Find world class jewelry right here in Manayunk.
By Leksey Maltzman
Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
In 2005, Brad Wilson was studying masonry in tech school when he started buying and reselling costume jewelry to make some extra money on the side.
“I would buy a box of jewelry and piece it out on Ebay for $5, $10, or $20 a piece,” Brad said. “Eventually, that led me to buying gold and diamonds.”
The more jewelry Brad purchased and sold, the more he learned about their value and history.
“As time went by, I started to handle more variety and styles of jewelry,” Brad said. “I kept increasing the level and volume of merchandise.”
The business took off and after two years Brad was able to quit his job and pursue his own business, Wilson’s Estate Jewelry, full time.
“As for formal qualifications, I don’t have any,” Brad laughed. “Just a shopping problem!”
Like Brad, Wilson’s Estate Jewelry co-owner, Josh Kirby, did not have a background in jewelry or gemology when he started working with Brad on trade shows. Josh’s background is in hospitality, but he is currently taking classes about colored stones at Gübelin, a Swiss laboratory. When he isn’t studying out of the country, Josh handles the social media and website for Wilson’s Estate Jewelers.
“For the past four years I’ve been studying in Switzerland and Hong Kong,” Josh said. “I learned marketing on my own through trial and error.”
They also hired professional gemologists to help identify stones, ensure everything is up to quality standards, and assist in pricing each piece.
The business side of estate jewelry, was also something Josh and Brad learned on the job.
“Once you have your money into it, you learn from your mistakes quickly,” Josh explained. “If something doesn’t sell, or it sells for a lower price than you paid for it, you learn your lesson.”
Thankfully, Brad has a rich background in the wholesale side of estate jewelry. His strong relationships with dealers allows Wilson’s Estate Jewelry to offer the best prices for their customers.
If you are not familiar with the estate jewelry business, dealers are the people who help individuals liquidate their jewelry, stones, and gold. The dealers sell the jewelry to wholesalers who markup the price and sell the jewelry to the next wholesaler or a retailer. The more steps the jewelry takes between the dealer and the customer, the higher the price will be. Since Brad has cultivated relationships with dealers for the past 14 years, he is able to purchase the jewelry directly from them without the wholesale markups, and therefore can resell the pieces to Wilson’s Estate Jewelry customers for a lower price than their competitors.
“A lot of our clients have done their homework, looked on different sites, and eventually come back to us because we are very competitive with our prices,” Brad explained.
The customers and dealers of Wilson’s Estate Jewelers are from all around the world, which is why most of their business is done online and over the phone.
“A lot of things are bought by pictures, emails, and texts,” Brad said.
“These days with technology, you can have the piece from Australia in a couple of days,” said Josh. “If it’s in the U.S., you can have the piece tomorrow.”
The jewelry at Wilson’s Estate Jewelers ranges in price, style, and date. About half of their pieces are over 100 years old, but they also have styles from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Over time, jewelry can break or become worn, which is why Wilson’s Estate Jewelers avoids buying pieces that need significant repairs.
“Probably one out of every ten pieces is in sellable condition,” Brad explained. “A lot of pieces that were once very pretty and delicate are just too worn.”
“They were enjoyed a lot,” Josh added with a smile.
When the pieces come in, they are inspected for any damage and each stone is identified to make sure their descriptions online are clear and detailed.
“We go over the piece and make sure all stones are set and the clasps are secure,” Brad said. “Sometimes if you have a piece with 100 pave diamonds, one or two will need to be replaced before it is retail ready.”
As far as styles of jewelry go, “We look for the best examples of different styles,” Josh explained.
The styles they carry range from 1800’s Victorian, to Edwardian and Art Deco of the first half of the 20th century, to contemporary department store styles of the later 20th century.
“My favorite is probably Art Deco,” Brad shared. “The French makers like Cartier did some exceptional things during that time.”
“I love Edwardian, personally,” Josh said. “It is a little more lacy and open with the design work.”
Even though a lot of their work doesn’t take place in person, Josh and Brad wanted a space for their office that could double as a retail location. They spent over a year looking for the perfect spot, until they found 4319 Main Street.
“There are a lot of nice restaurants and places to take clients, or just to hang out after work,” Josh said about working in Manayunk.
“It’s right in the middle if I have wholesale clients coming in from the south on their way up to New York,” Brad said. “It’s an easy stop off and they don’t have to go into Center City.”
Josh and Brad love being in Manayunk so much they are looking into new local business ventures. They are also hoping to get more involved in giving back to the community. Wilson’s Estate Jewelers created a 2019 Doggies and Diamonds calendar benefitting Star Rescue, raising over $30,000 and are hoping to do it again for 2020.