A Conversation with Martin Wright at Magpie
WHEN MARTIN WRIGHT set out for Hollywood in 1986, he wasn’t reaching for a star. He was much more interested in diamonds. Almost four decades later, as the Founder and Owner of local Ottawa landmark Magpie Jewellery, Martin delivers on fairy tales every day.
How did you become interested in gemology?
My Godmother had some very interesting natural stones, blue star sapphire and big coloured gems. They were beautiful, like exquisite toys. I really loved to touch them and handle them, so it was in my head from very young.
Crossing over from a personal passion to professional credentials, how did you make that happen?
I saved all my money from 1983 to 1986 and went off to L.A. At 25, I became a gemologist at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). I then worked in a chain store for 7 years, which was interesting. I’m grateful for that job. It made me realize that I’m a pretty decent leader, and what I really wanted was to do my own thing. I started importing, going down to South America and buying gemstones. That’s when the entrepreneurial bug really took hold.
The move to a brick and mortar store was a natural progression, then?
Yes, in 1991 my partner (at the time) and I got a small space on Dalhousie Street in the Market. We were called Silver Moon back then. Our rent was $500 a month! We could make that in a Saturday, so it was incredible to succeed that way. We found a super nice leasing agent and I called him every day. He found us an affordable spot in the Rideau Centre. We were prosperous from day one.
What were some lessons learned along the way?
I remember one of the landlords in the area, Jules igler, told me “Your only problem will be managing your inventory,” and he was so right. Getting enough, getting the right stuff and managing costs. It was an exciting time. In 1994 we changed the name to Magpie Jewellery. We opened our Glebe store and very quickly learned about stretching your brand. The neighborhood took to us and it was fantastic! We opened the Westboro store in 2013. We do all our custom work there, as well as repairs. We have 700 square feet in the back and about 1500 square feet up front. It’s big. I love that we design, produce and manufacture our own work. It stimulates my imagination. Supporting Canadian craftsmanship is very important to me, which is why we use predominantly local jewellers.
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
With almost forty years in the area, we’re now a family tradition. I’ve always loved helping fiancés find their perfect engagement ring, and now I do the same for their kids. As a certified appraiser, I’m skilled at pinpointing the value of storied pieces. Whether you’re coming in with gold from your Grandmother, or working from new, our CAD jewellery designers specialize in making each piece feel like you. Our Forever Bracelet, for example, could not be a more personal experience. These custom chains are welded around your wrist or ankle by our goldsmith, right on the spot. With no clasp, it provides a beautifully enduring memento. I am honoured to be a part of commemorating life’s important moments.