Some of us spend our entire lives chasing our true purpose; others are lucky enough to be defined by their very passion from the moment they’re born. For brothers, Lahdo and Christopher Gregory, growing up in the jewellery-making capital of the world – Midyat, their destiny was written hundreds of years earlier.
Armed with centuries of rich heritage and jewellery-making expertise, it is the pursuit of cousins Helen and Edward Gregory, as Co-CEOs, to carry their fathers’ business – Gregory Jewellers – into the future.
“Jewellery runs through our blood,” Helen says. “It’s not something that we started in 1967 on an idea. It’s something that’s in our blood, passed through generations.”
Founded in 1967, Lahdo and Christopher set out to establish their artisan jewellery company. Hungry for new opportunities, the families moved to Australia in 1978 where they worked to re-establish the business in a new country.
Almost 55 years later, Gregory Jewellers has become the name behind gifts for well-known Australian families and have partnered with Breitling, Gucci, IWC, Panerai, TAG Heuer, Tudor, Tissot and Zenith.
“We don’t just want to create pieces of jewellery, our fathers want to leave something behind that’s more meaningful and powerful,” Helen says.
An honest trade
Committed to starting a new venture as soon as they arrived to Australia, the brothers leased a space at the St James Trust Building in Sydney in the late 70s.
With very little English, they started door knocking at other established jewellers to introduce themselves. Eight years later, they’d become known as the ‘Casting Kings’ with 1,500 jewellery wholesale accounts across Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.
“Things were rosy up until 1988–89, and then we had the stock market crash and the property crash followed,” Edward explains. “By the time of the recession, we realised that our sales were on the decline.
“We made a decision then and there to move into retail.”
Despite being renowned in jewellery wholesale, the business was little known in retail, proving a difficult obstacle to open their first boutique.
“Not many landlords were willing to give us an opportunity. My uncle went to several shopping centres, urging them to give him an opportunity, guaranteeing he would not let them down,” Edward says.
One-and-a-half weeks before Christmas in 1989, Gregory Jewellers opened its first boutique in Westpoint Blacktown.
“It was difficult. The first six months of trading weren’t the very best,” recalls Edward, who was 15 at time. “Our mums were leading the way and had a strong will to succeed.”
Being renown for premium quality is something the Gregory brothers have upheld since the company’s inception. After settling in Istanbul in 1967 to start the Gregory Brothers business, the Founders quickly gained a reputation for design and fine quality craftsmanship – an honour which remains to this very day. Lahdo and Christopher registered the Gregory Brothers name for the C95 Hallmark, which was authorised by the Jewellery Association of Istanbul. The C95 Hallmark is the Gregory patent and encapsulated the Gregory Brothers’ commitment to meticulously crafting and finishing each piece.
“Jewellery is something that stands the test of time and lives beyond generations.” – Helen Gregory
This high level of integrity translated across the oceans, where the brothers spearheaded a new movement focusing on the importance of diamond grading and overall diamond beauty.
“At the time we commenced in retail, the industry wasn’t even talking about the four Cs. People were focused on diamond weight only, not overall diamond quality,” Edward says.
Ensuring their creations have always boasted the highest-quality diamonds and precious gemstones has led the brand to becoming synonymous with legitimacy.
“We see ourselves as pioneers, leaders in the industry,” Helen adds. “It’s our name on the products, it’s our name on the door. We have to be honest to ourselves before anything.
“That comes down to the core of our DNA.”
The height of quality
Unlike many of the global commercial enterprises, Gregory Jewellers dedicates itself to handcrafting its pieces at its jewellery studio in Sydney.
“When we say we make it, we genuinely make it,” Edward insists. “We don’t buy it, polish it, put a gemstone in the centre and put it in the window – it’s made by us. We do the design, the manufacturing, everything from start to finish for the majority of our fine jewellery and our engagement ring collections.”
With a vast network of boutiques across the country, up to 4,500 pieces created by hand leave the studio every year – a tidy sum that allows the talented jewellers, gem setters and polishers to work carefully, rather than mass producing.
“On every jeweller’s bench, they’re working on one item at a time,” Edward says.
The timeless creations are the work of many delicate hands. Each special piece passes through six hands; the making of the model, casting, cleaning and assembling the components, setting the side diamonds, setting the centre diamond and the final polish.
And that’s not all. Once a ring leaves the jewellery studio, it is inspected by the Founders or Edward’s brother Simon, who is Head of Production.
The utmost sense of pride is evident through every stage of the age-old craft, starting right at the first step of diamond sourcing.
After working with the same diamond broker in India since they started the business, the warm family ethos extends further than genetics.
“When we source our diamonds, they have to be visibly inspected by eyesight without relying solely on specifications,” Edward explains. “We look for specific attributes that are not graded on the certificate such as the beauty, the type of colour overtone the diamond has, we even pay close attention to the type of inclusions – how concentrated they are, where they are positioned, how the diamond appears physically.
“We’re not necessarily looking for what looks good on paper, we buy what looks best in physical observation irrespective of what the certificate says.
“There are a couple of areas we don’t compromise on – the lustre and transparency has to be superior, the colour overtone has to be premium, the cut has to be ideal, and the purity of the diamond has to be the best in that grade – we don’t compromise on that.”
The extreme measures taken allow Gregory Jewellers to deliver on its promise of quality diamonds and exquisite craftsmanship.
“We meet the diamond before you meet the diamond,” Helen says. “We’re making that investment in our name ultimately and we stand by the product.”
And its diamond sourcing standards are extraordinarily fastidious. Out of 1,000 diamonds, less than 10 are selected. This is a very superior selection process and means only 1 per cent of the world’s diamonds are worthy of being a Gregory Diamond.
“We see our quality as an international standard,” Edward says. “Our broker says our father was pedantic and rejected many diamonds, but he now says my brother Robert and I are even more particular.”
Future of Gregory Jewellers
While they’re the Co-CEOs of Gregory Jewellers, Helen and Edward have spent much of their life in all areas of the business – just as many of their cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles have done.
“Anyone born in the ancient Aramaic town of Midyat was guaranteed to learn how to make silver filagree jewellery – that’s why jewellery-making is in our blood,” Edward shares. “I remember my childhood school holidays were spent in the workshop. I didn’t want to spend it in the workshop, I wanted to ride my bike with my friends.
“But my father brought me to the workshop so I could have an appreciation and understanding of how jewellery is made. At the age of 12, I made my very first chain. My father gave me a block of gold and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do and by the end of two weeks, you’re going to finish it’. I did finish it and loved the feeling of having made something.”
With many of the Gregory family members having grown up in the business, the enchanting craft of handmade jewellery is truly appreciated, making the offering so much more than just another necklace or ring.
“Anyone born in the ancient Aramaic town of Midyat was guaranteed to learn how to make silver filagree jewellery – that’s why jewellery-making is in our blood.” – Edward Gregory
“Jewellery is something that stands the test of time and lives beyond generations,” Helen states.
And it’s this very rite of passage that Edward’s young children have started experiencing.
“On recent Saturdays, my youngest daughter has accompanied me to the boutiques,” Edward shares. “Some new stock came in that needed to be put on display and she decided to assist the staff and help put it in the windows. She’s nine years old.”
Having brought exquisite craftsmanship to Australia, the family is constantly inspired by how far their fathers have come, driven by passion and ambition – all without any formal business education.
“Whenever they have faced adversity, they have reinvented any obstacle to make the most positive result for themselves, for their families, for all of us,” Helen says.
“We’re constantly blown away. Sometimes we pinch ourselves. They just had this passion and drive to deliver this product and service to customers, and they worked tirelessly to grow their legacy, with the support of their wives and families.
“I remember growing up with our mothers championing our retail brand. They really developed our focus on personalised service. It is this same personalised service that we pride ourselves on and deliver to our clients today.”
Influenced by their mothers’ passion and dedication, of the 200-strong team, 153 are women – a strong step towards gender equality.
As the company prepares to celebrate its 55th anniversary in 2022, the Australian jewellery brand has its sights set on expanding.
“It’s business as usual – making the best of every opportunity and delivering the most premium product and service,” Edward says.
“Jewellery is always going to be our DNA. It is our life,” Helen adds.