On Blackacre’s Sri Lanka expedition, the luxury jeweller took a trip into the unknown

Follow jeweller Samuel Stirrat to ‘The Gem Island’ and discover how the British brand is going to the ends of the earth to deliver perfection…

How do you source a diamond or a gemstone? It’s a complex question; one shrouded in mystery and encrusted in rock. It’s also rarely answered, as the majority of the world’s luxury brands don’t deign to discuss the less-glamorous side of gem-sourcing and selling. But Blackacre, London’s bespoke jeweller, is not most brands.

Fortuitously, Blackacre actually wants to have these conversations of sustainability and conservation. Committed to its craft, the luxury brand was buffed into existence by Samuel Stirrat in 2017. A keen prospector and pioneer in the worlds of both finery and finer things, Stirrat first struck his lifelong obsession for gemology at a young age. And, in the years since, he has dedicated his life to meticulously, masterfully honing this precious practice.

Today, the brand’s rich vein of finesse and flair is largely down to Stirrat’s passion for what he does. With all the class of a typical family jeweller, Stirrat’s team of experts specialise in the creation of bespoke fine jewellery and engagement rings. Blackacre is a brand that consistently puts its clients at the centre of every endeavour. And now, they are taking them on an immersive journey to the source, too.

Earlier this year, the jeweller journeyed to Sri Lanka, where he followed the geological formation of the gems Blackacre uses to create some of the best bespoke engagement rings on the market. This is the first of many journeys to far-flung corners of the Earth as Stirrat continues to find new ways of immersing clients in this special world.

Over five thousand miles from the brand’s base in London’s Chancery Lane, Sri Lanka was chosen for a clear-cut reason. Because, whilst many nations around the world — from Cambodia to Colombia, Tanzania to Tajikistan — are renowned for their mining of gems, few of these countries follow the progressive practices of the South Asian island nation.

Lower-impact and less-industrial than many of the methods used elsewhere in the world, Sri Lanka’s mining operations piqued Stirrat’s interest. Highly sustainable in their approach, these practices allow nature to thrive alongside the extraction and excavation of precious stones. It is a distinct, progressive process — an example of ‘responsible luxury’ — and one that has afforded the gem-rich nation the nickname ‘The Gem Island’.

Founder Samuel Stirrat & Gemologist Laura Relph

Once Stirrat touched down on the precious ground (the island sits on an ancient tectonic plate, under which extreme temperatures and intense pockets of pressure have created an incredible volume and variety of gems), the Blackacre brigade travelled deep into the jungle — via the riotous capital, Colombo — to Ratnapura, a world-renowned mining region in South Western Sri Lanka.

In the shadows of Sri Lanka’s mountains, and amidst a paradise of tropical grasslands and palm forests, Stirrat was confounded to find a mining set-up that hadn’t scarred the lush landscape. Instead, the gemologist discovered an enterprise of a softer touch; bringing valuable jobs to the region, and furthering an industry that has been flourishing in this corner of the world — deftly and viably — for over two thousand years.

And soon, Stirrat saw how these precious stones are mined first-hand. The rocks and gravel, extracted from the ground using tools built from natural materials, are carried in a cart to the local river. Unloaded into washing basins, the silt and mud are swirled away, and a worker sifts and searches for gems. It’s the first step in these stones’ shining lives; discovered in the rough — and already treated with acclaim and adulation.

Of London’s luxury jewellers, Stirrat remains one of the most committed to his cause. And, after following his gems all the way back to their formation, the next step along the path of his precious stones is a stop at Sri Lanka’s rough gemstone markets. Here, independent representatives from multiple mines come together to negotiate the best, fairest prices for their stones.

Brokers and barterers carry the gems in small folded envelopes called ‘brifkas’. And, with Sri Lanka being home to one of the most wide-ranging wealths of gemstones in the entire world, everything from aquamarine to amethysts, sapphires to spinels, rubies to rose quartz can be found being humanely and equitably traded in these markets. And these trades, which determine where each stone will ultimately end up, always observe the same series of questions: Are the gems clean? Are they well-shaped? How many carats may they yield?

This is where Stirrat’s expertise and natural instinct comes into its own. Thousands of stones are meticulously assessed before any are acquired. And that’s why every precious stone sourced by Blackacre is guaranteed to make the perfect ring.

But it’s back in London where these precious stones take this final step; where they are polished to their very highest shine. Because in Blackacre, Stirrat has created a company with a laser focus on quality and customer service, delivering a flawless experience that has swiftly become the preserve of the most discerning, distinguished young professionals.

And, while the brand’s townhouse showroom may sit half a world away from the mines of Ratnapura, that same ethical ethos remains. Amidst the legal chambers of the City, Stirrat and his expert team focus on four key tenets of service: excellence, education, experience and an investment in time.

From the first consultation, the expertise gleaned from Stirrat’s expeditions becomes clear to clients — with the jeweller and his team of gemologists tailoring their advice to a customer’s specific needs. You are never bombarded with products, but rather presented with the very gems, cuts and crystal clear information you need to make one of the most important decisions of your life.

And that is precisely why Stirrat will continue to pack his bags, and travel the world searching for ever-more sustainable, incredible gemstones. Whether it’s Brazilian tourmaline, coloured diamonds or the sapphires he found in Sri Lanka, Blackacre has made this priceless, precious promise: to go to the ends of the earth to deliver perfection.

Want to learn more about engagement rings? Here’s why you should go bespoke…

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