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Oldest Jewellers in Australia

The extended Parker family in 1903 – Robert H Parker (centre right) with Henry ‘Getty’ Parker (top left) and Robert Jr ‘Bert’ Parker (bottom far right).
The extended Parker family in 1903 – Robert H Parker (centre right) with Henry ‘Getty’ Parker (top left) and Robert Jr ‘Bert’ Parker (bottom far right).

Now & Then: Robert H Parker & Sons

Jeweller takes a closer look at the history of Robert H Parker & Sons with Andrew Walsh, director, as it turns 146 this year.

FOUNDED BY Robert Henry Parker





Robert Henry Parker was born and trained as a jeweller in Adelaide, South Australia. After moving to Melbourne in 1875, he established his jewellery manufacturing business at 5 Regent Street in the inner-city suburb of North Richmond.

He was very involved with the Manufacturing Jewellers Association (MJA) and registered his hallmark – a bell with the tongue showing – in 1903.

He was also on the government wages board and member of executive, being a strong advocate for fair wages, and a founding member of the Jewellers and Silversmiths Association of Australia.

In 1900, Parker moved his business into the fledgling Melbourne CBD, to Post Office Place off Elizabeth Street.

However, with the workforce swelling to 60 people, he relocated a second time to 84–86 Elizabeth Street above retail jewellery store Newmans Jewellers.

Robert H Parker & Sons Jewellers did manufacturing and repair work almost exclusively for Newmans at this time.

Upon Robert Henry Parker’s death in 1933, his sons Henry ‘Getty’ Parker and Robert Jr ‘Bert’ Parker took over the business and moved the premises once more, to Little Collins Street.

A few short years later, World War II began and the workshop – like many others – ceased normal trading as employees were drafted into the war effort.

Getty and Bert remained in the workshop and an Army engineer officer trained them in the manufacture and assembly of altimeters for bomber aircraft.

After the war ended in 1945, Robert H Parker & Sons Jewellers returned to wholesale jewellery manufacturing and repairs.

Unfortunately, the business could not regain its earlier work capacity, with the number of employees reduced to between two and four at any one time.

In 1952, James V Durkin was taken on by an apprentice and trained by the Parkers; 14 years later, when the brothers retired, Durkin purchased the business from them.

History would repeat again in 1970 when I, Andrew Walsh, joined the business as an apprentice.

I had finished an Arts degree and jewellery design and manufacture felt like a natural progression from that.

We moved to the Swanston Street premises three years after I started, which is still where we are based today.

In 1984, James V Durkin passed away and I took over the business from him. There have been several challenges throughout my tenure as director.

These include managing the finances of a small business, and navigating the fine balance of being price-competitive while supplying a high-quality product.

When I took control of Robert H Parker & Sons, I decided I wanted to move even more towards the retail end of the jewellery industry.

We retained only a handful of trade clients at that point.

Then, over the past 30 years, we continued to concentrate on retail and eventually became a retail-only business.

That is how the business is still run today, focusing on strong relationships and producing personalised, one-off pieces to suit each customer.

I think in any successful business you have to care for, and strive for, total customer satisfaction, especially in something as personal as jewellery.

Together with long-term reliability and service, that is what builds relationships with customers that last generations.

My most memorable experience working at Robert H Parker & Sons is not just one event – it is being part of Melbourne’s jewellery fraternity, and the delight in making my customer’s dreams come true.

It certainly is an absolute privilege to be a part of a long history with such a respected business.

There will always be a niche market for the personal, individual, handmade custom pieces, repairs and restorations – and with our very high customer service standards, I am sure we will be around for the next 100 years!



Above: Andrew Walsh, director
Left: Registration of Hallmarks from the MJA 1903

Left: Invoice to Robert Parker in 1800s


Left: Inside the Robert H Parker & Sons store on Swanston Street in the Melbourne CBD.


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