A priceless jewel in Timmermans crown

Stephen Timmermans says he takes 87-year-old Joan Rutherford, who has worked for 50 years with Timmermans, to every business meeting he goes to. Times photo Wayne Martin.

At 87, Joan Rutherford is on her toes eight hours a day.

Its 10am at the newly-refurbished family jewellery store Timmermans at Botany Town Centre and Joan, with her eye for detail, meticulously checks that the jewellery is displayed at the right angle; the counter is well polished and the window displays meet exacting international standards.

Even as she is giving precise instructions to a new recruit about different designer watch brands, she bends down to pick up a tiny piece of plastic that her keen eye has spotted on the floor.

It’s not often that you meet an octogenarian who has devoted 50 years of her life to a family-run business and is so passionate about it.

Hardly surprising then that some customers have even mistaken her to be Mrs Timmermans considering her long standing presence at the store.

After a while, the staff stopped explaining that she has been around every since store owner Stephen Timmermans was a little boy and she’d take him out for ice cream just so that his dad Mr T, could focus on repairing watches, without being disturbed.

Joan says that the best part of her job is her involement in people’s lives on both happy and sad occasions.

“Whether clients come in for designing new jewellery, repairs or service work, there is always a story behind it,” she says.

“We are there with them on their special occasion be it weddings, engagements, birthdays and then there are sad moments when someone has lost a family member… a father has lost his son  and wants us to encapsulate their memory in a ring or a locket; or then they want you to repair their dad’s timeless watch.

“There is such a sense of pride in creating things that are precious to them.

“In what other industry can you work, where things that are priceless get passed on for hundreds of years?”

Joan, who lives in an apartment at the Bruce McLaren Retirement Village, says she sells jewellery even when she is not working at the store.

“I sold a diamond bangle to a 90-year-old at the village. She said she always wanted to own one before she died,” says Joan.

Stephen says he still takes her along to every business meeting.

“She is so sharp and knowledgeable and has always been the caring matriarch of the Timmerman family,” says the seventh generation jeweller and watchmaker,” he says.

“So many former employees still come to visit Joan at the shop. She is a confidante to many.

“Both our families have been integrated over the years. When someone has been in your life for that long, you share mutual love and respect.”

Ask Joan about retirement and she says she will continue working till one day “she pops it.

“Who would employ an 87-year-old,” she laughs.

To which Stephen’s prompt response is “They would be foolish not to.”

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