Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MAISON BIRKS: 135th Anniversary

By Lynda Castonguay

The Bee Word

Photo courtesy of Maison Birks

Maison Birks is almost as old as the Canadian Confederation. They’ve seen it all and done it all. They have survived the hardest of our nation’s times and they have celebrated their best of times. So when their 135th anniversary rolled around, how were they to celebrate yet another milestone in such a way that would adequately represent their colourful history but that concentrated more on their colourful future? By committing to that future, of course. 

When Jean Christophe Bedos became president and CEO of Maison Birks, he wasted little time before repurposing the brand. Their self-reflection was a matter of preparing themselves for another 135 years as such longevity does not come from idling in one’s past. Part of their repurposing parcel was reviewing their corporate responsibility and having already committed to only sourcing Canadian diamonds, it was time for another devoir; their anniversary just so happened to be a shiny platter on which to deliver it. “To mark the fact that we are turning 135 this year we decided to focus on celebrating the future [...] What better way to do that than by protecting nature’s most representative symbol of life and continuity - the honey bee”.

Photo courtesy of Maison Birks

First came the inspiration, then came the meaning. Maison Birks did what they do best, created jewellery, and without hesitation, did it for a cause. As such, an unlikely friendship between a leading jeweller and our honey bees was born. 

Birks for Bees is multiple collections inspired by our busy and buzzy little friends. At first glance, the collections were beautiful. At last glance, they remained the same. And every glance and every bit of conversation in between gave them substance. 

Birks Bee Sweet is a children’s collection that is sweet as honey. Featherweight gold necklaces and bracelets with a bee shaped ball pendant lightly weighing it down. They are as delicate as they are pure and despite its intended market, it displayed no ageism as even I wanted to wear these items.

Photo by Lynda Castonguay (Click to enlarge)

Photo by Lynda Castonguay

Birks Bee Chic is a mature and more elaborate collection capturing quite perfectly the essence of honey bees. Every piece has a hexagonal trait - the obvious reference to the honey bee - but it is their barely there weight that represents them well. They offer poise and elegance. Drop earrings and a double chain hang a large slice of honeycomb in 18k gold and diamond pave with a small diamond accent in one of the combs symbolizing a bee at work. 

The long honeycomb ring hugs your full fore finger and it is quite possibly my favourite. Look no further for a statement ring - both in design and for what it stands for. 

If a statement cuff is your desired accessory, theirs is light as a feather and stuns like a bee. 

Photo by Lynda Castonguay

Gold necklaces with single gold honeycombs and thin gold honeycomb rings are the demure siblings of the collection and the blue topaz, orange citrin and purple amethyst rings and necklaces are the loud sister items giving a small pop of colour.

Photo by Lynda Castonguay

While the marketing and advertising for this collection is through the roof with possibilities (read as possi-bee-lities), this is not a scheme. Their intentions are as genuine as Mr. Bedos was when he proudly showed me a picture snapped from his cellphone of their urban beekeeping station and suspended green roof atop of their flagship store in Montreal - just another initiative they have taken on to demonstrate their willingness to help and their willingness to learn.

Another part of the Birks for Bees bundle is the proactive initiative of sale proceeds going to the University of Guelph’s Honey Bee Research Centre, North America’s largest research and teaching apiary. This silent alliance where one works freely of the other was happily welcomed by the facility. The proceed generating piece is the sterling silver necklace with a sterling silver honey comb shaped pendant with 10% of its sales going to the research facility. This additional funding will further allow their researchers to pursue solutions to the demise of our honey bee populations and return them to a healthy state. 

Our busy little friends are in dire need of our help and attention. Reminder: One is never too big or too small to offer a helping hand. So, while you’re bee-ing Chic, bold and bee-autiful, you may as well bee part of the change bee-cause this is everyone’s cause. A friend in need is a friend indeed, is it not?

Photo courtesy of Maison Birks

Photo courtesy of Maison Birks


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