Window of opportunity with Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart acquired her first piece of jewellery from Youngs Jewellers, the same store where she was offered a part-time job after staring in awe at their window display. Now, that same shop is hers. Metropol writer Nina Tucker caught up with Rebecca about business, motherhood and jewels.

Standing before a gorgeous jewellery boutique, enveloped in a dream of future possibilities, Rebecca Stewart was approached by a staff member and asked if she’d like a part-time job there.

“She obviously recognised my love of the shop,” Rebecca remembers. She snapped up the job and soon part-time turned full-time, an opportunity Rebecca is still thankful for. “I realised I had found what I wanted to do.”

In quaint New Regent Street, Youngs Jewellers is must-go destination for those in the know, full of sparkling precious stones, stunning jewellery, and heirlooms. Inside the arched windows and Spanish Mission-style exterior, Rebecca spends her time working with beautiful things.

Interesting customers, designing jewellery, and wonderful creative displays, Rebecca mentions as some of what she enjoys most about her business. Her work combines her loves of fashion, design and antiques. “A privilege”, she says, to be involved in people’s special moments, whether it be joyous engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, illness recovery, or a memento to remember a loss.

Eventually, Rebecca was offered a partnership in the business she adored, and then in 2017 she became the sole owner, finalising the vision she’d had while gazing into the shop window years before. She still feels blessed to have found something that she is always excited to do, and which has given her enormous freedom as a mother.

Business aside, Rebecca believes her biggest achievement is raising her now 20-year-old son. Balancing motherhood and an ever-growing business was no picnic. Rebecca recalls that the flexibility created by owning her own shop enabled her to attend all of her son’s special events, and also to take him to “work” with her, starting when he was just two weeks old.

She’s an empty-nester now, her son in Dunedin studying neuroscience, and it has opened up more time to focus on the business.
A wonderful group of women friends, an inspiring son, a great extended family, and a flexible job, get the credit for supporting Rebecca, and enabling her to juggle work and motherhood commitments, and to survive during tough times.

During the Christchurch earthquakes, Youngs Jewellers faced hardship when its newly refurbished New Regent Street dwelling was inaccessible following earthquake-related city centre closures. Faced with two years of mortgage payments and no place to trade, Rebecca fitted out her garage and opened it to customers, although security risks meant no address advertising, which, she says, proved to be a huge challenge.

She finally returned to New Regent Street with a few more business-related memories and a lot more admiration for her “vibrant” city. “Christchurch has been through so much and it is a testament to the people here that their tenacity bought them out the other side.” Her own resilience is “simple”. “Do what you love and work hard and the rest follows,” she says, adding she’s already given her son that same advice.

Aside from her business, Rebecca judges fashion at the Riccarton races, which she loves for the bond between clothing and jewellery. “I enjoy seeing women expressing their own unique style and interpretation of racing fashion,” she mentions. It’s an annual tradition to close Youngs Jewellers on Christchurch’s well-loved Cup and Show Day, Rebecca says, to celebrate Canterbury’s finest with her friends and family.

There was a time when she was destined for a life of catwalks and castings. After leaving school, a statuesque Rebecca flew to Europe on a three-year modelling contract, until home sickness intervened and she swiftly returned to her family in the South Island. A stint studying law at the University of Canterbury followed, before her life-defining visit to Youngs Jewellers.

Days now often comprise morning walks in Hagley Park, creating jewellery displays, sourcing stones, buying, seeing customers, shooting content for social media and “never-ending bookwork”. Despite the latter, Rebecca loves what she does. “It never feels like work even though having a business is a seven-day-a-week job.”

Nights are filled with friends and family for movies or dinner, home cooking, or eating out, creating wonderful memories. Helping others is also part of her ethos, with the success of her business enabling Rebecca to support charity events, and to sponsor and make donations to various close-to-home charities.

As a young girl, she was fascinated with antiques, the arts, and all beautiful things. Her great-grandmother’s collection, many of those pieces gifted to Rebecca, spurred a fondness for art and dreams. “It was the start of a life-long love affair,” she says.

For Rebecca, jewellery is a physical reminder of memories, and she believes that each piece should be considered an heirloom for the special moments it evokes. Antique jewellery often comes with incredible craftsmanship and makes a great investment, she says, although such pieces are limited, require more care, and are becoming increasingly harder to find in mint condition.

When chosing jewellery, women and men should follow their heart whether they want diamonds, or a beautiful coloured gemstone, new or antique. “I believe you should buy what you love,” she says.

Devoted to the art of jewellery, Rebecca prides herself on creating spectacular window displays that incite acclaim from overseas travellers. “Jewellery design is a form of art. Society needs art to create vibrant, stimulating environments,” she reveals. With each eye-catching display that she creates, Rebecca’s younger self gazes through a window and falls in love all over again.

What’s trending? Rebecca says…
– Rings! Coloured stones and unusual, specimen stones always excite Rebecca’s customers.
– Aquamarines, green and pink tourmalines, sapphires of different colours, and Champagne diamonds are all in demand. Customers love stones they can connect with.
– People are loving jewellery that is a reflection of their individual style.

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