Doris Brinkhaus trained as a jeweller in Germany, then ran ja ewellery store in Canada for 10 years before deciding that Perth was the perfect location for her home – and a jewellery store.
When Doris Brinkaus began training as a jeweller in Germany in 1972 she had no idea that one day she would own her own jewellery store on the other side of the world – but today she is happy to report that her business and home are now both well-established in Perth, Western Australia.
Doris’s store, Brinkhaus Jewellers, opened for trading in one of Perth’s most prestigious locations, Claremont’s St Quentins Arcade, in 1984.
In the 26 years since the 96 square metre store has grown to become one of Perth’s most well-known and respected stores.
But the journey to St Quentins Arcade hasn’t been entirely smooth.
After leaving school, Doris studied business at University before discovering a passion for jewellery through her husband, Karl Brinkhaus, a jeweller.
She then began her professional training in gemmology and diamond grading while working for Oeding Erdel, an internationally-renowned jewellery store based in Muenster, Germany.
A couple of years later Karl and Doris decided to emigrate to Canada and open a wholesale gems and jewellery business in Vancouver.
While operating their wholesale business in Vancouver, Karl and Doris developed a close business relationship with international jeweller designer and goldsmith Karl Stittgen, who owned and operated three Gold and Silver jewellery stores in Vancouver, Calgary and San Francisco.
Eventually Doris began working for the designer and then when he retired in 1975, took over the Gold and Silver jewellery stores with her husband Karl.
The couple then spent the next decade, growing and developing the stores, renamed Brinkhaus Jewellers, with help from Karl’s father, brother and sister who had all moved from Germany to work for the business.
“Karl was the main designer in the business,” recounts Doris.
“My role was to decide where and how the jewellery pieces should sell. The customers in each of our stores had quite different tastes so when jewellery came out of workshops I decided whether it would sell better in Calgary, Vancouver or San Francisco.”
In 1980 the couple’s Canadian businesses were thriving but a decision to visit a friend in Australia change the Brinkhaus’s future direction dramatically.
“We came to Australia to visit a friend from Vancouver who had moved back to Sydney,” recalls Doris. “While travelling around the country we fell in love with Perth.
“We immediately saw the potential here and decided to migrate.”
Three years later, Karl and Doris and their then eight-year-old son Karl moved to Perth – the remainder of the Brinkhaus family took over the running of the Canadian stores.
Almost immediately after their arrival, Karl and Doris purchased the empty building on St Quentins Ave.
“I loved Perth from the beginning and just wanted to try and set up a jewellery store here.
“The building was just a shell but I was confident in its potential,” says Doris.
“Perth didn’t have many jewellery stores at the time (there was really only Mazzuchellis and Charles Edwards) so I knew there was a need for a store like ours would be.
“I chose Claremont as the location because it had a department store and a department store always attracts a lot of foot traffic to stores near it.
“I also liked the fact that there were a lot of beautiful people in the area – the local women really look after themselves and care about their appearance.”
Ten months after buying the empty building, the Brinkhaus’s opened for business with their first Australian-made collection.
The business slowly established itself as a quality jeweller that was up-to-date with the latest international trends.
Nonetheless despite the business’s success, the couple divorced in 1987 and Karl returned to the Brinkhaus family jewellery business in Canada.
Doris resolutely decided that her future still remained in Perth.
“I was determined to make a success of the business,” she says, “as I loved my new city.”
She credits the business’s success in the intervening years to a variety of factors.
“I think that because I am a woman I know how jewellery feels when it’s worn better than a man. For example, when designing earrings I ask myself ‘Do they sit straight? Can you see them from the front? Do they pull down on your ears?”
“I also have a strong interest in fashion and look at all the latest magazines to see what the latest trends are as I always try to be fashion-forward.
“In addition I like lots of different styles of jewellery so I am not just focused on my own style – of course if I design something there will always be an element of what I like in the piece but I try to design and stock a variety of jewellery styles to appeal to as many different people as possible.”
“I also like to treat my customers well. For example recently a customer came and bought a $25,000 ring from the store and I asked him why he chose me to buy the ring from. He said ‘Five years ago when I was buying a $500 ring you treated me like I was spending $100,000’.
“I have also managed to build Brinkhaus’s profile through my involvement in the Hopman Cup tennis championships.
“I design the Brinkhaus Hopman Cup Tennis Balls trophies for the winners.
Made to the real-life size of a tennis balls, the trophies are made of sterling silver, 18 carat yellow gold, and encrusted with over 200 diamonds jointly donated by Brinkhaus Jewellers and Argyle Diamonds.
“They are now widely considered to be one of the most sought after tennis trophies in the world. Champions Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Roger Federer, Mark Philippoussis, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, James Blake, among many others, are all proud recipients of the prized Hopman Cup Tennis Balls.”
Today Doris manages Brinkhaus Jewellers, which sells predominantly handmade “exquisite jewellery, individually designed and hand-crafted by onsite master goldsmiths”, with her son Karl (jeweller/gemmologist/diamond grader) and daughter-in-law Rebecca (jewellery designer/gemologist/diamond grader.
“Our goal is to ensure our clients find the perfect piece of jewellery, whether it be from our stunning collections or by custom designing a special piece,” says Doris.
Doris, a self-confessed optimist who “always sees the glass half-full”, says that she loves what she does and plans to continue evolving her Perth business “forever”.
“I love my work. It’s normally a joy to work with customers as people are normally buying gifts for joyous occasions and people are normally happy so our environment is positive. Hopefully I can continue to work for ever,” she laughs.