Longridge business that was "jewel of the town" prepares to shut up shop

Barbara and Philip Goldsmith outside their shop
Barbara and Philip Goldsmith outside their shop

The Ribble Valley town of Longridge could be set for a modern day gold rush this Saturday, as Fiona Finch reports.

If it’s all in a name Lancashire business couple Philip and Barbara Goldsmith were destined for their chosen career.

Barbara in the shop in the 1980s.

Barbara in the shop in the 1980s.

But after decades in the jewellery business they are preparing to shut up shop.

That means both a bumper sale at Goldsmith Family Jewellers on Towneley Parade, Longridge, near Preston and a time to look back on some memorable moments.

In a business where high hopes may rest on valuations of family legacies, be they diamonds, gold or other fine jewellery, sometimes there are surprises.

Philip recalled: “Once a chap brought in a small silver beaker which was black and we both thought it was pewter until I saw a small mark on it. It turned out to be a rare French piece which he duly took to auction ...but unfortunately he never revealed what he got for it.”

The couple have prided themselves on running a business renowned for its courtesy and kindness.

Philip said: “You’ve got to be diplomatic about things. Where something might not merit repair it could be the most precious item that person owns. Very often people come in for advice and to see if something is not particularly valuable and it turns out to be and vice versa.”

He added: “A lot of customers have become friends. Everyone is treated the same whether they want a watchstrap or an expensive diamond ring.”

At 64 he has spent 48 years in the trade and met wife Barbara, 60, when they both worked for a Preston jeweller.

He recalled: “I always had an interest in geology and from a young age I collected minerals. When I left school, I joined W.A. Muir jewellers in Preston as a junior salesperson and was there for ten years. Barbara also worked alongside me when we met, so it was a natural step for us to open our own shop.”

They have served generations of the same families marking engagements, weddings, births and retirements. Not surprisingly they have become knowledgeable followers of fashion. Philip said: “ I’ve seen fashions come round three times. For example white gold came into fashion in the 1970s and then went out of favour. White gold and platinum are in favour at the moment.”

A celebrity's preference for a particular stone or style can also affect the popularity of particular styles of jewellery or particular stones.

But although Philip says someone once told him there’s nothing new in jewellery, modern design and manufacture has changed with technology.

He said: ““With modern technology and CAD design computer aided design) you can do things you were limited to do, technology is coming into it with CAD design jewellery, rather than just a pencil drawing and (there is now) computer aided manufacturing.”

They each have their own preferred era for jewellery.

Barbara ,a former pupil of St Mary’s, Brownedge, said: “I like the deco era, arts and crafts and art nouveau,”

For Philip it’s 20th century Georgian jewellery which wins his vote; “It was the use of mixed metals, platinum, palladium. It was a time of innovation. I think people were thinking coming out of Victorian times they wanted to look for something more modern.”

Their own wedding rings were he stressed traditional: “We had them made in the workshop”

They opened their shop in Longridge nearly 34 years ago in September 1985. He recalled how the brand new shop premises were “a blank canvas” when they moved in: “We did a lot of the work by Tilley light - a petrol powered camping light.”

The business has always been a family concern - when they opened in brand new premises on Towneley Parade in 1985, family members helped with the joinery, decorating and electrics.There were just bare breeze blocks downstairs when they began transforming the property.

Philip said: “We made all the displays in the garage like people did, family members made curtains, my father decorated, my brother-in-law did the joinery , the other brother-in-law did electrics. It was a true family affair to start us off.”

Their mothers, their two daughters, nephews and nieces have all worked in the shop at various times and in 1995 Barbara’s sister Hilary Brown joined and became the shop’s manageress.

Philip, a former pupil of Fulwood’s St Cuthbert Mayne high school, said: “As a traditional jeweller we have always put an emphasis on staff training and professionalism. We have been incredibly grateful to offer handpicked pieces to our valued customers over so many years; being part of their lives at memorable and special times.”

The couple both trained at Openshaw Technical College in Manchester. Philip studied for the retail jewellers’ diploma and studied gemology, and also became a registered valuer.

Barbara also studied gemology and gained the diploma and Hilary went on to win the prestigious Edward Stanley Award for gaining the best marks in the 1997 retail jewellers’ examination.

Needless to say they regard jewellery as a good investment. Philip said: “ The beauty of jewellery is you can put your money in and what else can you enjoy on an everyday basis and also have something to pass on to future family members?”

Before they put up the shutters there will be a retirement sale, starting on August 17 at 10am , with precious gemstones and jewellery reduced by 50%.

The sale will continue for eight weeks or until all stock is sold.

After that they have no set plans. Barbara said: “First of all we’re going to unwind and decide what we’re going to do.”

Philip aded :“We have enjoyed our time as part of the Longridge retail community immensely and living and working in the Ribble Valley has been a great pleasure. The choice to close the business has been very difficult but Barbara and I are retiring, so we have decided that it is right for us at this time ... People expect you to be there for ever but we deserve a retirement like everyone else.”

Barbara, 60, added: “We’ve not made any commitments yet. I’ve been rushing around for years, with time nipping at our heels. We’ve no big plans at this stage. The world’s the oyster and Philip is my pearl.”

Spending time with family will be one of their priorities. Philip also enjoys sailing.

He added there is a possibility a new jewellery business will open: “Someone is interested in carrying on as a similar business but it’s not concluded as yet.”