Jeweller Grant Partridge on 45 years in the family business, his passion for the craft and the question of succession

Few businesses in New Zealand can claim to have as prestigious a history as Partridge Jewellers. Family-operated since the 1800s, with the sixth generation now working in the business, it is a veritable dynasty —a fact that isn’t lost on its current leader, Grant Partridge.

Having worked in the family business since he was 16 years old, Partridge has brought a unique vision to its operations, working tirelessly to establish the Partridge name as inexorably entwined with the highest-quality jewels and jewellery designs in New Zealand. Under Partridge’s leadership, the business has grown in size and significance thanks to its exclusive relationship with some of the world’s most coveted luxury brands.

Here, Partridge discusses jewellery-making today, his father’s advice and the question of succession.

I officially started in the family business in 1976, I was 16 and fresh from high school. But really I started helping out much earlier, I grew up in the business, helping out during school holidays and on weekends.

You can’t help but feel proud to be part of something that has 156 years of history all with one family. I am the fifth generation and have three children who also work in and around the business. I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to take over what I see as such a legacy for my family. 

As I get older, the main drive of my place in the business is focused on setting it up for the generations to come so that they can be given the opportunity to have the same fulfilling and passion-filled career like I have had. It is amazing to see how we have taken the knowledge, expertise and craftsmanship of all the generations before us, and modernised them for today. My daughter is a jewellery designer, my son the assistant manager of our Wellington store, while my youngest son, who’s just turned 21, is learning his business skills at KPMG and will hopefully move into the business at some stage too.

People would be surprised to know how passionate I really am about jewellery. I have a long-standing love affair with coloured stones and diamonds. Even after 45 years in the business, I spend my weekends in the office going through all of the individual stones, much like I did when I started out. The pleasure I gain from the stones and the end design is what continues to motivate me today. 

Jewellery making is very rewarding. Imagining the design through to the finished creation is so satisfying, particularly when you see the emotion it brings the eventual recipient. Knowing that we are giving people something they can treasure for a lifetime is an amazing feeling and something I am so fortunate to be part of. At the end of the day, the most rewarding part of the job is the knowledge that each piece means something so different and unique to every person.

I’d like to learn how to slow down. I am so passionate about our business that it totally consumes me, it is my job, my passion as well as the fulfilment of my dreams.

My father always said “Don’t put off until tomorrow something you could do today”, and I really live by this. I carry notebooks filled with To Do lists that I am forever trying to tick off. 

I think that the generations before me would be proud of what the company has become in all aspects of our business, from the craftsmanship we uphold to the brands we carry.

I secured the Rolex agency in 1987 for our Wellington store. Then we opened our Queen Street boutique and secured brands such as Cartier and Patek Philippe. We also became the only Argyle Pink Diamond dealer as well as the exclusive representative for De Beers with their Forevermark brand. The significance of these brands changed the perception of our business immediately. I find the watch industry so inspiring, having the influence of so many international experts in their field helps me with my vision. I definitely have a lot of pride that some of the world’s most exclusive watch brands chose to partner with Partridge Jewellers in New Zealand.

My parents always worked hard. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than I ever dreamed of, and something that I will always be able to look back on with pride.

I love browsing through watch and jewellery stores overseas. I have many memories with my own children, making them stop on our family holidays to look at the latest designs in my favourite boutiques. I am sure this is one thing they will remember forever, and no doubt plays into the passion for the craft I am seeing in them as they grow up.

Running a business alone can be daunting, but knowing that I have my entire family of over 85 staff in full support of my decisions is so important to my confidence in leadership.

My father was the most influential person in my life. He was a great role model, a tough taskmaster, a very hard worker and always fair, generous and kind in so many ways.

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