Jewellery business celebrates 50 years in the family

The store on the corner of Worcester St and Manchester St, after the September 2010, earthquake. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Andrew Kelso is fascinated by jewellery.

The 45-year-old took over Westende Jewellers from his father Roger in 2013, but he’s worked in the business for 30 years, starting as a youngster doing engraving work after school.

He loves seeing the hallmarks on a ring or bracelet, telling where and when it was made.

Vintage and antique pieces have become an increasingly important part of the business, a way to differentiate from mass-produced chain stores.

Westende celebrate their 50th anniversary this year and Mr Kelso says helping customers is still one of the most fulfilling parts of the business.

“A lady we helped recently had developed arthritis in her hands and had to cut her rings off but they meant a lot to her, so we made a bangle and set her stones into it,” he said.

Andrew Kelso celebrates 50th anniversary of the family owned Westende Jewellers store. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

“There’s nothing more satisfying than a remake; (it might be) helping a couple with their engagement or wedding bands, sourcing stones – just seeing a client’s dream become a reality.”

Mr Kelso’s father was a police detective in 1967 when he decided to buy a pawn shop and costume jeweller, also called Westende Jewellers, at 207 Manchester St.

He’d married Margaret a year earlier and the couple, who were in their early 20s, weren’t keen on a possible transfer out of Christchurch.

Roger already knew a bit about the business having visited regularly during policing work, so they took the plunge and worked long hours over the next few years to transform the pawnbrokers into a fine jewellery business.

They shifted to the corner of Manchester and Worcester Sts in the 1980s.

The store on the corner of Worcester St and Manchester St, after the September 2010 earthquake. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

But, after the September 4, 2010, earthquake, the business settled in Colombo St, Sydenham.

Dealing in vintage goods means they have to take precautions, always ask for identification and hold the pieces for a period of time.

“If there’s any reason staff are suspicious, they’ll let police know. Once we made a specific time for a guy selling jewellery to come back and the police were here waiting for him – took him away for a wee chat.”

Fashions come and go in jewellery, but Mr Kelso assures me diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.

“If it’s an engagement ring, it’s generally a diamond. They still far outsell any other gemstone. Sapphires would be second and rubies are also popular at the moment.”