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Oldest Jewellers in Australia














Desmond and Deborah Stapleton outside the renamed Offe’s Hourglass Jewellers.
Desmond and Deborah Stapleton outside the renamed Offe’s Hourglass Jewellers.

Now & Then: Offe Jewellers

Jeweller takes a closer look at the history of Offe Jewellers with Jennifer Burch, managing director, as it turns 96 this year.

FOUNDED BY William “Bill” Offe
ESTABLISHED 1925
LOCATION Murray Bridge, Mount Barker and Berri, SA

» VISIT OFFE JEWELLERS
» VIEW PHOTOS: FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM 

 

After World War I, William “Bill” Offe returned to South Australia from France, only to discover his family farm could no longer support him or his siblings.

So, Bill entered a watchmaking apprenticeship with Keightly Jewellers in Angaston, in the Barossa Valley.

Following his apprenticeship, Bill opened a business in the town of Renmark and then later expanded to Berri; however, times became tough as one of the region’s biggest employers, the Hume Pipe Company, closed.

Undeterred, Bill and his wife Lilian decided to move ‘down river’ to the growing town of Murray Bridge, where they opened a small store, Offe Jewellers, in the newly complete Ruges Arcade.

Over time, Bill expanded the store into china and giftware – but there were more challenges on the horizon.

The years of World War II were difficult for many jewellery and watchmaking businesses throughout Australia.

Importing goods became almost impossible, alarm clocks and watches were sold on a priority basis to essential services, and gold and jewellery were strictly rationed as luxuries.

Still, Offe Jewellers survived, and a glassware section was added; Bill’s son Ian – a qualified gemmologist – then joined the business.

After Bill passed away in the 1960s, Ian took over and worked alongside his mother to keep Offe Jewellers thriving. They celebrated the store’s 50th anniversary in 1975 with extensive renovations to the jewellery section, as well as modernised entrances coinciding with wider alterations to the Ruges Arcade building.

In the early 1990s, the Offes sold the business to jewellery industry veteran Desmond “Des” Stapleton and his wife Deborah, who rebranded the store as Offe’s Hourglass Jewellers.

Des had started in the industry in 1962 as a messenger boy for a jewellery supplier and went on to establish his own business importing jewellery from Europe. The decision to move into retail was motivated by his desire to reduce his travel commitments and spend more time with his family.

A new era of expansion took place when Des decided to open a second location; he approached Mt Barker Jewellers owner and manufacturing jeweller Michael Vivian about a partnership, and together they opened a new, larger store named Hourglass Jewellers Mt Barker.

Having worked to re-establish the wholesale part of the family business while studying at university, I joined Offe Jewellers full-time in the early 2000s after completing my degree.

While my focus was on wholesale and buying, my brother Damien came in to support our father as retail manager of the Murray Bridge store. My other brother Michael also joined the business supporting me within the wholesale arm.

One of the toughest times came in 2002, when a devastating fire destroyed the Murray Bridge store – forcing the historic building to be demolished. It took two years to rebuild, throughout which Offe Hourglass Jewellers operated from a temporary location.

Thankfully, we were able to return to our corner site once the rebuild was complete, and a stunning, modern new store rose from the ashes.

In the following years, Michael Vivian’s daughter Ellie joined him at the Mount Barker store, bringing another generation into the business. We also joined the Leading Edge Group Jewellers buying group, which led to our being approached to open a third store in Berri.

This was particularly poignant, as Bill Offe’s first business had a store in Berri. Damien re-located there to oversee the new store.

After taking over the business from our parents, we rebranded back to our original name – Offe Jewellers – in 2018 and the original Murray Bridge store moved to 24 Bridge Street with a new workshop.

The Mount Barker and Berri stores have also recently undergone refurbishments to create beautiful, contemporary retail spaces.

The future of Offe Jewellers will focus on manufacturing and repairs, as well as offering a broad range of fine and branded jewellery and watches. We have also placed great emphasis on e-commerce, allowing our customers to browse both online and in-store.

With our experienced family team, we look to continue the Offe Jewellers legacy for many years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM

Above: Ian Offe, son of founder William 'Bill' Offe, joined the business in 1953 and was its managing director from the 1960s to 1992. Image credit: Mr AB Schubert.


Left: A devastating fire destroyed the historic Murray Bridge store in 2002.

 

Left: Newspaper clipping celebrating Offe Jewellers' 60th anniversary in 1985.



Above: Jennifer Burch, managing director.

Left: Newspaper clipping celebrating the 70th anniversary of the business, which had been renamed Offe's Hourglass Jewellers, in 1995.

 

Left: An original Offe Jewellers receipt from 1938.
Left: The newly-renovated Mount Barker store, located at Mount Barker Central Shopping Centre.
Left: Interior of the Mount Barker store – one of three current Offe Jewellers locations.
Left: The original Offe Jewellers in Murray Bridge moved to its present location (pictured) on Bridge Street in 2018.
Left: Interior of the current Murray Bridge store.
From left to right: Michael Stapleton, Jennifer Burch, Ellie Vivian, and Damien Stapleton.
Left: The current Offe Jewellers Berri store, located inside the Riverland shopping centre.

 











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