Valentine’s Day a labour of love for Belmont jewellers

 Clive Whiting, Grace Bialas and Maxine Piscioneri. Picture: Jon Hewson
Valentine’s Day a labour of love for Belmont jewellers
Clive Whiting, Grace Bialas and Maxine Piscioneri. Picture: Jon Hewson

WHEN the final piece of jewellery is packed away on Valentine’s Day, Golden Gifts in Belmont Forum will be closing its doors for the last time.

Owners Grace Bialas and Clive Whiting said 34 years in business, 23 of those in Belmont, was enough.

“We remember when Belmont Forum was two buildings,” Mr Whiting said.

“We had to jump through puddles to get to the other side.”

The partners in life and business met when Ms Bialas was running a jewellery store in Midland.

Her husband Terry made their jewellery, but when he died, she was left with two children and a business.

Mr Whiting was a representative for a jewellery wholesaler who used to come by the store.

He said Ms Bialas, who had emigrated from Poland, struggled with English.

“One time her shop window was smashed and I helped organise repairs,” he said.

The pair got chatting over coffee and out of their friendship bloomed a business partnership, then love.

“You know Whiting means Bialas in Polish,” said Mr Whiting.

Ms Bialas said the couple will have been together 25 years this month.

Business has been difficult for small, bespoke jewellers over the past few years.

Mr Whiting said the economic situation in WA and the lack of disposable income meant the average person no longer bought quality jewellery.

When Golden Gifts opened in Belmont Forum, their main customers were farmers flushed with cash from a good season.

“Younger people these days, aged 30 to 40, they’re more interested in travel and having a good time,” Mr Whiting said.

“Some of them appreciate good jewellery, but not enough to provide a flow of income.”

Mr Whiting said their mainstay had been jewellery repairs and bespoke pieces.

“The price of gold is very expensive and we only use quality all the way through, we don’t cut it with silver,” he said.

The jewellers said customers they’d known for years had been coming in to say farewell and shed a tear or two.

Belmont Forum’s manager Alexandra McAuliffe said the couple “have certainly made tens of thousands of customers smile with their gorgeous jewellery and unique gemstones.”

“They will be missed but we wish them all the best in their well-deserved retirement,” Ms McAuliffe said.

When asked how they’ll celebrate their retirement, Mr Whiting said they’ll take a short holiday then think about their future.

“Maybe climb the mountains in the Himalaya,” he said.

Mr Whiting was lucky to live past 40, let alone 72.

Undergoing experimental open-heart surgery when he was 30, doctors told him they had extended his life to 45.

“I was in and out of hospital for about a year,” he said.

When he applied to come to WA in 1986 as a business migrant, from the UK, he was told no.

“They said ‘no way’ when they found out about my heart surgery and I had to get a letter from the chief physician from the hospital to prove I was alright,” he said.