Ortak, the Orkney company which has become one of the UK's largest designers and manufacturers of gold and silver jewellery, yesterday announced record sales of £6.9m last year, a 10.6% increase on the previous year.

In spite of reports of tougher high street trading over the crucial Christmas spell, the Kirkwall-based company said its sales were up 14.1% in December.

Ortak said it had resisted discounting in the run-up to Christmas, unlike a number of other high street retailers.

The family-owned company also said it was now finalising expansion plans for the 2008 financial year, with the firm preparing to add three new stores by the end of the year to its current portfolio of 10 in Scotland and two in the north of England.

Ortak opened its twelfth retail outlet at Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal in November 2007.

In its latest filing at Companies House, Ortak's accounts revealed that it had returned to the black during 2006-2007 in a landmark development for the firm, which has faced intense competition from overseas.

Accounts for Ortak show the company made a pre-tax profit of £314,691 in the year to January 2007, after losing £45,134 in the preceding year.

Alistair Gray, Ortak's managing director, yesterday said he expected a "proportionate increase in pre-tax profits"

during the 2007-2008 financial year.

In addition to Ortak's existing retail outlets and online presence, a core part of the business consists of its design and manufacturing service employed by high street retailers, which helped to bolster 2007's growth.

Gray said: "Because we are a retailer, we can get close to our customer, and being a design-led manufacturer we have the skills, knowledge and experience to continually be one step ahead of the competition when it comes to style, design and current trends."

He added: "The mood throughout the company is extremely buoyant and we have a very optimistic outlook for the year ahead."

Ortak was founded by Malcolm Gray in 1967, and is today run by his sons Alistair and Stuart.

The company is one of the largest employers in Orkney, with 80 of Ortak's 153 staff based at the manufacturing premises, which also house a visitor centre.