Meet James Docking of Rutherford in Camberwell
Article posted: December 12, 2017
For those seeking the finest quality pearls and antique jewellery, a visit to Rutherford in Camberwell is a must.
The jewellery store, located in the heartland of Burke Rd, has built a reputation for itself as a leading seller of pearls and antique jewellery.
Manager James Docking said his grandfather Bruce Rutherford started the business in 1952 in country town Yarrawonga before opening a store in Shepparton and going to London to work for prestigious auction house Sotheby’s.
The business later opened stores across Melbourne, including the Camberwell location which has been in the area since 2008.
James’ uncle and aunt, Wesley and Ruth, now own Rutherford and several family members also work for the business.
A passion for quality
Docking said his grandfather wanted to share what he was passionate about and starting the business allowed him to do so.
“He had such an extensive knowledge of antiques, and education was a big part of his passion. He was educating people about antiques, jewellery, furniture, about the periods, the rarity, how you can tell that something is old, what to look for (in antiques), the hallmarks and so on. He could basically pursue that how he liked in his own business,” he said.
It seems Rutherford may have been drawn to antique jewellery because of its uniqueness.
“He appreciated fine quality and rare valuables,” Docking said.
“When you are dealing with quality, something happens. You start to see the quality and enjoy it and appreciate it. We all grew up with an understanding that quality pays off, and when you have something that is crafted well, it is something that is going to have longevity.
“You come to appreciate quality when you think about the expert craftsman working with fine quality materials, who invests not only their passion but their knowledge and experience, and you have an outcome where these pieces are already 100 years old and they could safely be worn and enjoyed for 100 years to come.”
Another appeal of antique jewellery is also the sense that it has a story behind it; it has character, it’s had a past life and there’s history attached to it, Docking said.
Sometimes Rutherford gets a detailed report of the jewellery’s history, while at other times they don’t, so part of the intrigue with some antique pieces is imagining the story behind it.
“Antique jewellery is our passion. There’s something about antique jewellery; the way it was crafted, the uniqueness of it, the fact that they’re one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s a big part of our brand and it’s what we love to do,” Docking said.
Becoming a pearl specialist
By the mid-1990s, Rutherford became Melbourne’s first pearl specialist and the brand is now renowned for its pearl collection.
At the time, the pearl industry wasn’t what it is today – it was still evolving, Docking said. And Rutherford saw an opportunity to make it work.
“There was no pearl specialist store in Melbourne. Jewellers would not have had a lot of pearl jewellery in their collection,” Docking said.
“So, Rutherford took the tact of ‘let’s do pearls and do it seriously’. We travelled and started establishing relationships with the (pearl) farms directly. We jumped in the deep end with that… and that’s when the business established their first pearl specialist store.
“It is something that has worked really well for us. In fact, when most people think of Rutherford, they think of pearls.”
A focus on family values
Rutherford’s passion for the finest in antiques, jewellery and pearls have been passed down through the generations of his family and staff, and has created lasting relationships with people across the world.
And while there was no expectation or push that any family members get involved in the business, many of them have helped out in some capacity over the years, whether that be wrapping items at Christmas time or lending a hand for stocktake.
Docking said while the business was headed up by his uncle and aunt, several cousins and the third generation were also working for the family business.
“We’ve got a large family. We’re very close and we work together well,” he said.
“But the skillsets that we require to be specialists in so many different areas, and to have four stores and our online store all functioning very well, it goes well beyond just our family. We bring in people with particular expertise, whether that’s jewellers, gemmologists, diamond technologists, graphic designers, the whole gamut, to make sure we’re well rounded.”
Docking said the Rutherford family values were important to the business, and have been passed on in the way they run their stores and how they treat their customers, keeping that closeness and making people feel part of the family.
“It’s just who we are. We want to have integrity in our lives, and family is important to us, so that translates to our business as well,” he said.
“We stand by the golden rule that we treat others as we would like to be treated – and to us that means providing high quality (products), providing the service that people would expect from our brand, but providing it in a comfortable, friendly and high-service way.”
Visit the store
797 Burke Road, Camberwell
Phone: (03) 9882 4686.