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Added sparkle to finding presents; Quarter businesses offer chance to buy festive gifts that little bit different: Jewellery Quarter puts quality first.

Byline: Anuji Varma

WITH more and more people sorting out their Christmas shopping online, local independents are under more pressure than ever to offer something more unique.

And Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is doing just that.

There's a range of great shops to visit which all offer different services and products, from chainmaking to album covers. And you can even stop off for a bit of lunch at Vertu Bar if your shopping spree gets too much. Paul Green has been in Hockley for 15 years, running his business of the same name.

"I am a trained diamond mounter and we also hand make jewellery in platinum and gold," Paul says. "You can choose the style you want and we can create it. So if you really want to give something special this Christmas, we can make a piece which is completely unique."

He adds: "Bangles are really popular this year. We have had quite a few men in this year buying diamond bangles for their other halves.

"Engagement rings are always a good seller at this time of year too. Women love to be proposed to on Christmas Day, and there are a lot of men out there who are prepared to do this."

As well as a great selection, Paul offers a very personal service. "We don't like to pressure our customers at all. They can come in and have a look around without being hassled," he adds.

That's also the case at the Design Centre. It's been established in the Quarter since 1978 and stocks a massive range of designer watches as well as other pieces of jewellery. Joint owners Rajesh Parekh, 48, and Deepak Patel, 46, sell Gucci, Raymond Weil, DKNY, Rado and other well-known brands.

"We can talk to customers about the various types of watches and recommend to them what to go for," Rajesh explains. "We know the quality of each make and we can convey this to them. Our staff have been here a long time so they have experience within the industry." This makes a change from buying online. There you have to rely on customer reviews which can sometimes be biased. Rajesh says the bestseller for this year is the newest Gucci watch, which costs pounds 550. The timepiece is proving a popular Christmas present. "If there's a watch that's selling well it's the Gucci.

It's an affordable price and it looks good too." Shoppers looking for something a little bit unusual can head to Artfull Expression where there is a range of designers, from David-Louis, to Lora Leedham, who has made pieces for Camilla Parker-Bowles. Just because she has created items for royalty does not mean her prices are out of reach. Prices range from pounds 28 to pounds 160 and the pieces of jewellery are all unique. Chainmaker G H Moore & Son, which has been in the quarter since 1965, is run by George, aged 69, and his son Darren, 42. The pair specialise in creating chains, which can be made to specific requests. Darren said: "There aren't many chainmakers around, especially within the Quarter. "We are unique. to the area and you wouldn't find this sort of service on the high street. The customer can pick a design they want and the material they would like it in and we will make it. The majority of chains sold are imported and usually made in Italy using a machine. "We can make it to suit a budget too."

The store also stocks jewellery in titanium and palladium, which is a cheaper alternative to gold and platinum. If you are after something other than jewellery then head to St Paul's Gallery where it is possible to invest in some fantastic artwork. Not only does the gallery sell paintings by various artists, but it is also known for having the world's largest collection of album covers, from Dire Straits to AC/DC, to Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. Neil Robinson, aged 45, who runs the gallery, said: "We had the Peter Blake Stanley Road print eight years ago and it was worth pounds 300 - now it can fetch up to pounds 7,000. "There are people out there who want to invest in art and there are those who enjoy it. We sell many album covers here that collectors want to buy so there is plenty of choice.

"It could also make a really special Christmas or birthday present." Once you have done your shopping you can head to Vertu Bar to indulge in some tapas. The restaurant/bar has been open for more than two years and serves up some great dishes in a friendly atmosphere too. Another attraction is the Jewellery Quarter loyalty card scheme, which allows shoppers to save money at participating stores. The Christmas fun begins on Thursday when the lights will be switched by the winner of the three-legged Santa race. But festive offers will start tomorrow. Log on to www. jewelleryquarter.net for more information about where to shop in the area, and offers available with the loyalty card

CAPTION(S):

Cheers!: Paul Wager, Vertu Bar owner. Gem of a place: Trained diamond mounter Paul Green outside his jewellery shop in Hockley. Spoilt for choice: Spiral coasters from Artfull Expression and watches from The Design Centre, two of the stores in the Jewellery Quarter . Gem of a place: Trained diamond mounter Paul Green outside his jewellery shop in Hockley. ain reaction: Darren Moore and his father George offer a personal service at their shop G H Moore & Son. Pictures: Emma Lee Rock on: Pink Floyd postcards and pigs from St Paul's Gallery.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Nov 23, 2009
Words:936
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