Well-known jewellery designers Kim Bartlett Master Jewellers have bucked the trend this year, growing their customer base thanks to their reputation for quality craftmanship.
The family owned and operated business has been trading and growing in Townsville since Kim and Judi opened their first workshop in 1974, with son Jay joining the business as an apprentice in the nineties. To reflect the evolution of their business, they recently decided it was time to change their name to become Bartlett Master Jewellers.
“We have talked about changing the name for some time, and this year we have taken the opportunity to reflect on the growing strength of our brand and our desire to see our family legacy to continue in Townsville possibly for generations,” said Jay, who is the Managing Director for the business.
Imported jewellery is causing a slow decline in the Australian manufacturing jewellery sector, but Jay says the family business is continuing to grow and evolve, which highlights that people still value quality.
“Since moving into our Denham Street Design Studio eight years ago our business has grown, customers really like that we do everything from selecting the best raw products available, designing each piece and creating something unique for them here,” says Jay.
“We are knowingly different in our industry, it’s personal for us, and we are trusted by generations of locals to create beautiful pieces of jewellery that will go on to stand the test of time.”
The father and son Master Jewellers continued to work during the COVID lock down and have seen an increase in new commissions.
“At the start of COVID we agreed Dad would work from home and I would work from our studio taking appointments and continuing our dedication to professional development,” said Jay.
During the lock down, Jay completed a Diploma in Applied Gemmology to add to his existing qualifications as a Gemmologist, Advanced Diamond Grader and Qualified and Registered Valuer.
“It furthers on previous qualifications I’ve done over the years, and cements that knowledge on the products we provide and the services we can offer,” he says.
“It’s something I had always been planning to do, but being presented with a bit more time when COVID hit gave me the opportunity to do it.”
Jay says that although trade was a bit quiet initially during the pandemic, trade soon improved and they received commissions for handcrafted one-off custom designs and collection pieces nationally from Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney and Perth and internationally from as far afield as New York, Hong Kong and the UK.
“We are seeing people spending more on themselves and their loved ones and this is reflected in the types of commissions we are being asked to design and create, such as one-of-a-kind dress rings, eternity rings and special occasion jewellery,” he says.
“Previously people were able to travel freely, now I think they’ve been forced to look for experiences locally, and are wanting to support local businesses.”
While working with family may not be to everyone’s liking, there’s no doubt it works for the Bartletts.
“Dad and I are really good friends at work, and away from work,” Jay says.
“I’ve been training under Dad for a long time, so we’re familiar with how each other works, and we both bring different things to the business.
“Both Mum and Dad encouraged me to do whatever I wanted when I finished school, but this was something I always wanted to pursue. It felt very natural to me.”
Jay’s wife, Kylie, is also involved in the family run business, and time will tell if their children Lily, 15, and Harper, 14, decide to work in jewellery design and manufacturing.
“They’re very artistic, the same as I was,” Jay says.
“And just like it was for me, there’s no pressure to continue in the business, but the opportunity is always here for them.”
By Julie Johnston for BDmag