Mine for Gems in Jewellery Store
A jewellery shop in the middle of an 1800s Australian mining town is something of an oddity, but it continues to be a treasure trove for many who enter.
Connie Kimberley, owner of the Historic Village Herberton, said such finds were one of the many wonderful things about the ‘jeweller’, which can be found in the outdoor pioneer museum in Herberton on the Atherton Tablelands.
“There was recently a visitor from England who came in and said he had the same name as one of the major pottery makers – Sandland and Lancaster from Stoke-on-Trent.
“We turned over a shaving mug I thought might be Sandland and he couldn’t believe that it had been made by his grandfather.
“I love that kind of thing, and most people who visit us, find a connection to something in here,” she said.
Connie said Airey’s Jeweller and Watchmaker had undergone a significant refurbishment, repairing the interior and exterior, improving the shelving and display cases and grouping the different sections of the collections together including clocks, watches, pottery, silverware and of course, priceless jewellery.
“The shop in the Historic Village is an original. Built in the 1880s it still bears the name of George Airey who founded the business in Herberton,” Connie added.
“Airey’s Jewellers made a good living in the mining town and the original Grey St business was transported to Historic Village Herberton in its original state.”
Its ancient cedar walls house a myriad of objects from Royal Dalton and Wedgewood pottery to optics from the days jewellers sold spectacles to watches and clocks.
One of the oldest pieces is a silver salver from 1801 and quirkiest – possibly a 1913 sterling silver kettle with a bird beak spout.
The refurbishment, which took about eight weeks has freshened up the building while not detracting from its legitimacy and Connie believed there had been a change in how visitors reacted to the store.
“Before they used to pop their head in and have a peek and go. Now they come in, wander round the displays and read a lot. The collections are in a logical order and there’s lots more to find out about them.
“There are badges from the men on a WW2 minesweeper with the inscription ‘as you mine so shall we sweep’. There is also a 1930s tin opener donated by the then Premier of Queensland.”
Connie said the jewellery shop’s place in the village was somewhat puzzling. “Amongst a town of miners, it’s an unusual store to have.
“But it’s genuine – lots of people still wonder how he made a living in the 1880s but he did, and he must have done all right from what we can see.”
Airey’s Jeweller and Watchmaker is in Historic Village Herberton’s main street.
Historic Village Herberton is open every day except Christmas Day. Hours are 9am to 5pm in the high season (April to October) and 9.30 to 4pm in the low season.