The Beginning

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 the aerial raids and the rationing, the violence and the hunger. They would have their first son and they would dream of a better future.

During the reconstruction, there was little money for jewellery, let alone the raw materials to fashion them. Tullio found work as an art restorer for the Vatican, but as the years began to pass, progress was slow to come. Tullio and Elisabetta prepared themselves for a new life, 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, 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 on the job site, a brick wall collapses with Tullio buried underneath. His heart stops twice while in surgery; miraculously he survives. He decides it is time to return to his first love: goldsmithing.

1961 Tullio begins to work as a hand engraver; he does thousands of engraved lockets, bangle bracelets and pins from the basement of their home and it is not long before his sons, Massimo and Dino are working with him, shoulder to shoulder. Dino is just 14 years old and already his father and older brother begin to notice within him a natural talent and creativity rooted in an 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 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 would claim the continent; when fascism would replace democracy; when the entire world seemed to be fighting for its very existence.

He saw destruction, grief and despair - but he also saw hope. Armando came from a long line of craftspeople, those skilled hands that could create a thing of beauty and purpose where before there was nothing. He could never remember a time when the inherent magic of creation did not leave him in awe.

This is 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, to make it seen and for him, there was nothing more beautiful than the warm 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 under his wing as a goldsmith’s apprentice, Armando did not hesitate; beauty must be shared to be seen.

1969 Dino travels to Rome to meet his new mentor and to spend the next few months training in a traditional Italian workshop; he is barely 15. Armando starts small, testing Dino on the basics: saw a straight line, file a flush surface, solder a silver wire; it takes Dino a few minutes to complete.

Armando tries a different tack, he hands Dino a gold ring setting and tells him to reproduce it exactly. It is a classic halo setting, an emerald shaped center 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, not because they question his abilities, but they wonder whether their clients would trust a teenager with their most prized possessions. Massimo convinces them the work with speak for itself. They open Dino Credit Jewellers on Plunkett road.

1980 - 1990

Dino + Massimo

With their children at their side, Tullio and Elisabetta decide it is 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 it. Unlike other major cities, Toronto’s downtown core has not been rendered a ghost town by suburbanization; it is booming with the construction of concrete giants like the CN tower and artists of all kinds are converging on Queen street west and Yorkville.

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 modeled after the Italian workshops they apprenticed in, the open concept shop puts the art of goldsmithing in the forefront; every person walking through the door is confronted 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 did not exist anywhere else; a place where clients would 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 - 2010

2008 Brought with it 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 and maybe a thing or two about good design; somethings 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 to include a gallery space that would include the work of other talented Canadian goldsmiths and overtime this would grow to include hosting and organizing national and international exhibitions and events, including ferrous in 2012, D’or in 2013, and ultimately the great white north jewellery exhibition - jewellery made in and inspired by Canada.

2015 - Present

For 40 years, the Italian-style custom jewellery workshop at 18Karat thrived in the Village by the Grange; goldsmith Dino producing exquisite fine jewellery with older brother Massimo steering the ship. Over the years they were joined by enthusiastic young talent who encouraged the studio to grow, and in March 2009 they decided to begin inviting independent Canadian jewellery artists to the shop to share their work, featuring them in monthly exhibitions. This change prompted the addition of “Studio + Gallery” to the 18Karat name, with a new goal to introduce talented Canadian artists to the public and begin building a stronger local artisan community.

After four decades of success, brothers Massimo and Dino began to think that perhaps it was time to consider retirement… but one spring afternoon while driving north on Yonge Street, Massimo spotted a soon-to-be-vacant storefront in the beautiful Rosedale area. Always a dreamer, Massimo saw an opportunity for 18Karat to continue its journey, and Rosedale seemed like an ideal spot for the growing gallery. 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. After all - when you love what you do, what’s the point of retirement!

To this day, Dino and Massimo are still at the helm, continuing to design, create and repair fine jewellery. The new shop feels like home, since even the original workbenches and Italian bar-style countertop followed them here. 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 technologies and a state of the art laser welding machine, allowing for even more variety in design and repair. These days, just about anything is possible!

18Karat’s mission is now not only to maintain their full-service jewellery studio, but to represent the finest Canadian artists and goldsmiths from coast to coast. As one of the few galleries in the country dedicated exclusively to presenting Canadian jewellery designers, regular exhibitions include a rotating variety of classic and contemporary work.

At 1156 Yonge Street the old meets the new, studio meets gallery, and 18Karat is swiftly becoming a hotspot to embrace the ever-changing world of contemporary craft. If ever you find yourself in need, 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.