Nicholas Philippe
1959 – 2017


Nicholas Philippe 1959 – 2017

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Amanda Mansell, fellow jeweller and great friend of the late Nick Philippe, writes a fitting tribute to a golden personality within the industry.

On Friday 22 September 2017 our dear friend passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 57 after a courageous and dignified 6 month battle with pancreatic and liver cancer. This was a deeply sad day for Nick’s family, his many friends, and a tragic loss to the jewellery industry.

I remember the first day I met Nick, it was about 15 years ago. He came into my workshop and showed me a watchcase he’d made. It was a stunning piece of craftsmanship, and as he closed it there was a beautiful satisfying… ‘click’.  I looked up at him and I’m not sure whose face was beaming more, his or mine? I must have asked a dozen times to hear it again, and he was only too willing to oblige - because everything he stood for was in that ‘click’: precision, skill, craftsmanship, knowledge, willingness to share, advise and teach, and his deep raw passion for jewellery and watchcase making.

Nick was a philosophical, kind man with a warm heart and broad smile. He was charming, a bit cheeky at times, and always . 

welcomed you with open arms and a big hug. He was an uncomplicated soul who loved animals, was good humoured, fun loving, laid-back, never appearing too worried, taking life in his stride and affectionately referring to everyone he knew (male or female, young or old) as Babe - “Alright Babe?” he’d say.

But what did light a fire within him (along with his love for food, BBQ’s and his two parrots Lucy and George), was his passion for jewellery and watchcase making. This, he would have strong opinions on, and this was his reason for living. He dedicated every bone in his body to his craft. He was a true artisan… a master… a craftsman. He loved helping people and sharing his knowledge, whether it was about how to make something or advising on what lathe to buy, he was always willing to help. He articulated his passion and enthusiasm to anyone who wanted to know, and he was entertaining with his numerous stories and tales about his experiences.

Anyone who had the privilege to know Nick could probably recall one of his tales. One I fondly remember, with a smile, is when a client brought Nick a beautiful Fabergé egg to restore. The egg was carefully placed on the table whilst Nick and his client briefly left the room. When they returned, a few minutes later, time must have stopped, as now Lucy and George were perched on the table and the egg was in pieces on the floor!!!! For me this story embodies Nick, as there was often some kind of drama surrounding his work. But Nick was the ultimate professional when it came to his craft, and the egg was restored to its former glory showcasing his incredible skill and craftsmanship, of which he was so proud.

In 2008 I asked Nick if he would feature in a short film about making jewellery in Hatton Garden.  He was of course more than happy to take part, as he enjoyed any opportunity to talk about what he loved doing. Justin Wilson, Michael Summers, Tony Dellow, Tony Cullinane and Charlie Charalambus, all experts in their specialist fields, also agreed to feature. The film was called ‘For the Love of it’ because each of us do what we do because we love it. But I think this was particularly true of Nick.

Film Preview night of  ‘For the love of it’
(Left to right: Michael, Charlie, Justin, Tony D, Amanda, Nick, Tony C)

Nick ended up being the real star of the show and the film went on to be very well received amongst the trade, educationalists, students and graduates. Nick enjoyed the ‘fame’ and his new ‘celebrity’ status. He loved being recognised when he walked along Hatton Garden. He absolutely revelled in it!

The film then led on to us going to many trade events together, sharing fun times, wonderful unique experiences and talking annually for about 6 years on The Goldsmiths’ Company Getting Started Programme, where Nick immensely enjoyed imparting his knowledge to the recent graduates who attended.

Although the film achieved what I set out to do on a professional level, I didn’t appreciate the strong friendships and respect that we developed between us, particularly with myself, Michael, Justin and Nick. And I know I speak from the heart for the three of us when I say that we have lost a very special friend and there is now a gaping hole in our lives…

A special evening at the Tower of London during London Jewellery Week.
(Left to Right: Justin, Amanda, Michael and Nick)

In the film Nick talks about his earliest memories as a child of 6 playing in his uncle’s jewellery workshop, and it was from this age that he knew he wanted to become a jeweller and the passion and intrigue never left him.

He undertook his apprenticeship with Paris Michaeledes, a master pattern maker for Ratners and Slade & Kempton between 1974 and 1979. After this, at the age of 20, he became self employed and was taken under the wing of Central St Martin’s tutor Jean Pierre Dondollenger, who was responsible for teaching him engineering which would eventually lead to his passion for watchcase making.

Between 1991 and 1996 he worked for the English Traditional Jewellery Company where he made jewellery and diamond dress watches for the Kutchinsky family. This led to him working directly for the Kutchinsky family for the next 5 years, where he continued to make dress watches, and jewellery for the Sultan of Brunei and the Arabic Royal family.

In 2001 he returned to self-employment where he continued to work from his Bond Street workshop, making watchcases and jewellery for various shops and private clients.

However, even with this impressive portfolio and his wealth of experience, Nick just wanted to keep learning. He was like a sponge; he absorbed everything that was shown to him. In 2001 at the age of 42 he asked Martin Matthews, a retired highly skilled fourth generation watchcase maker, if he would teach him the art of engine turning and case making. These skills were 300 years old! After some persuasion, and realising Nick was already a classically trained Diamond Mounter and Goldsmith, Martin agreed to teach him, earning Nick the self-title of oldest ‘apprentice’.

Nick enjoyed his time with Martin, he considered it a privilege, and they became close friends as he continued to visit him one day every other week, for twelve years, until sadly Martin passed away in 2013.

This was a devastating loss for Nick, but he promised himself and Martin that he would carry on his legacy and pass on his skills and knowledge to new generations. It is desperately heartbreaking that only four years later, Nick has passed away taking that knowledge with him, and those skills are now tragically lost forever...  

Nick working at his Bond Street workshop

There are many things I will take from knowing Nick, but his untimely and premature death at the age of 57 has struck a cord that many of us can draw upon: Never leave until tomorrow what you want to do today.  Because one of the most heartbreaking things about Nick is he still had so much he wanted to do, and one of those things was to make a very special Nicholas Philippe watch.  

It deeply saddened me that he never succeeded in doing this, however after writing this obituary I realised how much Nick actually did.  He lived his life to the full and I hope he was proud of what he did achieve as he did so much and touched the lives of so many. Even near the end of his life he was entertaining the nurses at North Middlesex hospital with music, and dancing with them on the wards and in the corridors.

In addition to his jewellery work and involvement with the jewellery industry, he was also a member of the British Horological Institute and the Epping Forest Horological Centre, where he taught and offered support. He was also an active member of the Society of Ornamental Turners, where he taught engine turning and ornamental turning.

In recent years he received two awards from the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council for watchcase making. And was also a member of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths.

And last but not least, there are very few people in the world who are Freeman of three Livery Companies: The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, The Worshipful Company of Turners, and The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. And he was also a Freeman of the City of London.

Celebrations after Nick’s Freeman of the City ceremony

I raise my glass to you Nick, it was an honour to know you. Thank you for the advice, the laughs, the good times and precious memories. Thank you for being unique and for being you.

You are a legend.

Now the angels will enjoy your smile, and humour. They will be adorned in your beautifully crafted jewellery, and dance with you in the corridors of heaven.

You will always be in our hearts and thoughts. R.I.P our dear friend. Love you always ‘Babe’ x

Nicholas Philippe
26 December 1959 - 22 September 2017

Amanda, Justin, Michael and Nick enjoying a BBQ.
Nick demonstrating how to use a hair dryer to get the BBQ going… and it works!

Funeral Details:

If you would like to attend Nick’s funeral, here are the details:

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Burial at 13.00: Greenacres Woodland Burial, Kiln road, North Weald, Essex. CM16 6AD

Refreshments at 15.00: Blakes Golf Club, Epping Road. CM16 6RZ

Just Giving Page:

If you would like to donate to Nick’s charity here is the link to his Just Giving page which he set up to raise money for Leukemia when he cut off his trade mark hair which hadn’t been cut for over 20 years. He didn’t quite make his target at the time so it would be wonderful if we could reach it now.


Rebecca van Rooijen


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