Designs on Valentine’s...

Giving the perfect sparkling gift is a sure way to show the one you love just how much they mean to you this Valentine's Day, but Winsor Bishop managing director Sophie Fulford knows it's about much more than extravagant gestures...

There are many special occasions that can be marked by gift-giving – birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries – but Valentine's Day is the one day of the year when husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends show their love for no other reason than because they want to.

The options are endless, from a simple box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers, to the sometimes risky lingerie, right up to a piece of sparkling jewellery to be treasured forever.

Established in 1834, Winsor Bishop has helped tens of thousands of customers find the perfect gift for loved ones over its 178-year history.

A quintessential jewellers shop, each generation of owners has strived to make it one of the leading independent jewellers in the region, indeed the country.


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The present shape and style of the shop, with its late Victorian mahogany showcases and counters, had changed little since 1893, although a new watch sales area was developed at the back of the shop by the last owner, Robert Croydon, just a few years ago.

Last year saw an exciting period of growth for Winsor Bishop, with ownership of the business passing to Robert's two daughters, Sophie Fulford and Tanya von Moll. The shop extended from numbers 41 and 43 London Street, Norwich, to include neighbouring number 39. This development allowed a first floor gallery to house many more fashion brands, as well as an expanded diamond salon and service department.

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Expansion of the store meant expansion for the team too, growing to a 31-strong staff, who between them speak eight different languages.

'It's been a very exciting few months, with a busy Christmas and we're now looking forward to being able to help customers find the perfect Valentine's gift,' said Sophie. 'There's much more emphasis on Valentine's Day now than there used to be, and higher expectations from girls.

'It should be a day that people enjoy and use to celebrate their relationship, which is something I don't think we do enough. Even if it's just making an effort to put the kids to bed early, eat dinner together at the table and open a bottle of wine, couples should make time for each other.'

For those who want to make an elaborate gesture there are all sorts of delights to be found in Winsor Bishop's displays. Sophie predicts that heart-shaped pendants and earrings will be all the rage this year – made even more special if they're diamond-set. Eternity rings are always popular and, of course, it's a great day to pop the question.

'There are probably lots of men out there who are getting it in the neck for not asking at Christmas, and Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to make the ultimate gesture of love by asking your partner to marry you,' said Sophie, adding that if there's still no proposal come February 14, leap day is just around the corner on February 29, so fed-up girlfriends could always take matters into their own hands!

Why not strategically leave this feature where he can see it and maybe he'll take the hint? The engagement ring guide will leave him without any excuses for not buying you the perfect ring this Valentine's!

Choosing the ring...

Choosing an engagement ring is something that many men worry about. Will she like it? Can I get something special within my budget? What if I get the size wrong? These are questions that all men who want to propose with a ring have asked. Sean Fairbrass, jewellery manager at Winsor Bishop, answers these common questions.

The Winsor Bishop guide to buying diamonds explains 'The Four Cs' – colour, clarity, carat and cut – the 'vital statistics' of buying a diamond.

How do I keep to a budget?

Set a budget, then pop in, call or email to speak to a Winsor Bishop diamond adviser, who will discuss the options within the price range. The shop can supply most rings in 18ct yellow gold, 18ct white gold and platinum. There is a large choice of diamond qualities and sizes, all of which are certified. Diamond rings start at a very affordable �750.

What if she doesn't like it?

If the ring is not suitable, call into the shop and choose an alternative over a glass of champagne.

What if I get the size wrong?

If you want to keep the element of surprise and the ring doesn't fit, return it to Winsor Bishop, who will adjust the ring within a few days. Alternatively, they can make a new ring.

Do I have to buy a diamond?

No, an engagement ring should be a ring of your choice and reflect the wearer's personality. Diamonds are traditional, but you could always go for a splash of colour by considering sapphire, ruby or even a pink diamond.

What if I want to get it engraved with a special message?

We offer a hand engraving service undertaken within a few days – which is a lovely idea to add that personal message to that special ring. However, a ring that has been engraved can not be exchanged or re-sized.

How do I pay for it?

When it comes to the bill, you can pay by cash, debit or credit card. Winsor Bishop also offers 24 months interest-free credit.

A surprise proposal...

Have confidence in your choice – that's the advice from Ben Guest, who recently popped the question to now-fianc�e Michelle Lake with an engagement ring from Winsor Bishop.

Although it's not the most romantic day of the year – Valentine's claims that title – Ben knew there was only one day that he could ask for Michelle's hand, and that was Christmas Day.

'She loves Christmas, it's her favourite day of the year,' he said. 'We woke up in the morning and exchanged presents. I had a big sack of gifts for Michelle and right at the bottom was a pair of Joules wellies that she'd asked for. I'd hidden a pair of earrings in the left boot and the engagement ring in the right, and when she went to try them on I gave her the left first and then told her there was something even better in the right.

'It's a bit soppy, but I whispered in her ear 'All I want for Christmas is you, will you marry me?''

The answer was yes, and Michelle loved the ring Ben had chosen with the help of Winsor Bishop diamond specialist Maria Pennington. 'It's easy to get overwhelmed buying an engagement ring,' said Ben. 'I went into several jewellers and asked for an idiot's guide and Maria was the most helpful, telling me about the different colours, clarity, carats and cuts of diamonds and talking me through the different options.'

Ben decided to go for a classic single stone diamond set in a platinum band, so that it would withstand everyday wear.

'A few friends had said that I should buy a novelty ring and then choose the ring with Michelle afterwards, but if you're going to marry someone I think you should know them well enough to choose a ring that they'll like,' said Ben.

'Michelle was gutted when the ring had to go back to the shop for a week to be re-sized, so I knew I'd made the right decision.'

Winsor Bishop, 39-43 London Street, Norwich, NR2 1HU, 01603 620638, www.winsorbishop.co.uk

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