Our History

Suttons and Robertsons represent the brand under which four great pawnbroking brands have come together to offer the best in client-facing pawnbroking loans, expertise in luxury assets and stunning retail ranges. With each brand that has joined the Suttons and Robertsons brand, they have brought their own history and legacy with them. This collection of pawnbroking industry greats – TM Suttons, Robertsons, Hopkins and Jones and Suttons and Robertsons – has created a brand that will continue the reliable, trustworthy, discrete and expert services offered separately in years gone by.

 TM Suttons (1770)

With a brand history reaching back over two centuries, Suttons and Robertsons has a rich legacy of experience to draw from. Founded in 1770 by Mr Thomas Miller, TM Suttons moved to a location in Victoria, where we still have a store today. We are very proud to be counted as one of the oldest pawnbrokers in London – the home of the grandfather of the pawnbroking business, TM Sutton.

Company principle in the inter-war years, Thomas Miller Sutton, could gauge the number of carats in gold jewellery simply by holding it. With three European offices, many of Europe’s wealthiest citizens sent jewels and artefacts by courier to raise vital funds during the Second World War.

TM Sutton specialised in diamonds, jewellery, watches and silverware; the brand continues to deliver a discrete, client-focused service and remains a highly regarded name in pawnbroking through the Suttons and Robertsons brand.

Robertsons (1797)

Established in 1797, for over 150 years Robertsons was a family pawnbroking firm, also retailing fine jewellery, silver and pre-owned watches. Expanding in the 1960s, Robertsons grew to become one of the UK’s largest pawnbrokers.

Robertsons was committed to helping their clients raise cash through short-term pawnbroking loans, using high-end luxury watches and jewellery to secure their loans. With over 200 hundred years in valuing assets, Robertsons have worked with some of the finest rare pieces that London has ever seen.

Robertsons reputation for quality and discretion merged seamlessly with that of TM Suttons when they became one company, Suttons & Robertsons, in 2006. Not only did this merger join two centuries-old pawnbroking brands, but it created one of the most prestigious highly-regarded pawnbroking companies in the UK.

Hopkins AND Jones (1853)

Hopkins and Jones arrived in 1853, in London’s W1, under the name Hayward & Sintzenich. Bought by company leads, Louis Hopkins and Llewellyn William Jones, in 1941, premises moved through Piccadilly and Mayfair before settling in William IV Street for a number of years then moving to Fleet Street.

Alongside a highly esteemed pawnbroking service, Hopkins & Jones also has an extensive pre-owned retail offering that includes many pieces from some of the best-known watch and jewellery brands in the world.

Hopkins & Jones welcome you to their London store, where they now operate under the Suttons and Robertsons brand.

Suttons and Robertsons (2006)

With a history that stretches back over two centuries under the TM Suttons and Robertsons brands, Suttons and Robertsons has a rich detailed experience of pawnbroking that qualifies absolutely their unparalleled position. Suttons and Robertsons reputation has brought people from all walks of life to their London stores – to raise cash through short term loans offered against luxury assets.

Specialising in jewellery high-end watches, Suttons and Robertsons have also held some amazing pledges, including Tsar Nicholas II’s side cabinet, artwork by Dali, Hockney, a Hirst and even a first edition X-Men comic.

It’s of no surprise that Suttons and Robertsons has built up many enduring relationships with their clients, some of which last for generations. Drawing on their pawnbroking heritage, Suttons and Robertsons will continue to offer reliable and honest valuations secure loans in a discreet confidential way into their third century, both in their London stores and online.

The History of Pawnbroking

What are the Origins of Pawnbroking?

So where did pawnbroking begin? Here is a quick journey back through time to look at the origins of pawnbroking, taking us back through history from ancient times up to the 1700s.

According to history, evidence of pawnbroking can be seen as long ago as 3,000 years ago in Ancient China, Greece and Rome. Without appearing to split hairs, there may well have been a form of money lending but it does not bear any real relevance to the modern day practice of pawnbroking. There may have been relaxed agreements between shopkeepers and their customers, with a system of secured lending in operation.

It’s also important to remember that money lending was frowned upon by the Church and is discussed in Deuteronomy – unless of course it was to someone from out of the area:

“Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury, but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury.”

This can be taken as the genesis of the pawnbroking industry it very clearly demonstrates how usury has been at the heart of the local community, looking after ‘ their own’ – it becomes easier to understand how pawnbroking is known as ‘Uncle’ colloquially.

The Bible continues to offer guidance on pledging:

“When thou dost lend thy brother any thing, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge. Thou shalt stand abroad the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring out the pledge abroad unto thee.”

In Britain, there is no evidence of pawnbroking in Roman times, nor after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when the Saxons and Vikings took their chance in Britain.

Moving on to the Middle Ages, the Church once again had a tremendous impact on society. There was a very strong belief that social mobility was a very bad idea. People were supposed to be happy with their lot, only having exactly what they needed nothing more.

Interestingly in Rome, priests engaged in money collections from all over Europe to ensure that the Church was financially strong. This was at odds with the reality for the everyday man when money lenders were outlawed by society and the Church. Moneylenders were refused a valid will, confession, absolution and burial – until they had made amends for the immoral gains, although how you manage that if you are recently deceased is a thing of great wonder.

Back in Blighty, William the Conqueror encourage Jewish settlers to bring their industry to the UK. With money lending running strong in Jewish communities, it is clear that money lending was becoming more accepted. As with most things in life, your job is only as good as your boss, so with the ascension of the very tightfisted monarch, Edward I, two hundred years after William, Edward promptly threw Jews out of the country – prohibited from returning for 350 years. With the support of the Pope and money lending being facilitated by the now-established Lombard.

Money lenders have had quite a tough time throughout the years. While the Church has ruled them with a rod of iron, the monarchy has relied on them to shore up dynasty after dynasty with many rulers pawning their crowns to get them through the next battle. In some cases, kings even used their noblemen as human security.

With the success of the Italian montes pietatis, the pawnbroking industry took a back seat through the 1500 and 1600s.

With the formalisation of pawnbroking still some years off, the system as we know it today was not yet fully formed.

WHAT IS The History of Pawnbroking?

Pawnbroking traditions stretch across the millennia, playing a bigger part in history than you may ever imagine.

Evident in China over 3,000 years ago, pawnbroking in the West dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, with the Roman Empire helping spread the practice across the rest of Europe.

Pawnbroking has been intrinsically linked to the symbol of three spheres suspended from a bar. This three sphere symbol is reputed to date back to the infamous Medici family of Florence, Italy refers to the medieval practice of Lombard banking. Pawnbroking was, is still, the form of banking that ensures that your assets work for you as, and when you need them. Known as Lombard banking, the practice of pawnbroking was formalised in the Italian province of Lombardy. The three globes hung in front of the houses of the Lombard merchants to represent the legend of a giant-slaying Medici, who had reputedly used three bags of rocks to fell a giant for Charlemagne.

The Medici adopted the three-ball symbol, which was in turn adopted by other banking specialists as they believed it captured some of the Medici legendary financial prowess. As time progresses, the symbol of the three spheres came to represent the financial dexterity and monetary success.

We’re often not fully aware of how heavily pawnbroking was relied upon to fund European expansion, exploration defence. In 1338, Edward III secured British borders through his war with France, pawning his jewels to fund his war coffers. King Henry V used pawnbroking to realise the value of his assets when he too went to war with the French in 1415. And when would we have discovered the US if Queen Isabella of Spain had not used her jewellery as security for Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas?

Modern day pawnbrokers have worked hard and deserve their trustworthy reputation, taking good care of the few precious items brought to them when in need and releasing them when the loan was satisfied.

High-end pawnbroking has direct links back to the highly professional pawnbroking of the Medici days, where dynasties legacies were secured and protected by the clever astute financial management of family assets.

What is Montes Pietatis?

The Montes Pietatis, or Mount of piety, was an establishment pawnbroker, which was run as a charity from the later Middle Ages right up to the 20th century. Although the Montes Pietatis was a European invention, concerns did spring up in overseas colonies, with the Mexican Nacional Monte de Piedad still up running today.

Run by the Catholic Church, the Montes Pietatis offered monetary loans with low interest rates to those who found themselves in need. With the guiding principle of the system favouring the borrower not the lender, it was seen to be more in keeping with the Churches raison d’etre.

The Monte Pietatis relied on collecting a monte – or voluntary donations from the rich – the needy would bring an item of value and exchange it for a loan. The loan would last for one year and be worth two thirds of the item of worth. Interest was added to the loan and the profits paid for the running of the Monte di Pietà.

The first English Monte Pietatis was started in 1361 by, Michael Northburgh, the Bishop of London. He donated 1,000 pieces of silver for the creation of a bank to lend money on a pawn basis but without interest. In Italy, in 1462, the first mention of a Monte di Pietà can be found in the northern town of Perugia. Championed by a Franciscan monk, Marco di Matteo Strozzi, he wished to eradicate Jewish money lenders from the city and install Christian equivalents which operated in the favour of the borrower rather than the lender.

Where do the pawnbroking three gold balls come from?

Signage can come to represent entire industries and in some cases will have been a sign of these industries for 100’s of years. The barbershop with its red white striped cylindrical sign is an immediate indication that you can get your hair cut. Another such sign which we can date back to the Middle Ages is the three golden balls or the sign of the pawnbroking industry. But what is the derivation and adoption of this sign as an industry standard?

If we take the pawnbrokers sign as an example, the three golden balls are a well known sign not only of central London pawnbrokers but of pawnshops and the world over. But where did it come from? The pawnbroker’s symbol shows three balls suspended from a bar.

The three-ball symbol is attributed to the Medici family because of its symbolic meaning of Lombard, referring to the Italian province of Lombardy, where pawn shop banking originated under the name of Lombard banking. It is now well established that the three golden balls, which have for so long been the trade sign of the pawnbroker, were originally the symbol medieval Lombard merchants hung up in front of their houses, not, as has often been suggested, the arms of the Medici family.

Most European towns called the pawn shop the “Lombard”. The House of Lombard was a banking family in medieval London. The first known depiction of the sign of the three balls was in the famous painting by William Hogarth , titled “Gin Lane” c.1751.