I was born in England in 1944, left school at 14 and completed an engineering apprenticeship in 1962, the same year my mother died.
In those days the Australian government paid all but £10 of the cost for English people to emigrate there so I immediately set out to see the world.
In some kind of nervous reaction to my mother’s death I found my eyes wouldn't stop blinking so I (temporarily) couldn't do my engineering job. Needing to eat, I took the first jobs offered, a night job as a drink waiter in a jazz club and a day job in, you guessed it, a jewelery shop.
Being familiar with working metals, I started doing drawings of mini-sculptures, reflecting my preference for modern art, that could be made in the only way I knew; sawing, filing and welding (the process now called fabrication). My boss liked the ideas, had them made as brooches and pendants, and they sold.
In 1965 I moved to Vancouver, Canada and fell into a bed of roses, starting work at a small jewelery shop (Swedish Jeweller). In 1967 I was offered a chance to buy into the company by using the next five year's profits if I could generate them to the right level. It worked and the journey to the Stuart Moore galleries of today was on its way.
By 1973 Swedish Jeweller had grown five-fold, now with three shops specializing in the modern design work of a group of Swiss and German goldsmiths, most using fabrication techniques. My personal specialty of design quickly coalesced into engagement and wedding rings and this has been my company’s foundation ever since.
A small digression …
At this time, at 29, I wasn't yet aware that I’d started on the path of William Morris and the Arts & Craft movement of the late 1800s. This movement grew out of reaction against the recent advent of mass-production made possible by the industrial revolution. Its members fought very hard (in differing ways) to maintain and promote the skills of artisans while (except for a few) embracing new technology to replace tedious, repetitive and expensive hand-work. Their mantra was that even every-day objects should be well crafted as well as pleasing to the eye and touch.
About thirty years ago I became aware that my little company was unconsciously following this course, motivated by almost exactly the same concerns as those of a century earlier. Once aware of this, my team and I picked up the Arts & Craft’s baton with enthusiasm and have worked hard to further refine the company’s niche of quality, craftsmanship and design, emulating those visionaries of 120 years ago.
However, in today’s world, we are dealing with the pluses and minuses of another revolution at least as profound as the industrial one. It is the electronic revolution. Our company both embraces and rejects some of the changes this new revolution has brought about …………..
With the launch of this website and facebook page we at stuart moore embrace with gusto the world-view and transparency the internet has made possible. It is an amazing opportunity for a tiny, niche operation like ours to say hello to the world.
At the same time we are saddened by the last two decades where marketing hype has promoted fluff over substance. Today's consumer is electronically bombarded with exaggerations of quality and value where, in fact, both are fast diminishing.
I believe our industry is descending down the same path that has led Detroit's big three into such difficulty. They had a captive domestic market for too long and became lazy. Detroit forgot the foundation: the buyer wants a good car, not a good advertisement!
Digression over, sorry, I had to put that bit in …
Swedish Jeweler was very successful and, in 1977 I sold my shares to my business partner, moving to Newport Beach California. I opened a store based on the Canadian model and named it Wyndham Leigh (my two middle names). While continuing to carry only ´architectural` designs, mostly by Swiss or German craftsmen, we made a strategic decision regarding diamond rings.
Now that the GIA ‘certificate’ had become dominant, instead of fighting its influence, we signed on with enthusiasm, becoming gemstone brokers. We changed our operational format to one where all diamonds over .75 carat came with the GIA cert and with radically reduced profit margins on the stone.
To achieve this, we built a very special relationship with our diamond cutter / dealer who, 30 years later, is still by far our most important diamond partner. He is also a very dear friend. It is this kind of cooperative relationship with trusted colleagues that makes this industry so unusual. It is still a business where a handshake is your bond. It is because of this trust that we’ve become successful diamond brokers.
30 years ago this combination of designer jewelery and GIA certified diamonds was very rare. The customer now made two purchases instead of one: a designer ring at fair retail and a stone they selected, loose, to set in that ring, at close to wholesale. This formula was immediately a winner and, in 1984, I semi-retired following a long-held dream to become a sculptor.
As one of my friends, Brian Harwood, predicted, I soon missed the action, so, in 1987, we opened Harwood & Moore in New York's Soho district. This company was built on a different paradigm than in the past, opening as a gallery, not a store. The difference?
It runs just like an art gallery; the designers display their jewelery under their own names and the gallery pays them as soon as it sells. It soon proved to be a winning cooperation and I will forever be beholden to these designers as it is their trust and beautiful work that has made Stuart Moore a successful jeweler.
In 1992 I became sole owner of Wyndham Leigh, changing its operations to the gallery model and the name of both it and the New York location to stuart moore.
In 1997 we opened our third gallery, in San Francisco, and it was an immediate success, almost as if the San Francisco customers had been waiting for us to open.
Today, stuart moore has become the nation's largest source in this (little) designer niche. Many luminaries of the modern jewelery design world have become permanent exhibitors at our galleries;
Henrich & Denzel, the best in classic-modern platinum,
Niessing, creator of the tension set ring,
Carl Dau, the best minimalist,
Ulla & Martin Kauffmann, incredible sculptors of gold,
Andre Ribeiro, rubber, no kidding, set with diamonds,
And Antonio Bernardo, bringing a little touch of ‘tango’,
to name but a few.
Attracted by this core group, many up-and-coming young designers stretch their budgets to show their work in our galleries and we are humbled by their faith in us to properly introduce them to the US market.
The format works; we've built a super team, from design through production, management and sales, in great locations. The future looks just as exciting. My son, Andrew, who started in the Newport Beach location in 1992, and opened San Francisco, is now my partner and managing director of the three galleries.
It is Andrew and his team who’ve been the creative force in bringing this website to fruition. It is their vision that will continue Stuart Moore’s development and growth which envisages about twenty galleries across the US and another five in key international cities, tied together by this website.
It's a delight for me to have been involved in this company's creation and, while enjoying my part-time role, I look forward to completely retiring over the next few years as, under Andrew's leadership, the company expands. Perhaps Stuart Moore will someday even become known as a small, specialist brand.
My hope for that retirement is to hold master classes, bringing in friends from the jewelery industry who helped me build Stuart Moore, to pass on their specialized knowledge to goldsmiths from around the world.
In this ‘Arts & Crafts Movement’ way, perhaps I can give a little back to the industry that has been so good to me, steering a little part of it away from the hype that’s starting to dominate.
Stuart Moore, August 2009.