When Virtue Dalgleish named the business in 1919 he couldn’t have known how long it would endure and the wealth of changes it would see.
In the early years, watches and spectacles were the mainstay of his trade (Virtue trained as a watchmaker when he returned from World War I). The time between the two World Wars (and during the depression that followed the Second World War) was an uncertain and frugal period in New Zealand history – there simply wasn’t much call for the kind of fine jewellery Dalgleish Diamonds would go on to become synonymous for.
While many struggled to keep businesses afloat, Virtue Dalgleish’s original store (located at 85 Devon Street West, the current site of Koi restaurant) flourished.
By the time Virtue passed away in 1951 and the business passed to his only son Ian, the Dalgleish name and reputation was firmly established throughout the region.
Despite being a trained accountant, Ian and his new wife Betty had a real passion for the business and under their stewardship it continued to grow, expanding to sell Silverware, Fine China and other wedding gifts, and of course, more and more jewellery.
By the 1960s Virtue’s original store was too small for the thriving business. Betty spied a small advertisement in a jewellery magazine from Omega offering to help jewellery store owners wanting to expand. She contacted them and in 1967, after substantial renovations to the original shop, Ian and Betty re-opened what was then New Zealand’s largest and most modern jewellery store.
After more than 70 years as a family-owned business, Ian and Betty made the difficult decision to sell the store. In 1992 new owners Gary and Heather Hutchings took over – keeping the Dalgleish name. In 1996 they moved the store to its current site at 7 Devon Street West, becoming part of what was then the bustling Devon Street Mall.
At that time, Bill was living in London. He had forged a career as a master jeweller and goldsmith working for some of the best manufacturers in New Zealand and abroad. He was making high-end jewellery in a London workshop contracted to Crown Jeweller Garrad – it was about as far away from the Southland farm Bill grew up on as anyone could imagine!
But fate is a funny thing. After separate overseas jaunts, Bill and I both returned to New Zealand and settled in Wellington – where we eventually met and started our life together and our family. The home-based workshop Bill created, while also working as a jeweller in one of the city’s best jewellery manufacturers, was gaining serious momentum. It wasn’t uncommon for Bill to do 40 hours at work and another 40 in his workshop as demand for his pieces grew. Something had to change.
During a family visit to my hometown in 2005 Bill spied a tiny ad in the Taranaki Daily News for a jewellery business for sale. As a born and bred local lass I told him that there was only one name that I’d be interested in – wouldn’t you know it; the name was the same. Dalgleish.
When we took over the reins, Bill and I knew we had to absolutely carry on – not only the Dalgleish name – but their commitment to excellence, their reputation for down-to-earth family values and their strong customer focus. However, Bill’s passion for creating fine jewellery meant we also wanted to ramp up the manufacturing side of the operation – working with our customers to create unique pieces of the highest quality bespoke jewellery.
Fourteen years after seeing that initial For Sale ad here we are. Celebrating a century being part of a wonderful community, investing in the best and brightest people and technology in our quest to capture perfection in every piece, and looking forward to stunning our customers with the world’s brightest diamond.