t really have a preference about shape. I would love to just make jewellery for pleasure for one day, to experiment with different gemstones and cuts. I look forward to the time when my workshop will be big enough that I can just be creative for one day.
From a childhood love of fine tuning to a bustling Hatton Garden workshop all of his own, Mitko has continued to hone his craft into a lifelong passion. Our rings wouldn’t be the same without his decades of experience and commitment to fine jewellery making. A big thanks to him and his team for giving us a peak behind the curtain of their workshop.