From bamboo-lined shops in Cambodia, to the remote shores of Newfoundland, Impeccable Jewellery's designer, Brad Leith, has traveled far and wide buying and selling the finest gems, which he now displays in Downtown Duncan.
December marks six years of business in Downtown Duncan for Impeccable Jewellery, a downtown jewellery store that does custom made-to-orders using computer-aided design software, as well as estate resale and original designs by Brad Leith.
The story behind this gem of an opeation began on the road in 2007, however.
In the early days of his business, Brad traveled coast to coast, from Duncan to Newfoundland, selling his jewellery at various events and markets.
"It took a toll on me, being on the road," Brad acknowledges as he recalls the challenges presented by places like the snowy streets of Thunder Bay.
Having settled into a storefront at the corner of Kenneth Street and Craig Street, Brad is excited to share with his customers everything he has taught himself about gems since he left the technology business for jewellery.
"When we sell people diamonds, it is an educational experience. You don't want to overload customers with information, but they'll come back and learn more each time," Brad explains while demonstrating how to test for lab-made and natural diamonds.
When he isn't sorting diamonds, or giving accounts of gem shows overseas, Brad might also spare a detail or two about interesting estate jewels on hand, including, once, a piece owned by Hemingway's daughter and today, a 1920s diamond set in platinum. Vintage watches by Rolex and Tudor, strings of pearl, and other marquee brands abound as well.
Such intriguing finds are easily rivalled, however, by the pieces designed by Brad that are made of fossils, meteorite and volcanic Moldavite.
"I design to the stone," Brad says. "The difference between big jewellery business and my concept is that they make the designer the star. Vera Wang, Cartier, they have designs to begin, but for me, I work from the stone, natural stone, like Chinese Picture Jasper. I make the finished piece the star, because every one of our creations is unique."
Brad uses natural stone because no one else does, and he loves the look and differences of natural semi-precious stones.
Impeccable Jewellery's Manager, Tammy, is also knowledgeable about the gems on site, describing the energetic effects of stones like Emerald, Aventurine, and Moldavite. She wears Aventurine and Emerald together when she feels a cold coming on, and Moldavite when she needs energy. She says some people even get a "Moldavite flush" when they wear the stone, and feel overheated.
As an M.B.A accredited by Queen's University, Brad has advice for anyone looking to open up shop in Downtown Duncan. He says that while his background is in big business, a lot of the same systems can be applied to small business too, with some modifications.
First and foremost, offer good service. "People like personality," Brad notes.
Also important: "understand your demographic. Ours is 45-85, and though we've been trying to do more wedding and engagement stuff, and we do a lot of repairs, we know and push to our demographic, the 45+."
Brad also says successful businesses know their competition. "We go into other stores and find out what we like and do not like about other jewellry stores. We ask, what is he doing that we are not, and what are we doing that others aren't?"
Openness to new tricks of the trade has led Brad to far corners of the world in search of that perfect diamond, shell, or semi-precious stone.
Despite his travels to far-flung locales like Greece and India, he loves Downtown Duncan, noting that "just roaming the streets is an adventure," especially for a shopaholic.
"The chocolate shops are great, the tea shop is great... You can find all these items you might find in a large format mall, but the stores are not chains, they're small businesses full of personality," Brad observes. As much of his clientele visits from Victoria and Nanaimo, he hears regularly how much visitors love exploring Downtown Duncan for something different.
In other words, Downtown Duncan is a destination to Brad the Adventurer, a destination as good as any other. Come visit, and don't forget to swoon over the precious and semi-precious stones at Impeccable Jewellery! Maybe Brad will even tell you about that time he found a shell in Cambodia....