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Ottawa necklace by Lissa Bowie. Photo by Abby Fitzhugh.

Lovingly local: Magpie Jewellery celebrates 25 years in Ottawa

By Samantha Richarz on March 2, 2017

This past Saturday, February 25th, Magpie Jewellery celebrated their 25th anniversary. Apartment613 swung by one of the events happening at Magpie’s Westboro location to chat with co-owner and founder Martin Wright about Magpie’s continuing legacy of accessibility, custom work, and their approach to being “lovingly local.”

Wright’s fascination with jewellery began when he found himself drawn to the glamour of his godmother’s jewellery—bright yellow gold, cabochon cut gems. Their beauty stuck with him.

Magpie Jewellery founder Martin Wright with Fran Miles of Open Fire Jewellery. Photo by Samantha Richarz.

Magpie Jewellery co-owners Martin Wright and Erin Wright. Photo by Abby Fitzhugh.

So, when Martin found himself at 20-years-old, lost and without a plan for the future, he—like many other twentysomethings—hopped a plane to Los Angeles. However, Wright’s dream was not to become a famous actor. His dream was to become a gemologist. He quickly enrolled in GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, and returned to Canada a certified gemologist.

He became a jeweller and worked for several years at a popular Canadian jewellery chain, travelling the world and appraising. However, it quickly became clear to Wright that he wanted to open a shop of his own. More importantly, his time at the Canadian chain had outlined everything he wanted to change about the jewellery business: “When I was there, I saw all the things I wanted to change—accessibility, for one. Those jewellery stores would never show you the prices. I didn’t want people to be made a fool of, being afraid to ask: is this ring 50 dollars, or 500 dollars? That whole thing with jewellery, it’s not for you if you’re young, if you’re not rich. I wanted to get rid of the whole status thing.”

Magpie came to represent a space where women could swing by and pick up something special for themselves on a Tuesday, or a Friday, to be worn everyday.

Magpie now represents the physical embodiment of those changes, with its focus on accessibility, custom work, and a passion for showcasing local, Canadian jewellers. Instead of being the man’s sphere, where one only entered to purchase jewellery for special occasions, Magpie came to represent a space where women could swing by and pick up something special for themselves on a Tuesday, or a Friday, to be worn everyday. “That really helped put the wind in our sails,” says Wright.

Magpie also offers its own custom line of jewellery, and has certified goldsmiths and gemologists at their disposal to restore and refurbish old jewellery. Wright loves the process of restoring old pieces: “Pieces like that, we just pass them on. They aren’t really ours. We don’t have to change them. We can reset all the stones, strengthen them. Or, you can melt it all down and put it into a new ring. Diamonds and gold last, that’s the beauty of them. So much of that is just sitting in boxes. We don’t need a new mine. We can recut, reuse, and preserve that history.”

Magpie also represents a central hub for local jewellers to showcase their work to a much wider audience, and offers a degree of financial stability not often available to an independent artisan. One Ottawa-based jeweller at Saturday’s event, Alyssa Spaxman of Strut Jewelry, emphasized how important Magpie has been in the growth of her business: “Magpie’s changed my life, and allowed me to grow as a designer and as a business. I’m so grateful for them!”

Spaxman stood alongside several Ottawa-based jewellers showcased during Saturday’s celebrations, a local touch that Wright wanted to showcase at the events held across all three of Magpie’s locations. Being known of as “lovingly local” is something that is important to Martin Wright and his co-founder and wife, Erin Wright, and it is something that Magpie hopes to continue to support for another 25 years.