Meet the Brisbane jeweller who’s killing it overseas: Brisbane’s Margot McKinney, whose rapid US success has seen her jewels adorn the likes of A-list stars such as Dita Von Teese.
Fine jewellery design is in Margot McKinney’s blood as a fourth-generation fine jeweller proud to carry on the family’s 131-year-old business. But the grand dame of Australian jewellery is the first to expand her family legacy into a global success story as the only Australian jeweller stocked at US luxury department store, Neiman Marcus.
Her other accolades include being awarded the Prix De Marie Claire award in 2011 for Australia’s Best Fine Jeweller and the Haute Joallerie Award in 2009 for International Opal Design. What’s more, Margot’s recently cemented her international success when American fashion icon, burlesque star Dita Von Teese (pictured) and American actress, comedian and The New York Times best-selling author Heather McDonald both wore her exquisite jewels at red-carpet events. In addition, English model and actress Elizabeth Hurley was recently pictured wearing her jewellery on the cover of Genlux Magazine.
And while Margot, 55, (pictured) was too busy with US commitments to dress local stars at this year’s Logie Awards, at last year’s ceremony her exquisite pieces adorned the likes of American/Canadian singer Paula Abdul and Aussie celebrities such as actresses Rebecca Gibney, Anna Bamford and Anna McGahan.
Of course, you don’t have to be a celebrity to both love and wear Margot’s jewels, she has loyal clients in both Australia and internationally. “American women are marvellously stylish and will coordinate precious jewellery and fine apparel with great aplomb,” Margot says. “They are very loyal to a designer they follow and I have extraordinary clients who wait for my collections each year.
“It is marvelous to have interest in my jewels from well-known personalities although I do value each one of my loyal clients, both here in Australia and internationally.
“I collaborate with many wonderful celebrity stylists, who are able to match my pieces to special red-carpet gowns. I was extremely pleased to jewel Dita Von Teese at a US event recently, as she has great style and is truly a unique fashion icon.”
What sets Margot apart as a jeweller – and certainly a reason Neiman Marcus cut its usual six month vetting process for new vendors to 40 minutes for her designs – is the fact that each piece in the Margot McKinney collection is completely unique and some take up to a year to handcraft.
And since her first day with the heritage department store, Margot’s business “has grown hundreds of percent,” the jeweller says. “When I first signed with Neiman Marcus, I planned to make ten of each piece, but that is not me and it’s not the way that I like to work. Even though ten of each piece isn’t mass market, it is too mass market for my liking. My passion is for precious, one-of-a-kind, unique pieces of jewellery.”
Many of McKinney’s pieces contain a touch of home: pearls, opals, sapphires and pink diamonds from Australia. “My collections are inspired by the extraordinary gems I travel the world to source; every gem so special you could never find another the same. So, everything by definition is unique. My clients understand and appreciate this, and that is where I’ve found my niche,” she says.
“The most wonderful thing happens when somebody falls in love with a piece of my jewellery and then they wear and it becomes a family treasure.
“I have worked on pieces where the pearls have been sourced from Western Australia, the gold work might be from Germany and the setting may be done in Italy. So my pieces really are ‘worldly’ in this respect and it is always challenging and rewarding bringing the materials together.”
And if you want to get your hands on Margot’s jewels locally, they’re available at her family’s business, McKinney’s Jewellers at Emporium Brisbane, a luxury retail and dining precinct in Fortitude Valley, and by private appointment internationally.
The McKinney’s are very well-known in the jewellery trade, having once owned Hardy Brothers; their first jewellery store in Toowoomba dates back as far back as the 1800s. “My great-grandfather opened the business in the 1884, establishing a barber shop and tobacconist.” she says.
“The business evolved into Toowoomba’s premier department store, stocking everything from sporting goods, toys, guns, boats, furniture, electrical goods, china, crystal, silverware and jewellery and then evolved into to the high-end jeweller it is today.”
And Margot’s father John, 84, still runs the family business, which last year celebrated 130 years of success. “I am most fortunate to be one of the fourth-generation in our 131-year-old family business and I cherish this heritage and look forward to hopefully welcoming a fifth-generation into the McKinney family business,” she says.
“Being fourth-generation in our family business means that I am able to work with gem merchants and craftsmen with whom we have very long-standing relationships. My suppliers and clients are my friends and this makes for such a rewarding life. I wake up every morning eager to meet the challenge of the day and to create something that will bring joy to somebody else’s day!
“I love love, love, love what I do! How lucky am I? I love the travel; I love the wonder of creating rare pieces of jewellery and I particularly love seeing my extraordinary clients all over the world enjoying my creations. I am most fortunate to have always had a very supportive family and a wonderful husband who is so encouraging.”