A&A with Rebecca Stewart– Youngs Jewellers
Location: Mayfair at The Majestic with coffees
Not New: Tell us a little about your journey to become a fine jewellery dealer?
Rebecca: Whilst at university studying law, I used to often walk past the window of my favourite shop -Youngs Jewellers. One day, when I was browsing a woman came out and offered me a part time job – I took it! From there I quit university, which didn’t feel the right fit for me anyway, and concentrated on my work with the jewellers.
I went into partnership around 2000 with my business partner whose father had owned the business and I then bought him out totally in 2017. I did all the buying and displays and developed the knowledge so I think he realised he needed me & it worked well for us both. Having a business partner early on gave me the flexibility I wanted allowing me to be present for my son Will’s important things.
When Covid came along, the timing encouraged me do a website and boost my social media and now I find social media has been a great tool to sell from.
Not New: Can you share with us a story from your store recently which made you smile?
Rebecca: I recently had an 80-year-old lady contact me through social media. She had just pierced her ears for the first time and she saw some earrings I had posted & decided to treat herself to wear them to a wedding. I just love hearing people’s stories. It helps build trust and rapport.
Not New: Youngs Jewellers was established in 1907 & has a stella reputation as one of Christchurch’s finest jewellery retailers – can you share some of the history of the brand?
Rebecca: When I started, the owner (who eventually became my business partner) had fallen into it as it had been his father’s business and he had to take it over due to health reasons. He did love watches and antiques, but it wasn’t necessarily what he set out to do. When I took the business over I never thought of changing the name as Youngs had a great reputation and had built up a legacy of quality and respect which I wanted to honour.
Not New: How is the gender balance in the fine jewellery trade? Both from a selling and from a buying perspective? Has this changed over time?
Rebecca: Traditionally it was more men involved in the trade but now I find myself dealing with more woman. I’ve built long term relationships with a lot of women -including my wholesalers. There are now more women in the industry than ever before.
As for customers, when I started, we sold mostly to men, but now I sell more to woman. There has been a real shift to woman buying and choosing their own things. I find not many people buy an engagement ring without the other half these days! I’d estimate the percentage of my customers is around 60% woman to 40% men and couples choosing pieces together.
Not New: Do you have a favourite piece currently in store for sale? Tell us about it.
Rebecca: A beautiful boxed up Antique art deco diamond bracelet It’s the sort of thing you just don’t find anymore. (We see a picture of an exquisitely boxed bracelet)
Not New: Where do you find your beautiful pieces?
Rebecca: Mostly people come to me, I don’t find myself having to go to auctions anymore. Clients come from all over New Zealand and people know I offer a fair price for their pieces. There are actually not many people doing antique jewellery like my store anymore.
Not New: Is there a style of piece of jewellery which is good to invest in?
Rebecca: Beautiful quality jewellery from Georgian to Art Deco. These pieces just increase in value. Pieces must be in mint condition in order to hold value.
Not New: Tell us about what trends you are seeing in the fine jewellery market – does it change much over time or are there some set standards which are always in vogue?
Rebecca: Trends change! Currently I sell a lot of coloured stone engagement rings whereas in the past it was always diamonds. People are wanting rings that are different, that reflect themselves, and they come to me for something different. Young people are wanting second hand antique rings,-they are wanting Not New!!!
People are more mindful of where their jewellery is coming from and are aware of their carbon footprint.
Not New: Let’s talk fashion - you have an elegant & refined sense of style whilst also making the most of an opportunity with fun and bold occasion outfits– where did this love of fashion come from?
Rebecca: Well, I don’t tell many people this, but I modelled when I was 17 and I won the ‘Look of year’. This took me modelling overseas from age 17 - mainly in Melbourne, Sydney & Milan before going on to live & work in Paris. I loved it but I often felt on the wrong side of the camera as I loved being behind the scenes & more creative.
I was very sensible and handled rejection well within what could have been a tough industry. I was supposed to go to New York and instead I decided to come home and go to university. I was very homesick for New Zealand. And then… jewellery happened!
Not New: When you were modelling was there any particularly stand out moments or shows you partook in?
Rebecca: I had a photoshoot with a famous photographer -Fabrizio Ferri for Italian Vogue. He took amazing black and white photos of models. It was shot simply with no makeup, and I felt he really captured me. They are still my favourite photos, as when I look at them, I look like me.
Not New: As mentioned you have had some stunning event outfits – i.e. cup day, gala – is there one outfit you have had which stood out as a favourite for you? Why?
Rebecca: One of my favourite fashion looks was when I wore a cream suit with a boater hat. It was elegant, fresh and pretty. It looked a bit different, and I felt like myself.
Not New: What events are on your horizon, and can you tell us what inspiration you are taking for putting together your look?
Rebecca: The Christchurch races are coming up and had a look I was excited about but found out a girlfriend was wearing something very similar. That wouldn’t do! So, I found a different outfit and a ‘Not New’ headpiece. I am starting to incorporate things I own and have already worn.
Post covid I find less things around. I was lucky & I have found an amazing costume designer working locally. I have booked her to help me with my outfit for next year. She can help with the creative process, and I trust her to bring a concept to life.
Not New: Please share with us a career highlight so far?
Rebecca: Buying the business then buying the building we operate from. It was not easy and it took 3 to 4 years to find the perfect shop. We love our location in New Regent as it is a destination shop, and it is getting busier with tourists coming in more.
Not New : How did you get through Covid?
Rebecca: In business, your often too busy chasing your tail so Covid gave us time to sit and focus. Business boomed after going online and after boosting our social media presence. People were spending money as they couldn’t travel or go out. I don’t really advertise as such but I donate pieces for fundraisers to worthy causes such as the Canterbury Cancer foundation as a way to give back.
Not New: Final thoughts?
Rebecca: Yes, I feel very lucky to be doing something I love so much!
You can visit Rebecca at Youngs Jewellers 3 New Regent St, CHCH