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Sparkling milestone for family

Three generations of the De Rooze family are celebrating their diamond anniversary in the jewellery business this year.

RENEE THOMPSON May 9, 2014 4:00am

Michael De Rooze and his mum, Yvvone De Rooze, out the back of their family business in Hare St, Echuca.

Three generations of the De Rooze family are celebrating their diamond anniversary in the jewellery business this year.

The family-owned business began in Echuca 60 years ago and, while its latest incarnation is at 208 Hare St, it has moved around town a few times.

‘‘The first shop was actually near where Subway is, in that strip of shops there,’’ Michael De Rooze said.

The business was there for about five to six years before moving to the corner of Hare St and Anstruther St, where it remained until about 15 years ago.

In 1950, Michael’s mum Yvonne De Rooze migrated to Australia and was followed by her (late) husband, Fred, eight months later.

Fred and Yvvone married in Sydney and lived there for about three years before moving to Echuca via Shepparton, where they lived for about nine months.

Yvvone said the plan was to get away from their Dutch culture and become more assimilated in Australia.

‘‘We felt we couldn’t get to know the Australian people (in Sydney),’’ she said.

‘‘Then we went to Shepparton and it was worse there, there was a big Dutch population. We wanted to go totally Australian.’’

Fred learnt goldsmithing in Holland and was also taught by a master watchmaker.

‘‘(In Holland) he would get slapped over the ears if he didn’t do it right on Christmas Day,’’ Yvvone said.

In Australia, he developed a reputation for hard work and quality craftsmanship.

‘‘(It was) nothing unusual for him to work two nights a week all through the night,’’ Yvvone said.

Michael said his father was a skilled craftsman and had a great sense of humour.

‘‘Fred was very mechanically-minded and a perfectionist,’’ Michael said.

‘‘When reps came in he’d say, ‘Do you have a joke?’ If they didn’t have a joke, he’d say, ‘There’s the door’.’’

In 1998, Fred retired, leaving Michael to take over the family business.

‘‘I actually watched (Fred) do a couple of jobs the first time up and I thought, ‘All that looks pretty simple, I can have a go’,’’ Michael said.

‘‘I got on the bench and he said, ‘Well, you’re a natural at it’.’’

While he had been hesitant about taking over the business at first, Michael eventually took to it when he was about 21.

‘‘I started a late apprenticeship because I was a pretty wild boy and I just didn’t want to commit to anything,’’ he said.

‘‘So I wouldn’t work for him for a fair while. But then I thought, I’ll give it a go.’’

Michael inherited his father’s knack for good craftsmanship, Yvvone said.

‘‘He’s got the ability his father had, and on all sorts of things — even if it isn’t jewellery, he can do it.’’

‘‘The hardest part of the whole trade is if someone comes in and is trying to get what’s in their head out onto paper,’’ Michael said.

Michael said handmade jewellery was a lot different to cast jewellery.

‘‘Hand work is a lost art,’’ he said.

‘‘A cast metal is never as good as what a handmade is.’’

‘‘What you get with a handmade one is more time, more labour, more cost but better materials, better thickness, better everything else.

‘‘People today aren’t shopping for quality, a lot shop for price. I would say 90 per cent of people shop for price.’’

Michael’s love of the jewellery business has also been passed down to his daughters, one of whom works in his shop, another works for another jewellery shop and a third has expressed interest in the more technical benchwork.

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