There’d be few women who wouldn’t admit to swooning over some bling, shiny things and precious stones … and Sonya Lorenz of Strathalbyn is no exception.
Sonya and her husband Maurice have just celebrated the first birthday of their business Metal and Stone Jewellers in Albyn Terrace, Strathalbyn.
It was a leap of faith for Sonya and her husband Maurice to set up the business which sells and repairs jewellery, including creating gorgeous custom-designed pieces, many bearing opals from Coober Pedy.
It seems like a world away from what she trained and practised doing – teaching English and hospitality, having grown up in Wollongong in New South Wales.
Maurice, though, has always been a jeweller.
For Sonya, she got her first taste of precious stones and jewellery when the couple moved to Coober Pedy in 2010 shortly after marrying.
Maurice was working in the mines at Prominent Hill and Sonya was teaching at the area school.
“I did a bit of noodling there,” Sonya recalls. (Noodling is sifting through discarded mining tailings in search of small pieces of opal.)
Leaving Coober Pedy the couple spent time in Port Lincoln and Wollongong, where they started their family, but, as Sonya confesses, they “just missed the outback”.
“Life seemed more stressful than we wanted it to be,” she recalls.
Sonya was again teaching while Maurice was working on opal and diamond setting from home.
It was a trip to Adelaide that made them realise they wanted to return to South Australia. Despite the fact that Sonya was expecting their second child, the couple quit their jobs and moved to Adelaide where Maurice began working for a leading Adelaide jewellery.
Maurice’s interest in jewellery further developed and he travelled to Belgium to train under a world master of diamond setting.
This then spurred the couple on to decide to move into jewellery retailing.
“We believed we had something to offer that was different,” Sonya explains.
“On the Fleurieu Peninsula we thought there’s really nobody with that skill set.
“The industry has changed a lot. People are becoming more resourceful and looking for restorations and repairs rather than purchasing new.”
And, the school teacher has found herself entrenched within the business “doing everything but making the jewellery”.
She undertook training and accreditation through the Gemological Institute of America, the world authority on diamonds and gemstones.
And this wasn’t the only learning she had to do.
“I had to learn how to operate a point of sale system, and that has been a big thing,” she said.
“I had a bit of support but most of it was learned by going on YouTube.”
Sonya admits when the couple began the business they were “operating on hope”.
“It was a leap of faith. We had no stock when we first opened.
“Strathalbyn hasn’t had a retail jeweller in about 40 years.”
Having good contacts in the gemstone industry has been a key ingredient to the success of the business.
Sonya also puts a lot of energy into marketing to “get the word out” about the services offered.
She has relied heavily on social media posts and advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
And, looking back, what tips would she give others looking to set up their own business?
“We did some research as to the different systems available and what other people in the industry were using,” Sonya said.
“We tried to cut our costs by doing things ourselves,” she recalls of the initial fitout.
Apart from the financial strains of setting up a business from scratch the other big challenge has been operating as a family business with just the two of them and also keeping the family going.
“We don’t have a big family network here, so Maurice and I juggle the family and business responsibilities,” Sonya said.
So why choose Strathalbyn?
“We loved the feel of the town. We moved here because it still had the country feel, but we knew that whatever we did in our business it had to be done properly.”
Metal and Stone Jewellers is located at Shop 5, 18 Albyn Terrace, Strathalbyn and is open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-5pm and Saturdays 9am-noon.