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Image courtesy: Peter W Beck
Image courtesy: Peter W Beck

Laughter and legacy: a tribute to Peter W Beck

Australia lost a luminary of the jewellery industry on 6 December when Peter Beck passed away. While the word ‘legend’ is bandied around all too often these days, in Peter’s case it is more than fitting. 

 
Peter W Beck
1945 - 2021

GO STRAIGHT TO SECTION

• Friends of Peter W Beck: Industry tributes
• A life through pictures: Photos



Born in 1945, he came from humble beginnings as the son of Lorna and William Beck, and attended Norwood Boys Technical College – now known as Marryatville High School – and from an early age he showed a love of sport, playing Rugby Union as a halfback.

Peter loved fast cars, risky riding adventures on his motorbike, trips to trade shows and his dogs, however; the greatest of them all was his wife of 42 years Ann Beck, who sadly passed away before him in September, and with whom he started Peter W Beck Pty Ltd.

Like most characters, Peter had many memorable monikers: Becks, Becky, Pee Bee (PB), and to his closest mates, “not a golfer's arsehole”.

Before I’d even seen Peter, I heard him. Standing in Hong Kong’s famous Lan Kwai Fong laneway more than a decade ago, my eyes turned towards the roaring belly-laughter echoing from further up the hill.

An industry colleague forewarned me: ‘What you heard now is Peter Beck. He’s a bit famous.’

Little did I know how famous!

Wherever he went in the world, Peter was a charismatic Aussie industry icon and he did Australia proud. His unrestrained laughter would draw crowds and alert you to his arrival, but his warmth and integrity is what made you stay.

From the very first greeting to our very last, every coffee and conversation with Peter was memorable. Anyone who has spent time with him will have experienced a ‘laughter hangover’, from his comments that were laced with equal parts wisdom and wise-crack!

Peter was generous with his time, and despite a busy schedule, he’d always be present. He dedicated his life to building a business within the jewellery industry, for the jewellery industry.

No one could possibly doubt Peter’s loyalty; he was fierce in his defence of everything he cared for, especially his dedication to Australian manufacturing and serving the needs of the local trade.

"No one could possibly doubt Peter’s loyalty; he was fierce in his defence of everything he cared for, especially his dedication to Australian manufacturing and serving the needs of the local trade."

Peter had little tolerance for imported jewellery seeing it as a blight on the local industry. While some may regard this as ‘old-fashioned’, it further fuelled his mission. Imports were just another challenge to overcome, and challenges were what PB enjoyed most.

He was considered in everything he did. He chose carefully, and bravely, achieving many things in Australia before his competitors. He never lacked foresight or passion – traits that mark a true visionary.

Peter fell in love with the jewellery industry while starting his career at Engelhard Industries in Adelaide. When it closed in the 1970s, he and his close friend Don Kearvel split the markets that Engelhard had covered, with Don focusing on industrial aspects and Peter on his passion: precious metals.

Peter married Ann in 1979 and one evening proposed to her a simple plan: “We have $5,000 in the bank. We can either a) buy a block of land or b) we can start a business”.

We all look back on moments that appeared unimportant at that point in time, and decades later consider: “What if?”

More than 40 years later, it’s astounding to consider what the Australian jewellery industry would be like today if Ann and Peter had chosen a) to buy a block of land.

Where would we be today without their service and commitment? What would our industry look like if it had not been for Peter’s love of the Australian jewellery?

It is true to say that ‘legend’ does not adequately describe PB, given his contribution over the decades. Indeed, the tributes below demonstrate the profound effect he had on many people's lives.

Peter, you lived, you laughed and you loved. Your legacy and passion will continue to be a light unto our feet.

Vale Peter W Beck! 


– Angela Han

 

FRIENDS OF PETER W BECK

Late nights and early coffee


I think it is fair to say that Peter was a true legend of the Australian jewellery industry.

I don’t think there was ever an event that “PWB” was not sponsoring or was not represented at and that showed his passion and commitment to the industry.

Personally, I always had a huge amount of respect for Peter; it’s not an easy task to build a local manufacturing business and maintaining it for over 30 years.

As many of us did, I always enjoyed Peter’s company; we shared many an evening having a laugh (some very late ones too!) at different international events, to just simply catching up locally for a coffee.

These occasions will no longer feel the same.

Peters signature laugh and larger than life personality will be deeply missed.

Cheers Pete!

Mark McAskill
Mark McAskill Jewellery
 

Last to leave


Peter was the ultimate professional in our jewellery trade, and a true icon of our industry.

In addition to always being the best dressed in the room, and the last to leave a party, he always demonstrated an incredibly positive attitude in every situation. He had an ambitious approach with an industry knowledge that was unrivalled – clear qualities, which ensured his decades of success.

He will be greatly missed by all and we are thinking of his family during this time.

Phil Edwards
Duraflex Group Australia
 

Unique golfer


I first meet Peter back in the 1980s when the buying groups were pushing out the wholesale trade. We both were in the existing group and we debated a new buying group that was rapidly expanding across Australia. We joined the new group and, as a result, we became great mates.

Both being manufacturers and with many things in common, we could help each other’s business.

We always met up at the Basel, Bangkok and Hong Kong jewellery fairs and, at one show, we formed a golf group. That was 15 years ago, and that group still plays golf twice a year after the February and September Bangkok Jewellery Shows.

Peter was a very unique golfer who always seemed to finish last because he never took the game seriously. We used to play him off a 45 handicap and if he concentrated more on the golf rather than the caddies I’m sure could have improved.

But he was a legend and always laughed at himself, and had that beautiful smile. We will all miss him terribly as will the jewellery trade.

Ross Paterson
Paterson Fine Jewellery
 
Peter Beck nearly got me arrested!

A group of Aussies and Kiwis, who were in Italy attending the Vicenza jewellery fair, arranged to meet for dinner one night.

A booking was made at a small restaurant and 10 of us arrived around 8pm. I don’t remember what year it was, but it was January so the streets were empty and, although the restaurant had few patrons, we were seated outside in the chilly winter air.

It was a diverse group and as soon as the wine was ordered the jokes started. Once we ran out of South Australian jokes we moved on to the Kiwi gags, which was then followed by the South African jibes. It went on for a couple of hours and, as to be expected, with each new bottle of red, the jokes became funnier.

By around 10pm the restaurant was empty and the manager came to our table, and expecting to be told it was time to leave, he asked if we could be quieter because the people in the apartments above the restaurant were complaining.

We did our best, but after another bottle of red the Carabinieri arrived and, as they approached our table, the manager caught their attention and whisked them inside.

He quickly spoke to police and gave each a glass of wine. A few minutes later they began to leave and the manager came back to the table and said the people upstairs had called the Carabinieri. I said we had been much quieter and he replied, “Yes, but they are complaining about the man who is laughing too loud!”

Everyone turned to ‘Becks’, and what did he do? He let out an enormous laugh!

The Cops stopped, turned around, and before they could begin to walk back, the restaurant manager said something in Italian and they frowned and uttered something back, and left.

The manager said, “The Carabinieri will come back and arrest you if he keeps laughing, the people must sleep!”

It was time to leave anyway, so we paid the bill and all went back to our hotels.

Becks was incapable of laughing quietly, which drew everyone else into the fun, such was his way.

Although I launched Jeweller in 1996, I don’t recall when I first met Peter. However, I do clearly remember his big smile when we shook hands the first time we were introduced.

And for more than 20 years, come rain, hail or shine, that same smile and that boisterous laugh greeted me every time we met.

He would always comment on my last editorial saying, “I know to read it fully because the message is always at the end, like a punch line”.

So Pete, if you get to read this, here’s my last punch line: Thank you. For everything, even if you nearly put me in an Italian prison!

Coleby Nicholson
Former Publisher – Jeweller magazine
 
Help for young people

I was very fortunate to have known Peter since 1991, when he became one of the inaugural suppliers to Nationwide Jewellers. Peter was an icon of our industry – always professional, positive and constructive.

And he was generous in his support for industry events, and for young people starting out in the industry.

Colin Pocklington
Nationwide Jewellers
 
Truly enjoyed what he did

How do you write about someone like Peter Beck?

He was a true friend, liked and respected by all in the jewellery trade. He was proud of the company he started and built to be a leader in his field, and also rightfully proud that he manufactured in Australia.

In business, Peter was friendly and relaxed, but always professional. And it was so clear that he enjoyed what he did.

I always looked forward to meeting up with him at the various tradeshows. There was a fair bit of socialising at the end of the day, with lots of laughs and stories shared.

Great times and great memories, always!

Peter, I will miss you so much.

Ted Pevy
The Jewellery Centre
 
Always adapting

A pioneer, a real Australian, immersed in the success of the industry, fun and just a good bloke - that was Peter Beck!

His was a true Australian business that remained loyal to manufacturing and designing in Australia when many others shifted overseas.

Peter constantly worked on adapting his products and services and was leader in ensuring his company’s brand was professional and stood for out.

Always immaculately dressed, his laugh was a trademark and he always made time to chat to all.

Throughout the ups and down of business, I will most remember him for his tenacity of ‘never giving up’ and when pushed to the wall, he pushed back harder. He was always there to support the trade.

PW Beck is in a very elite group who supported the very first Australian Jewellery Fair more than 30 years ago, and has done so every year since.

Not content with just being ‘at the fair’, he made his mark with some of the best designed, and custom-built stands ever showcased at the Fair. He believed in the power of meeting and connecting personally with retailers, the trade and general industry.

Under the leadership of his family, I am sure the company will maintain the values and integrity that Peter established; being the Australian brand committed to quality, excellence and service that created the name and reputation so many now greatly respect.

Gary Fitz-Roy
Expertise Events
 
Peter’s horsepower

I met Peter through a friend around 20 years ago years ago and, over time, I would see him more at buying day events and tradeshows. Given we both lived in Adelaide, a friendship formed that evolved through being in the jewellery business together.

Conversations with Peter were interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. Then there was the big smile while he quietly listened and nodded.

Most people know that Peter loved his cars. After a funeral, we happened to be seated together at a wake. I mentioned the new Mustang, and how it seemed like an amazing new model. We chatted about it and then, all of a sudden, Peter declared that on Monday at 9 am we would meet at the Ford dealership and we would both order a new car.

The problem was that the pricing had not been announced and there was no delivery date, and we hadn’t even sat in one, but Peter was adamant: we were both ordering a new Mustang!

A few weeks went by and I received a call from Peter. He said there was a car show at the Wayville Show grounds and the Ford dealer he had been talking to said he would have a US, left-hand drive Mustang for us to see, and he could unofficially take orders for what would be a 12-month delivery.

So I agreed; we meet in the car park and like school kids we walked in together. I’ll never forget the smile on Peter’s face when we first saw – and inspected - the Mustang.

Because there was so much noise at the car show, the salesman said we should all get in the car to have a chat. He sat in the back leaning forward with his head between the two front seats where Peter and I were.

Peter and I started to talk about what colour we would buy and we agreed on Red. We then started to talk about the price.

I suggested we should make an offer as we were buying two cars at the same time, so we should get a good deal.

I mentioned a price so the salesman could hear and Peter replied, “Ken, I don’t think we could possibly buy them for that price, surely that is too low.” From the back seat we hear the excited salesman agree that it was too low, so Peter and I bantered back and forth trying to find a price we thought the salesman might accept.

The salesman sat there bemused trying to get a word in, interjecting eventually with “you’re price is close.”

We ‘played’ with the salesman a little more and then, in a very excited voice he said, “I can do that. I can sell two for that price!”

Peter looked over at me and said. “Well are we doing this? Are we really going to but Mustangs?”

“Yes”, I answered and and he extended his hand and we shook on the deal like we had just sold a Mustang to each other!

The smile on Peter’s face was huge; we placed the order, grabbed a coffee and chatted before he took off to work, even though it was a Saturday.

It was a memorable day, one of many with Peter that I will not forget.

The cars were delivered 11-months later and a few days apart.

Fast-forward four years and, without knowing it, we had each ordered new Mustangs again and this time both were grey. They were ordered one week apart and delivered a few days apart again.

I will miss our Mustang adventures and, most of all miss my Mustang Mate!

Ken Abbott
Time Supply
 
Relevant and progressive

Peter Beck was an unforgettable individual, genuine and encouraging with a strong commitment to the jewellery industry.

When I started Rohan Jewellers, Peter was one of the first to provide me with trade credit - a big deal at the time when you are starting out. He also encouraged me to visit the PW Beck factory and personally showed me through the business.

He gave me - this ‘new kid’ in the industry - his time and encouragement right from the beginning.

Driven by Peter, the PW Beck company has remained relevant and progressive, keeping up with worldwide trends in jewellery manufacturing and casting techniques.

It has been an honour to know Peter. Our thoughts are with his family and the PW Beck staff.

Rohan Milne
Rohan Jewellers
 
Life of the Party Peter

I only met Peter Beck a few times but immediately recognised him as a real gentleman who strived for perfection producing gold products.

Although he was dedicated to his work, I do remember him partying with us after an awards night in Kings Cross, well into the night and possibly to sunrise. That was 1996!

I am sure the business will continue, as he was a strong believer in passing on knowledge.

RIP Peter.

Alan Linney
Linneys Jewellery
 
Always a smile!

My first knowledge of Peter was at Norwood Boys Technical School. In 1962 he featured in the school magazine driving the school tractor/ mower on the main oval.

He was a talented scholar and chose to enter the jewellery industry. Peter worked at Engelhard Industries in Adelaide, a company that specialised in gold and precious metals for the jewellery trade and other industries.

Engelhard closed its jewellery business to focus on other industries. Peter then moved onto work as a jewellery tool importer and supplier and opened a jewellery supplies business in Stepney, and which progressed into gold and precious metals, as well as casting for the trade.

I had started a business in 1972 and, in 1976, I travelled to Europe in search of business ideas and to study jewellery manufacture and equipment. When I returned to Australia armed with latest brochures and instruction materials for making wedding rings, I gave them to Peter and Ann.

That was the start of Peter moving into wedding rings and other dress rings, along with precious metals, which are still manufactured to this day to world-class standards.

Over the years we both experienced business difficulties including major robberies, but Peter always smiled and continued to support me and the manufacturers and retailers in jewellery.

Peter was a fine and trustworthy gentleman, with the highest of ethics for business and people. Most of all I am proud to say he was my friend.

Bruce R Rosewarne
Heurs Jewellers
 
Hall of Fame

I had the pleasure to work alongside Peter during my tenure at Leading Edge and more recently at IJC. I also had the pleasure to work alongside Peter at the JAA for many years and he will be dearly missed.

I hold Peter in the highest regard - he is one of the jewellery industry icons and if we had a Hall of Fame - his name would be at the top, I’m sure.

For those that knew Peter, his smile was infectious, he was the life of the party and he always filled the room with his presence.

Combined with his clever wit and charm, he was a man that knew his craft, gave time and money to others in the trade and was always ready to assist when asked. He was a generous and he will be long remembered.

All my love to his family and his team at Peter W Beck - I am better for having had the opportunity to work alongside such a wonderful man.

Josh Zarb
Independent Jewellers’ Collective

 

A LIFE THROUGH PICTURES

 
Peter Beck launches Aussie-made wedding rings in 2007.
  
Peter and Ann with Greville at his graduation.


Peter and Ann with Greville in November 2019.


 
Peter in his earlier days bringing in machinery to boost local manufacture. 
 Peter (with his Buddy Holly glasses) and Ann in their younger days.
Peter and Ann at a gala dinner event.
 
   
Peter, his team and clients at the Adelaide head office. 
 
His love for things fast, red and sleek extended beyond Mustangs!
 Peter and Ted Pevy's friendship spanned many decades.
 
Ann and Pete share a candid moment at lunch.
 Peter Beck at IJF 2018
 
 
Peter Beck and Kery Kulow
 Ian Strout and Peter Beck
Peter and Ken earlier this year - March, 2021.
Peter and Ted Pevy with staff at a themed party.
Peter and his dream team at the office. 
Peter and his team at the 2018 International Jewellery Fair.
A moment with Peter's angels – daughters Carol and Jenni at the 2018 International Jewellery Fair.
Peter Beck and his team members on their stand at the 2019 International Jewellery Fair
And the secret cheeky side to Pete that made history!

 


















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