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Chains... and sparkle!

In heart of the vibrant Norwich Lanes sits Sonkai – a gorgeous, independent jewellery shop that also offers repairs, refitting and bespoke custom designs. Having opened in Norwich in 2006, they are celebrating their 10th year with an exciting project: designing the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich’s new civic chains.

They’ve been appointed by the Freemen of Norwich, who have funded the project, and they won the commission with their amazing design, which tells a story of Norwich using motifs depicting important cultural features of the city.

Sonkai, owned by Sara Sweet and Craig Snape, started the project by first visiting various areas of Norwich to take in the city’s symbols and history. Mallory Wilkinson started with the hand-drawings, and Susan Blackler converted these into the 3D CAD design. The pieces were then cast in gold-plated sterling silver (to make them lighter and less attractive for thieves than the old set!), and Lydia Burrows and Craig assembled the chains. 

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Image by Mark Ivan Benfield

In the spirit of customisation - always important for any fashion-lover - the chains can be customised by adding new motifs (there are currently 18 but more can be added in the future) and they can be worn with robes, day dress or evening-wear, by males or females, in three different ways – very adaptable! This is a great improvement as the old chains were designed for male Lord Mayors wearing the robes of office.


Some of the motifs (and therefore stories) which are featured really sum up some of the key parts of Norwich’s history. They include:

Printing - Norwich had the first printing press in England, meaning printed material could finally be distributed to the masses.

Library - this and the UNESCO symbol are included to represent Norwich having the first public lending library of any provincial city and its UNESCO City of Literature status.

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Image by Mark Ivan Benfield

Norwich Castle - built by the Normans as a Royal Palace 900 years ago, Norwich Castle is one of the key visitor attractions in the city, with an amazing collection of artefacts and information about Norwich’s history (it also used to be a prison). In addition to the museum aspect it now houses an art gallery too, hosting many high profile exhibitions throughout the year.

Chocolate - this played a key part in Norwich’s history, with the Caley’s chocolate factory beginning to produce this sweet treat in 1886; there was a strong smell of chocolate in the city until the 90’s, when the city-centre factory closed!

Beer barrel - to mark Norwich’s strong association with beer brewing over the years (read our blog post about this).

Norwich Market - a key part of Norwich’s shopping offer (read our blog post about this).

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Image by Mark Ivan Benfield

Aviation – Norwich has a rich aviation history, playing a part in aircraft production, military and search and rescue roles. 

Mustard - one of Norwich’s most famous worldwide exports. Colman’s has been producing mustard in the city since 1858 and, until recently, there used to be Colman’s Mustard Shop & Museum in the Royal Arcade, with lots of interesting mustard-based products for sale (Mustard chocolate, anyone?).

Plus many more – see the full list on the Norwich City Council website.

Sonkai actually means ‘gold’ in Romany, and the logo is the symbol for gold in alchemy – so a very fitting business to take on this project, we feel! If you haven’t visited their beautiful store on Dove Street, you’ll be dazzled by their beautiful range of exquisite jewellery, some of which are based on hand-drawn designs, so you know you’ll be busying a completely unique piece.

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You can view the original chains, presented by Matthew Goss 256 years ago, at Norwich Castle.  The new chains are a great way for civic leaders to discuss and spread the word about Norwich’s rich history and a way for historical moments and objects to be kept alive for years to come. If you fancy seeing the new chains in person, then Sonkai’s special event on 5 November is a must-visit - the Mayor and Sheriff will be wearing them, with their official robes, from 12 – 2pm. Sonkai will be celebrating their 10th anniversary on that day and the shop will be open from 10 – 5.30, with a special offer for their customers, so make sure you pop in!


Abellio Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.

East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.


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