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100 years of CJA: A walk down memory lane

In honour of the Canadian Jewellers Association’s (CJA’s) centennial year, Jewellery Business took a closer look at significant moments in the group’s history. From its formation in 1918 to its merger with Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC) this past June, explore the biggest and brightest moments in CJA history.


Photo courtesy CJA Archives

1918 to 1929

  • The Canadian National Jewellers Association (CNJA) was established on September 25, 1918.
  • At CNJA’s first meeting on February 19, 1919, the Executive Committee approved the fee structure for the new association. For example, it was established retailers with less than 10 employees would pay $2 per year. At the same meeting, it was decided a horological school would be established under the auspices of CNJA.
  • On November 5, 1919, CNJA’s secretary reported there were 412 members in the association, up from 157 in February. By the end of 1920, there were 739. Members were comprised of retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. Without such things as e-mail or texts, they were kept informed through a series of bulletins, plus regional visits and meetings.
  • In 1919 and 1920, CNJA established the Jewellery Publicity Campaign, an initiative designed to promote the jewellery business across Canada. It used the positioning line, “Gifts that last.”
  • The first annual CNJA convention was held February 16 and 17, 1920, at the Windsor Hotel in Montréal. Resolutions included adoption of standard repair lists, abandonment of wholesalers selling goods at retail, establishment of a three-month guarantee against defects on new watches, and strong endorsement that daylight savings legislation be re-enacted by the government.
  • In a letter written in the spring of 1920 to the Honourable Members of the Senate and House of Commons, the secretary of CNJA relayed the cost to an importer of bringing a $100 item of jewellery from the United States to Canada. The importer would pay 35 per cent duty, 7.5 per cent war tax, a 10 per cent excise tax, and a 15 per cent exchange on U.S. funds. In all, this means paying a 75 per cent premium on the original price, or $175.
  • The most important items within the jewellers’ business in 1920 were watches, clocks, optical goods, and table silverware. Jewellery constituted a very small proportion of the lines handled by the average jeweller. In fact, as of 1917, only $724,833 of jewellery was imported into Canada from the United States. In the year 1919, 45 per cent of global imports were watches and clocks, while 25 per cent were diamonds and only three per cent were precious stones.
  • The secretary reported travelling more than 32,187 km (20,000 mi) on CNJA business in 1920.
  • At a meeting on December 7, 1921, a report was given on the operations of a gang that had robbed jewellers in Toronto and Hamilton by substituting cheap articles for valuable diamond rings. The secretary reported he had sent out a warning circular, and it was decided a similar warning should be sent to all members whenever the secretary was notified of such occurrences.
  • In the 1922 president’s report, A .L. Wheatley said, “If every jeweller realized what the association has done for him/her personally, we would have no trouble in enlisting his/her wholehearted support. But he/she doesn’t. He/she has not had the matter brought to his/her attention forcibly enough. Let us do it this year.”
  • On April 26, 1922, the organization’s name was changed to the Canadian Jewellers Association (CJA).
  • During an Executive Committee meeting on September 13, 1922, past president M.C. Ellis presented a design for a country of origin stamp for gold and silver goods manufactured in Canada: a maple leaf superimposed on the letter C. The stamp was endorsed by the federal government with a change to the Gold and Silver Marking Act in 1923. It significantly improved enforcement of the act, keeping illegally marked low-quality goods out of the country.
  • In 1922, following the suggestion of an Ontario retailer, the CJA Executive Committee instructed wholesalers and manufacturers to print price lists at a standard size of 184 x 108 mm (7 ¼ x 4 ¼ in.) so retailers could conveniently keep all price lists in a binder.
  • CJA entered into an agreement with the Canadian Hardware and Implement Underwriters to supply mutual fire insurance for members in 1923. The benefit was a 30 per cent rebate on members’ insurance premiums with a five per cent commission paid to the association. Unfortunately, this program did not survive the Great Depression.
  • In his remarks to the 1924 CJA convention, retiring president Arthur E. Rowland said, “Those who are in the jewellery business, but are not members of this association, reap the benefit of our work. The good results of our efforts we willingly share with them. We would not have it otherwise, but hope someday they might see light and become a part of us. I have recently read that service will be found to be the instrument which business big and little can effectively co-operate to advance the interest of all.”
  • By February 1926, membership had grown to 852. There were three contributors to this significant growth: the promotional efforts of the Canadian Jewellery Travellers’ Association, the robust activities of provincial and district jewellers’ associations, and the executive committee, which travelled extensively across the country.
  • The first CJA golf outing took place in Burlington in 1926.
  • In 1928, a suggestion for a national slogan contest for advertising from A.E. Belyea of E. & A. Gunther Company resulted in more than 10,000 entries and the winning slogan, “Let jewellery add the finishing touch.”
  • Membership peaked at 890 in 1928. CJA reported retail sales peaked the following year. However, by 1934, membership had dropped to 526, and retail sales for the jewellery trade equalled 63.1 per cent of the 1930 volume as a direct result of the Great Depression.

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