Biagio Patalano combines entrepreneurial spirit and strong intuition to take high risks in business. Today, Biagio the Jeweller, two fine jewellery stores in Oxfordshire are the reward for his acute business acumen.

Biagio the Jeweller stores in Thame and Bicester are richly stocked with rare and exclusive gemstones – tanzanites, rubies, emeralds and coloured sapphires all twinkling and mesmerizing. An abundance of yellow, white and rose gold, platinum and palladium, Gucci, Armani and DKNY watches... Original pieces not found anywhere else on the high street.

Times have not always been so flourishing. Biagio set up his first shop in Bicester at the height of the recession in the late 1980s and next to a well-known high street jewellers – a high-risk strategy indeed. Opening a new jewellery shop requires high investment with a low cash flow support. The early years were focused on building a rapport with people in the jewellery trade from suppliers to the World Gold Council, a network of esteemed names in jewellery with whom Biagio is on first-name terms. He had a strong belief in his proposition for his brand of jewellers with European-sourced designs, positioning him as an iconic brand and ahead of the market in Oxfordshire.

As the Bicester store had just reached a healthy business state, the opportunity arose for a second shop in the Oxfordshire market town of Thame. This was in the mid-1990s, not in a great economic climate and again with an established family jewellers in situ. With two stores, Biagio’s ambition doubled. The vision was working and the business was growing. Biagio soon realised it would need an experienced manager to lead development in Thame; Peter Thomas was employed after a chance meeting. He had 35 years’ experience and the essential passion and energy Biagio was looking for.

In 1998 and 1999, Biagio the Jeweller ran a TV advertising campaign, relatively unheard of at this time for such a size of business. This pioneering step was rewarded, as it strengthened people’s perceptions of the Biagio brand and spread both the demographic and geographical bases. The television campaign created the base that was the beginning of the plan to create an iconic status for the business. 2002 saw the next key stage, in the form of a huge refurbishment at both stores. In 2014 Biagio has opened a brand-new store, triple the size of the previous shop in Bicester.

Biagio travels overseas throughout the year sourcing gemstones direct from the suppliers and attending exhibitions to see the latest innovations from the best jewellery designers in the world. It is here where he sees fashions for the coming seasons and plans his collections for Christmas.

Today his team of 16 staff are a testimony to his special rapport with people; two have been with him for 11 years. He employs two goldsmiths for design and repair and a horologist. Business awards came rolling in during 2000-2002, as Retailer of the Year and Team of the Year at regional and national level. Education and learning have become an integral part of the business. All team members attend courses and many have achieved the Professional Jewellers’ Diploma after three years’ study. In a further development to training, Biagio decided to create a core team of diamond specialists, not only to assist customers but also to enhance the new range of loose diamonds. Both the diamonds and the specialist training are sourced directly from Antwerp, the diamond centre of the world.

The stores stock pieces at all budgets, from less than £50.00 for stylish silver jewellery to £14,938 for a rare tanzanite and diamond ring. Biagio finds that people often commission their own jewellery. “They are looking for something special, personal and individual, and have ideas for what it will look like. We pride ourselves on being completely flexible, and believe we can create their perfect piece starting with a gem from our top-quality selection of loose stones. Our sources in the diamond industry are excellent and will only provide us with the finest diamonds. Diamonds are my passion,” enthuses Biagio.

A couple recently visited the shop in Bicester, searching for ‘something’ very specific – a piece that could only be handmade. This is not unusual, but the timescale was. It seemed quite impossible. “We knew we had to pull out all the stops for them,” Biagio explains. “They had become regular customers over the years and I wanted to help them, knowing how much this meant to them. We managed it, and I knew they’d be pleased. However, I was still surprised by the reaction. They invited the whole shop to their wedding. The bride took me aside at the reception, and told me ‘You may not realise it, but you make people’s dreams come true.’ It’s reactions like that that make it all worthwhile.”

Customers come from all over the world to Biagio the Jeweller in Oxfordshire, for bespoke designs from scratch or redesigns of their own family heirlooms. “We are busy with repairs and restorative work and this side of the business has doubled over two years. Competitive pricing and personal service are the key factors to this success.”