Chris Ellis was just 14 when he started working for his family’s jewellery business, Dipples.  

He would sweep floors and make cups of tea for the team on Saturdays and during the holidays.  

When he left school at 16, he knew that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his forebears and started studying for qualifications in jewellery, gemstones and management. 

And 10 years ago he took over from his father, Rodney, making him the fifth generation of the family to become managing director of Dipples. His wife, Bex, joined the business in 2005 and is now part of the management team

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Dipples was established in 1878 and has stores in Norwich in Swan Lane, in the heart of the city’s jewellery quarter, and in Dereham. 

And last month they moved into their first Suffolk premises in Bury St Edmunds – an address which has long been synonymous with the jewellery trade. 

As Chris explains: “For more than 270 years, 14 Abbeygate Street in Bury St Edmunds has been occupied by a jeweller. Since 1901, Thurlow Champness and Son occupied the building, until the recent retirement of managing director Trevor Salt.  

“However, in early summer this year Mr Salt reached out to Dipples, to enquire whether we would be interested in taking over the lease, which indeed we were. 

“It seemed like the perfect fit for Dipples, given our similar history and brand, and we re-employed most of the existing Bury team,” he continues.  

“Dipples had previously worked with Thurlow Champness as a repair partner, so a past relationship between the two jewellery businesses has existed. It would also have been a real shame not to continue the heritage of a jewellery business occupying the building at number 14.” 

The store was ready to move into and just needed a lick of paint and rebranding before it could reopen. 

“The store was in excellent condition,” says Chris. “The team got stuck in and we managed to open in time for Christmas.”  

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Chris takes buying trips to London, Switzerland, Italy and the USA to find new styles, quality gems and watches for their customers. 

“We offer a large range of high quality jewellery and watches, including D colour grade diamonds, which are the purest colour diamonds in the world and precious and semi-precious gems with jewellery from brands such as Georg Jensen, Fope and Hearts on Fire,” says Chris.  

“Our watch brands include Bremont, a high-quality English watchmaker, Longines and Baume and Mercier of Switzerland." 

Watches have always been a popular item with collectors – and Chris says that in recent years niche brands have become highly sought-after. 

“The recent watch boom and the lack of availability from some the world’s most expensive watch manufacturers has meant people are switching to other niche brands that are available, such as English watchmaker Bremont, who appear to be going from strength to strength and attracting many buyers and a real following,” he says. 

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And he has noticed that the current squeeze on household finances is changing people’s buying habits. 

“The main trend that we have noticed is customers buying more classical styles of watch and jewellery, a piece that can be worn for all occasions,” says Chris. 

People have an emotional connection with jewellery, and pieces can become treasured heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation. Another trend that Chris has noticed is that people are re-modelling jewellery that they already own to give it a new lease of life.  

“Our in-house workshop has been busy working away at creating new dreams from old memories,” says Chris. 

And it’s that connection with people which is Chris’s favourite thing about what he does. 

“I have a passion for working with customers to help them find exactly what they’re looking for. I must say that I am very lucky as I really do love what I do and the people I work with. 

“I’m the first generation of the family to have three stores and an 18-strong team, of which I’m incredibly proud. Bex and I have a young daughter called Eliza, who may decide to become the sixth generation to work for the family business at some point in the future.”   

Dipples’ new Suffolk store is at 14 Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds. They also have branches in Swan Lane, Norwich, and Norwich Street, Dereham. See for more.