JANICE BREEN BURNS July 10, 2012
Mandy Catanach inspects a piece of pre-loved jewellery. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
IN THE velvet-lined jewellery boxes of Melbourne's upper-crust suburbs, a trove of unloved trinkets is gathering dust. Amanda Catanach, fifth-generation manager of Catanach's (pronounced Cat-an-arh) jewellers, says the bling is abandoned for not being pretty any more and, for reasons equally to do with money and love, she wants to save them.
''They're family heirlooms, most of them,'' she explains, ''An amazing lot inherited from great-aunts. But, now they're old, clunky, unfashionable, or just haven't any real artistic value.''
Catanach's modern solution to this antique dilemma is a makeover. And, she's running workshops in her elegant Armadale store to coax the ugly Victorian, hideous Edwardian and ''daggy'' 20th-century jewels out of their velvet oblivion.
''The royal family has been changing their jewellery forever,'' she says. ''It's really nothing new.'' She says Princess Diana's pearl chokers, for example, were remodelled from treasures out of Queen Mary's jewel box. ''We get a lot of pearls coming in with that daggy, matinee length and a funny old clasp,'' she says. ''We redo them and there, you've got something you can actually wear now, every day.''
Catanach (below) invites up to 10 women to her workshops. They arrive with unloved and unworn heirlooms and she sets about carefully sketching new designs.
She shows how one Edwardian brooch, for example, embedded with sapphires and paved with diamonds, can be broken up and reset by Catanach's veteran jewellers, into an impressive modern ring for about $2500. ''That might sound a lot to some people, but it's instead of spending $15,000 on a new one,'' she says. ''And, it's still jewellery that's in the family …''
Catanach isn't coy about why she's coaxing a clean-out of Toorak and Malvern glory boxes. ''Retail's been impacted in every sector,'' she says. ''But, we've been around since 1874 …'' In 130 years, even the odd war, Depression, recession and GFC, hasn't conquered the Catanach dynasty yet.