Ulster Business

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Gardiner Brothers: a family firm with sights set on the future

As one of Northern Ireland’s top jewellers, Gardiner Brothers has had a multi-generational legacy at the heart of the industry in Belfast for more than 80 years. But it’s also turning its attention to growing its online business, while developing new bespoke products for customers, according to director Michael Warke


The Gardiner Brothers store at Waring Street in Belfast

The Gardiner Brothers store at Waring Street in Belfast

The Gardiner Brothers store at Waring Street in Belfast

Gardiner Brothers has been at the forefront of designing high-end jewellery in Belfast across four generations.

Located in the heart of the city for more than 80 years, the jeweller and gemologist remains one of the most respected, while embracing both new digital avenues, and new products – appealing to customers right across the globe.

“Gardiner Brothers was formed in 1937, and back then we started off as a watch parts company. That then evolved into us becoming a wholesale jewellers. Now we work across both retail and wholesale,” Michael Warke, director, said.

Samuel Gardiner began Gardiner Brothers by supplying spare parts to most of the working watch makers in Ireland.

The business has passed through four generations, and is now being run by brothers Michael and Philip Warke.

“Our main area of business is diamonds and gemstones,” Michael says. “We specialise in that, and engagement rings would be a hugely important part of our business.”

The grand Gardiner Brothers business has been based in the heart of Belfast city centre for more than eight decades – starting out at 12 Waring Street before moving to the firm’s current shop just a few doors down, close to The Merchant Hotel.

“We focus on making bespoke rings and jewellery for our customers,” Michael says. “But we remain very competitive against the competition, both in terms of price and the quality which we offer. That has helped to ensure our success over the last few years.”

And while the pandemic has impacted businesses here, Michael says Gardiner Brothers has remained busy. And the business is also seeing soaring sales online, with the company investing in its digital offering – reaching customers right across the globe.

“We are continuing to modernise and our website has been doing extremely well,” he says. “We are selling rings to a places as far afield as Australia and the US. There’s also a lot of business in GB.

“People are shopping more online and we can offer them a bespoke product at a great price.

“Since the middle of June we have been extremely busy and have been seeing people already ordering items for Christmas.

“People are more inclined to shop around and get more for their money. They are finding we are better quality than others and I think that’s why we are doing quite well at the moment.”

The company has also spent significant time and resources in developing a new cut of diamond, exclusive to Gardiner Brothers.

“The new Aurora is unique to us in Europe,” Michael says. “We taken on board a lot of science behind this – it’s a new cut which sparkles more than most other diamonds on the market.”

Gardiner Brothers offers its customers the ability to design a ring or piece of jewellery from scratch – shaping the process from start to finish.

“Customers come to us with the idea and help design it. We can then go through the CAD design process, and we have thousands of gems available.

“As trained gemologists, we can advise customers on the types, colours and cuts of stones available. It’s a unique product and truly made-to-measure. Anything that is possible, we can do.”

Michael says while Gardiner Brothers has a huge range in store, around 70% of its retail business is bespoke.

“That can be tailoring an item in stock, or starting from scratch. We can also modernise older pieces and restore them to their former glory.”

The team has now grown to 14, and includes its workshop, based elsewhere in the city.

Aside from its burgeoning retail offering, Gardiner Brothers continues to eye up opportunities with jewellers in England, including expanding the reach of its new Aurora diamonds.

“The traditional brilliant cut has been going strong for years, so we thought the new Aurora helped us modernise and stand out from the crowd.

“For us, I think it’s our price and quality that helps sell Gardiner Brothers. We are also a traditional family business which has now been running for four generations, and we make our own pieces.

“We have thousands of rings available in different styles, across different price ranges, sizes and types of gemstone – sourcing the highest quality stones.”

And Michael says the legacy of taking on a successful and highly respected family business puts an extra focus and weight behind ensuring the company grows and continues to be one of the leading jewellers here.

“For a family business, there is often more pressure to keep the values that we have had for more than 80 years – upholding and improving that level of customer service and quality.”

Ulster Business