JCK magazine is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year! And to honor that milestone, we’re talking to 150 veteran jewelry professionals in 2019—for a magazine feature series (that will also run online) designed to wrangle the voices of some of the industry’s most influential and enduring players.
Because we can’t publish the interviews in their entirety in print, we’re posting them here, on JCKonline.com, every Thursday.
Today we hear from Walter McTeigue, cofounder of lauded jewelry firm McTeigue & McClelland, about how the industry has changed over the years and what JCK’s meant to him.
JCK: How has the jewelry industry evolved since you started in it?
Walter McTeigue: In the 38 years that I’ve been in the jewelry business, it has been in a continual state of change and evolution. My dad, whose family jewelry business survived many ups and downs including the Great Depression, always emphasized how change and evolution is just the natural order of things.
This approach has helped me to embrace change, and it’s been continually reinforced by the fact that, time and again, just when I think I have things all figured things out—found my niche, my angle—things begin to shift again!
I started out as a diamond broker on 47th Street working on the trading floors of the Diamond Trade Association and the Diamond Dealers Club. It was all about relationships and trust. There was zero transparency; everything was a secret!
I had relationships with retailers throughout the country, and I was their man on the street, their connection into the diamond market. This kind of broker relationship began to change in the 1980s as Israeli diamond cutters began to bypass 47th Street, sending salesmen on the road and selling directly to retailers.
Then, the internet happened! Many of us thought it was a joke, that no one would ever buy diamonds or jewelry online, because it seemed these were the ultimate luxury products that depended on personal relationships, trust, and being able to touch and see and feel. And now I know I didn’t predict that one right.
When we started McTeigue & McClelland, we realized that trying to follow and imitate and compete with everyone else was not only un-interesting, it seemed like an impossible way to sustain ourselves.
We decided that differentiation was the only way to go. It made sense for us to pursue our own unique vision of how to create and sell the most beautiful jewelry imaginable. Things have worked out well for us, and we still love what we do.
What role has JCK played in your professional life?
JCK had already been in existence for several decades when my great-grandfather founded McTeigue & Co. in 1895.
Oftentimes when I would do research about my family‘s business, I’d learn about the four generations of my family in the pages of JCK.
When I started in the jewelry business in 1980, I read JCK cover to cover every month. I wanted to learn about and understand the overall trends of the market and get exposure to a wider array of what was going on than what I saw from my limited exposure.
I don’t have the time to read it cover to cover anymore, yet I continue find that it offers relevant and useful perspective and analysis on the big issues our industry faces. In fact, just a few days ago I read an excellent piece by [editor-in-chief] Victoria Gomelsky about Scott Galloway’s predictions for the jewelry business—that’s exactly the kind of insight that we need in order to continue to evolve and flourish.
Top: Walter McTeigue (photo courtesy of McTeigue & McClelland)
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