The late 19th and early 20th centuries were pioneering days for the fledgling Victorian jewellery industry that came to be based in the city block bounded by Swanston, Collins, Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets.
The two companies were competitors who specialised in manufacturing fine quality diamond jewellery. Their workshops were the training ground for countless young apprentices; many became master jewellers who in turn established their own manufacturing or retail entities.
Ranges of diamond jewellery were assembled and hand carried, generally by principals of the business, to retailers across the length and breadth of Australia. In the earliest times, travel was by long and arduous train journeys or even by sea, and could span weeks. Close and trusting relationships were developed with clients, and since the majority of jewellery retailers were family-owned these bonds spanned generations. Through this wide distribution network, engagement and wedding rings manufactured by the Bird and Abrecht family workshops have adorned the fingers of more than half-a-million Australian brides over the past century.
Businesses cannot survive this long unless they are based on solid foundations of quality and integrity. However, although well known and highly respected within the diamond industry, their public profile was minimal to protect their wholesale status.