Vintage James Walker Century Pearls Necklace

One of my most cherished Christmas presents from last year was a beautiful 1950s simulated pearl necklace that my parents bought me. It came from one of my favourite places to rummage for unusual vintage items, Hungerford Arcade, a wonderful rabbit warren of antiques and collectables. If you’ve ever watched Bargain Hunt you’re bound to have seen it. I’ve been going there for years and even loved visiting when I was a child because there was one unit that sold Victorian dolls and tea sets. Sadly, that one no longer exists.

I hadn’t really had the chance to wear the necklace up until this weekend but as soon as I put it on I felt just a little bit more glamorous! It’s a shame women don’t wear pearls much these days as they are just so beautiful but, there was a time when a set of pearls was the must-have for every woman.

The necklace comes in its original box which has a blue snakeskin effect on the surface.  However, as you can see, it is rather battered on the outside. It’s clearly been through an ordeal but this doesn’t detract from the necklace itself.

Neclace Box

When you open it up the box lid is pristine, however, the soft cream velvet inlay on the bottom has a few ageing spots on it. But the real treasure is still yet to come.

Pearl necklace inside box

The necklace itself is a whopping 140cm long which means that it can be worn either full length (very 1920s style), doubled or even tripled. Each creamy simulated (with basically means not real!) pearl is about 5mm in diameter and are in immaculate condition without a single mark, dent or chip on any one of them. The clasp is silver in colour but has no hallmarks on it so it can’t be sterling silver. It has four round bevelled indents and a yellow rectangle one that sits diagonally across it and all, from a distance, look like real gemstones, which is really clever.  This necklace was clearly designed to allow the wearer to fake it as well as anyone possibly could, so if you couldn’t afford the real thing, who cares, these are absolutely stunning.

Pearl necklace clasp

Attached to the necklace is the original tag from James Walker Goldsmith and Silversmith Ltd.  It has the same Century Pearls logo on it that’s on the inside of the box which, after some research, appears to be a trademark used by James Walker for a collection of simulated pearl jewellery pieces.  They used this name because their headquarters was established at Century House in Streatham, London.

James Walker label front

Hand written on the reverse of the label is the actual date the necklace was purchased which was either the 1st or the 9th (I can’t quite tell which) of December 1958.  I love this, as it was, most likely, a Christmas present.  I can just imagine that a man bought this for his wife or perhaps a mum and dad bought it for their teenage daughter.  Whoever it was for, I bet they were over the moon when they opened it on Christmas morning, just like I was.

James Walker label back

I’ve done a little research on the James Walker company and it was founded in 1902 and originally traded as Sanders & Co.  They acquired the name of James Walker from a jewellers shop based in Peckham, London which was founded in 1823, so its history goes back a long way.  James Walker Goldsmith and Silversmith Ltd went on to become the second largest multiple retailer of jewellery and silverware in Britain.  However, in 1984 The James Walker Group was sold off to H. Samuel and later became part of the Ratners Jewellery Company, so it no longer exists.

I found this wonderful photograph of Alderman Sidney Sanders JP (3rd from left with presentation trowel), who founded the company, at the ceremony to lay the cornerstone of Century House, which nowadays has been turned into luxury flats.

James Walker Foundation Ceremony

I know I will get a lot of wear out of this necklace and I hope it lasts for years.  All I need now is an Audrey Hepburn style little black dress and a vintage Chanel 2.55 bag. Yeah, I can dream!


Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. A lover of all things old, especially the 1930s, seamstress, crocheter, maker of hats and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.


    • Hello Peter, my firs job after school was at James Walker (Leicester 2) Market Place, Leicester and my manager was David Lyons and the manager at Leicester 1 was Mr Moore who was then replaced by David Lyons.
      It was a fabulous grounding and I only have fond memories of my short time there (1976-1980) although I’m glad I moved before Samuel’s bought them.

  1. I worked for walkers from 1978-84, when I left to work for the company walkers used for there jewellery repairs…still sat at the bench and love it

    • Oh wow! I’m so glad you found my post, it’s always great to hear stories that relate to old objects I own. It’s the main reason I do all of this!

  2. I have James walker ring any idea how much it’s cost

    • I’m afraid I’m not an expert in antique jewellery. I’d highly recommend taking it to a specialist antiques dealer who could value it for you.

  3. I worked for James Walker in 1960 in Sutton High Street. I was a Tasmanian spending some time in London and saw a sign on the window “Assistant Wanted”. Walked in and the manager asked was I Australian when answered in the affirmative , he said you have the job. No experience with jewellery. However, learned a lot and love working there. Great people in the shop and lovely customers.

  4. I worked for James Walker from 1952 until 1983. A wonderful firm to work for. Remembering the directors in those early day being Mr Gerald Sanders, Miss Winifred Edith Jones and Stanley Brinsmead Squire. Later Kenneth Ochiltree, Lawrence Henry Brooks and later still, Peter Newton, David Bennett, Graham Street and myself John Cushnie. Happy, happy days..

  5. Ive just purchased a james walker necklace and i cant figure out the clasp at all cam anyone help?!?

    • If you want to send a photo of it to me I can take a look. Just email cate [at]

  6. Can anyone help, l purchased a 1923 pocket watch for my husband four years ago. But the other day the wind up button did not work. On the dial name is James Walker of London. Who can l get in touch with to have it repaired. A local jeweller said send it back to original jewellers. I hope l hear back.

    • James Walker of London no longer exists, I’m afraid. Have you tried a local clock repair shop or try searching online for antique watch repair? I’m sure you’ll find something local to you.

    • James Walker of London no longer exists, I’m afraid. Have you tried a local clock repair shop or try searching online for antique watch repair? I’m sure you’ll find something local to you.

  7. Hopefully you can find a local watch repairer who should be able to sort it out, don’t bother with the large multiples as they will only send it to the local trade watch repairer and charge a fortune for the pleasure.
    You could contact Robert James in St Albans

  8. What memories finding and reading your article brought to mind.
    My aunt worked at Century House from around 1945 until 1955
    when she started her family and worked for JW from home until
    emigrating to Australia around 1970. She designed and prepared
    the red velvet window display ring trays with their small plastic
    descriptions and price tags. My job from fourteen was to assist by
    screwing the struts and security bars unto the back of the trays,
    on a voluntary basis as I was still at school, but she gave me pocket
    money for helping. There were normally fifty plus trays all over her
    lounge floor before being steamed, brushed and packed to go to their particular shops. She passed away five years ago and the article
    brought back so many happy memories of my days helping her.

  9. I have a engagement ring that my husband bought me in april 1974, it is a sapphire sorrounded by diamonds and set in platinum, it cost £45 and i wondered what it might be worth now.

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