Now & Then – Abrecht Bird Jewellers
|We recently featured in industry based magazine – Jeweller Magazine, outlining our long standing history. It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our business as one of the longest standing jewellers in Melbourne. Read Leon Corn’s article below.|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leon Corn is co-director of Abrecht Bird Jewellers, one of Melbourne’s most prestigious jewellery businesses with a history dating back more than 145 years.
Beginning as two separate family businesses in Melbourne, the origin of Abrecht Bird Jewellers dates back to 15 December 1875 when, as a 17-year old, Friedrich Robert Abrecht migrated from Pforzheim, Germany to Melbourne and founded jewellery manufacturing business Fred Robt Abrecht.
L to R: : Fred Robt Abrecht’s founder Friedrich Robert Abrecht, who immigrated to Melbourne from Pforzheim, Germany. J Bird & Sons founded by diamond setter John Bird.
Originally located in the City Chambers on the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets, the young Friedrich sold findings to local jewellery manufacturers – one of which was J Bird & Son. J Bird & Son was founded by Birmingham born diamond setter John Bird and his son Leigh in 1910, with premises on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets and then at 343 Little Collins Street. Friedrich Robert Abrecht passed away in 1913, two years after a devastating robbery at the office. His sons, Herbert Brisbane “Bris” Abrecht and Percy “Pop” Abrecht took over and switched the focus to the importation of diamonds and gemstones as well as the manufacture of fine jewellery. During the Great Depression, Fred Robt. Abrecht quietly moved into jewellery retail when it acquired the failing Dumbrells Jewellers on Bourke Street. Fred Robt. Abrecht and J Bird & Son enjoyed success throughout the first half of the 20th Century, expanding interstate and building their reputations for high-quality design and jewellery manufacture – both with customers and the jewellery industry alike. Both businesses were awarded the Lord Mayor’s Generational Family Business Commendation, which is given to businesses which have employed three or more generations of a family. In late 1991, a serendipitous meeting occurred between John Bird’s grandson David Bird and myself, Leon Corn, son-inlaw of Friedrich Abrecht’s grandson Noel Abrecht. David had come to collect a job, to find that Fred Robt Abrecht was on the verge of closure after 117 years in business.
Peter, the fourth generation of the Bird family to take over the J Bird & Son business, with his father David (featured in an article in ‘The Age’).
David introduced me to his son, Peter Bird, and the two businesses successfully merged to form Abrecht Jewellers, renamed Abrecht Bird Jewellers in 2007. After ceasing trade work, Abrecht Bird has focused on individual handmaking for private clients, employing a staff of seven – three jewellers and four in administration. More recently, a gallery has been developed to showcase the awards and artistic talents of the workshop jewellers: Greg John, who joined the business as a partner in 2000 and was previously workshop manager at Fred Robt Abrecht, Eleanor Hawke, and Yuki Mathwin. Having experienced one of the toughest years in over a century in 2020, myself, Peter, and the Abrecht Bird staff have come through without too much of a downturn, thanks in part to the government assistance and to the clever use of social media. For most of the year the office was closed, but the email list saved the day.
The Abrecht Bird Jewellers team today – (L-R) Greg John, Yuki Mathwin, Stephanie Tkalcevic, Eleanor Hawke, Kylie Beachley, Peter Bird and Leon Corn.
The 145-year history of the business has created a wealth of experience in producing high-quality jewellery as well as completing challenging repair work. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to uphold the traditions of our founders and their successors, and at the same time realise how important it is to keep up to date with the latest trends in fashion and marketing. Quality products, ethical business practices and loyal hard-working staff are at the heart of Abrecht Bird Jewellers. This gives customers the confidence to continue to place their loyalty and trust in such an experienced organisation – and when it comes to jewellery, trust is paramount. To quote the first words imparted to me from my father-in-law Noel: “The customer’s jewellery is one of their most precious possessions which they are leaving in your care – always remember that son.” Succession plans are always in Peter’s thoughts as he approaches his 70th birthday, and some discussions have been undertaken to explore the options. Hopefully, the Abrecht and Bird names will live on, perhaps without any family involvement, but continuing in the same tradition as the past 146 years.
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