Tullio + Elisabetta
She was training to be a seamstress and he was apprenticing with a master goldsmith. They fell in love and married, just as the bombs of the Second World War devastated the Italian countryside. They would survive aerial raids, rationing, violence and hunger. They would have their first son and dream of a better future.
During the reconstruction there was little money for jewellery, let alone the raw materials to fashion it. Tullio found work as an art restorer for the Vatican, but as the years passed progress was slow to come. Tullio and Elisabetta prepared themselves for a new life and the promise of something better--in Canada.
1950 They arrive in Toronto. An immigration officer asks Tullio what his trade is; Tullio’s English is poor and the officer’s Italian is worse. Tullio gestures with his hands. "Goldsmith," he tries to say; "bricklayer" is what the officer writes down.
Tullio works in construction for a few years, until his heart stops. While he's at a job site a brick wall collapses, burying Tullio underneath. His heart stops twice while in surgery and miraculously he survives. He decides it's time to return to his first love: goldsmithing.
1961 Tullio begins to work as a hand engraver; he engraves thousands of lockets, bangle bracelets and pins from the basement of their home. It's not long before his sons Massimo and Dino are working alongside him. Dino is just fourteen years old, and his father and older brother begin to notice his natural talent, creativity and insatiable curiosity.
Once, Tullio came home to find his young son surrounded by a disassembled Bell telephone. Most parents would have been furious--telephones were leased and expensive to own, much less repair or replace. Instead, Tullio asked Dino to put the phone back together when he was finished.
Tullio understood that the only way to make something better and the only way to make yourself better at doing it, was to understand it from every angle.Creativity means never settling for things as they are; it means challenging yourself to see the world differently.
1960 - 1970
Armando Ruggieri Born along the Italian Amalfi coast, Armando witnessed the turning of a century. He was a small boy when the First World War claimed the continent. Later, he would see fascism replace democracy while the entire world seemed to be fighting for its existence.
He saw destruction, grief and despair--but he also saw hope. Armando came from a long line of craftspeople, those whose skilled hands could create objects of beauty and purpose from raw materials. He couldn't remember a time when the inherent magic of creation didn't inspire his awe.
This was how Armando saw the future: from the very worst can come the very best. He believed one should always strive to bring beauty to life, and for him there was nothing more beautiful than the sunset glow of 18k gold.
So it was that nearly half a century later when one of his oldest friends--now living thousands of kilometers away in Canada--asked him to take his son Dino as an apprentice, Armando did not hesitate. Beauty must be shared to be seen.
1969 Dino travels to Rome to meet his new mentor and spend the next few months training in a traditional Italian workshop. He is barely fifteen. Armando starts small, testing Dino on the basics: saw a straight line, file a flush surface, solder a silver wire. It takes Dino only a few minutes to complete each task.
Armando tries a different tack: he hands Dino a gold ring setting and tells him to reproduce it exactly. It's a classic halo setting--an emerald-shaped centre stone with a dozen round stones surrounding it--completely hand-fabricated, down to the very last claw. It takes Dino the rest of the day and part of the second, but he hands his teacher a perfect reproduction. Armando decides to teach him everything he knows.1970 Dino returns to Toronto to find that his father’s engraving business is booming. His older brother Massimo convinces Tullio and Elisabetta to expand and open a jewellery shop. He suggests naming the store after his brother who is ten years his junior. Tullio and Elisabetta are hesitant, but not because they question Dino's abilities; instead, they wonder whether their clients will trust a teenager with their most prized possessions. Massimo convinces them that the work speaks for itself. They open Dino Credit Jewellers on Plunkett Road.
1970 - 1980
Dino + Massimo
With their children at their side, Tullio and Elisabetta decide it's time to take an early retirement--passing the business on to their sons Massimo and Dino.
The seventies are in full swing, and Toronto is swinging right along with them. Unlike other major cities, Toronto’s downtown core hasn't been rendered a ghost town by suburbanization. Instead, the construction of concrete giants like the CN Tower is transforming the city, and artists of all kinds are converging on Queen Street West and Yorkville Avenue.
Massimo and Dino decide to do something radical: move their business into the heart of downtown Toronto and open a shop like no other, renaming it 18Karat.
1978 Modelled after the Italian workshops they apprenticed in, the open concept shop puts the art of goldsmithing at the forefront. Every person walking through the door is greeted by the sights and smells of a studio. 18Karat wouldn’t just be a place to buy jewellery; it would be a place where art happened.
Massimo and Dino wanted to create something that didn't exist anywhere else: a place where clients could work directly with the goldsmith, who would help them design and create their own work of art.
Like nowhere else before it, at 18Karat, custom would mean so much more than choosing a stone and selecting a setting. It would mean creating something from start to finish, tailoring every detail. It would mean being limited only by one’s imagination.Creating something from nothing was after all, the only worthwhile endeavour.
2000 - 2013
2008 The year brought an economic recession, record-breaking gold prices, and a new member of the 18Karat family.
Vanessa Laurin was a recent art school graduate. Admittedly, she knew very little about jewellery, but she did know a thing or two about good design. Some things are easier to teach than others.Volatile markets created a fog of panic and general unease. Businesses big and small were closing their doors daily. It suddenly seemed that business as usual was no longer going to cut it: in order to survive, 18Karat would have to evolve. This began by expanding the space to include a gallery showcasing the work of other talented Canadian goldsmiths. Over time it would grow to host national and international exhibitions and events, such as Ferrous in 2012, D’or in 2013, and ultimately, The Great White North Jewellery Exhibition--higlighting jewellery made in and inspired by Canada.
One spring afternoon, while driving north on Yonge Street, Massimo spots a soon to be vacant storefront in the beautiful Rosedale area. For six years 18Karat had been growing under the title of "Studio + Gallery," introducing comtemporary Canadian jewellery artists to the public. Always the dreamer, Massimo saw an opportunity for 18Karat to continue its journey. He immediately turned his car around to make an inquiry about the new storefront.
Taken with the neighbourhood, and inspired by the potential that comes with a change of scenery, 18Karat moved to Rosedale in 2015. Anyone visiting the shop is greeted with the sights and smells of a goldsmith’s workshop, with Dino sitting at the bench carving wax models and soldering delicate gold projects. Now the studio is also embracing new technologies, making use of computer-assisted design and a state of the art laser welding machine, allowing for even more possibilities in design and repair.
To connect with their new community, 18Karat has begun holding monthly events to introduce new jewellery artists, but also to collaborate with other local businesses. From jewellery education for our customers to connecting with what's happening in the Rosedale community, the shop anticipates continuing their series into 2020 and beyond. At 1156 Yonge Street old meets new, studio meets gallery, and 18Karat is swiftly becoming a hotspot to embrace the ever-changing world of contemporary craft. All are welcome at 18Karat Studio + Gallery for expert fine jewellery repairs, restorations and new custom design projects. We believe creativity is the only worthwhile endeavour. Creativity challenges us to think differently. Creativity challenges us to be better.