Real gem of a career

Diamonds are forever... van de Water Jewellers owners Ivan and Miriam van de Water have sold the business they have owned for 38 years and are moving to Wanaka to live. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

Is it surprising that as well as diamonds being a girl’s best friend, the gems are also Ivan van de Water’s favourite?

However, after 38 years of owning van de Water Jewellers, he and wife Miriam will say goodbye to the glittering rows of gems for sale in their shop.

The couple have sold the business to Megan and Brad Lamb, of Gore, who will take over on Friday.

Mr van de Water said one of the highlights of his career had been working with diamonds.

“The more you learn about them, the more there is to see and also the pleasure people get from them,” he said.

He greatly admired the hardest of gems.

“If you have a diamond that’s 10 years old or a 100 years old, it is exactly the same.

“They never wear out.”

He had travelled to Antwerp since 2001 to buy diamonds in the market there.

“It’s been been going for hundreds of years and that would probably be the highlight of my jewellery time.

“It’s a real privilege and an honour and very exciting.”

Joining the Nationwide Jewellers chain in 1993 allowed him to buy diamonds at the market which was by invitation only.

On some of the trips Mrs van de Water accompanied him and afterwards the couple visited family nearby in the Netherlands.

The couple grew up in Gore and attended St Peter’s College.

After Mr van de Water left school he went to work for Roy and Elaine Burgess who then owned the jewellery shop.

He worked there for two years and in 1978, with the aim of saving capital to buy the jewellery business, he went to work for a building firm in Dunedin.

In 1980, when the couple were married, Mr van de Water worked at the paper mill and tannery in Mataura.

“I got paid twice what I was getting here, so it gave us the opportunity to work hard to get the money to buy it, so I do know what hard work is like,” Mr van de Water said.

“We knew in 1980 we had the opportunity to buy it but we needed the dosh to do that,” Mrs van de Water said.

Mr van de Water returned to work for the Burgesses in 1982 and the couple took over the business in 1983.

They enjoyed living in Gore.

“It’s been a great town to do business in.

“It’s a very progressive community with a great future.

“Our success is based on the support of the community,” he said.

“A lot of people bag Gore for being a small rural town but we just think it’s a lovely place,” she said.

Selling jewellery was a “beautiful trade”, Mr van de Water said.

“You’re dealing with beautiful things and one of the highlights is that you are part of very special times in people’s lives and that’s a real honour.”

Like their customers, the couple also celebrated special occasions with jewellery.

Mr van de Water gave his wife a tanzanite and diamond necklace to celebrate 30 years in business.

He bought the gem in Thailand and had the necklace made in New Zealand.

“It stood out to me as something really special.

“That’s a favourite piece of jewellery.”

The business had been fortunate to have good staff .

“It’s always been a really happy team here.”

The couple will move to Wanaka where their daughter lives.

“We feel the time is right while the business is in good health and we are in good health,” he said.

It might take them a while to adjust to life without the responsibility of a business to run.

“We’ve both done this together all our lives and now we are going to be free to pursue our own hobbies and interests,” she said.