By Maureen McEwan
A global pandemic hasn’t slowed Colleen Montague down. The co-owner of Moissy Fine Jewellery just opened a third North American location in three years.
In 2018, the flagship store opened in Toronto. The company’s first U.S. location set up shop in Chandler, Arizona in 2019. And this November, Montague cut the ribbon at its Ottawa location at 431 Richmond Rd.
The company decided to set up shop in Westboro to be closer to its eastern Ontario and Quebec customer base.
“Moissy Fine Jewellery is the only store of its kind in Canada,” Montague said.
“A lot of our customers travel from quite a distance to visit the showroom (Toronto), and we had a lot of our customers that were coming from the Ottawa area [and] the [Montreal area], so we thought that we could serve that audience better by being a little bit closer,” she added.
If you didn’t guess from their brand, the company specializes in products featuring Moissanite gemstones. Moissanite (silicon carbide) was discovered in the 1890s by Henri Moissan, a French chemist and Nobel Prize winner, in Arizona. A century later, a “patented process for creating pure silicon carbide” was created, bringing the gemstone to the market, according to Moissy Fine Jewellery.
Montague said that the gemstone has a lot to offer to customers.
“Moissanite jewellery is like the new aged bridal collection. Moissanite is a lab-created gemstone, so it’s guaranteed to last forever, it’s conflict-free — there’s no mining involved,” she said.
“It’s going to be more durable, it’s going to last a lifetime. So it’s going to be a better option than say a cubic zirconia, but it’s also going to come into that price point that is affordable, so it’s going to be more attractive than diamond jewellery shopping,” she added.
Affordability has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more, Montague said customers are seeking alternatives to traditional jewellery options.
“Once COVID[-19] hit, and jobs [were] lost, the first thing that goes is that disposable income and you really have to think hard about how you’re going to spread that disposable income,” she said.
“If you still want to get married, then you’re looking for alternatives that are going to be more affordable,” she added. “And that’s where Moissy Fine Jewellery and moissanite comes in.”
Years ago, Montague said she discovered moissanite in a similar way. She was looking to upgrade the centre stone in her diamond ring to something bigger but she and her husband were shocked by the prices at the time.
“It just wasn’t viable for us, where we were in our life, we had other places we wanted to invest our money — home, kids and things like that — so I started to browse around for an alternative because I’ve always just loved jewellery.”
After searching online, she purchased a piece of moissanite to replace the centre stone and “absolutely loved it.” Montague then began doing some market research on moissanite. She quickly found that there wasn’t much industry information available.
“I realized there was a lot of pushback towards the product. My traditional jewellers were selling me diamonds and they only wanted to sell me diamonds. They weren’t really interested in talking to me about moissanite,” she said. “And that’s when the lightbulb went off.”
Montague has built the company up in its three locations, and Moissy Fine Jewellery is looking to expand further, but the last year hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Like every other small business, it’s been tough to navigate and we’ve had to make changes and make them quickly,” she said. “Our business model was a showroom model, so we were really encouraging people to visit us in the store.”
From the beginning, Montague said that the company has been adapting to the fast pace of how modern jewellery customers shop — online services like ecommerce and social media have been central to what they do.
“It’s been a long time since jewellery stores have seen a change. A lot of jewellery stores are family-owned businesses that go back many, many years and sometimes there is a little bit of pushback when it comes to doing things a new way, a modern way, including technology,” Montague said. “That’s what we’re able to do because we’re a younger company — our whole team is built of young entrepreneurs with young creative minds. We’re able to create products that have a newer look to them.”
So far, Moissy Fine Jewellery is happy in its new home. Montague said they’ve had good feedback and support from the Kitchissippi community.
“We’re so happy to be in the Westboro area. We’re really excited about being able to serve the community of Ottawa. And just look out for Moissy — we have lots of plans to expand,” she said.