Jewellery Designer Brad Leith has an Eye for the Extraordinary

Jewellery Designer Brad Leith has an Eye for the Extraordinary

Travel treasure discoveries become modern accessories

  • Dec. 13, 2018 5:00 p.m.

Brad Leith at the entrance to his shop Impeccable Jewellery. Don Denton photography

– Story by Sean McIntyre

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Asked about his pastimes, Brad Leith speaks of hobbies in quotation marks. It’s inevitable, really, for someone who logs about 75,000 kilometres of air miles annually.

“My ‘hobbies’ are associated with my day job,” says Brad, the designer at Duncan’s Impeccable Jewellery. “The process of our unique creations requires me to travel substantially and allows me to see locations most ‘tourists’ would never venture to.”

Whereas many people preserve souvenirs from distant and exotic locales on shelves or walls in their homes, Bard’s treasures are displayed at Impeccable Jewellery’s downtown Duncan showroom. Step into the quaint Craig Street boutique to behold 70-million-year-old fossils or shards of volcanic rock that spewed through space following an eruption on the moon. In one display case are the remnants of a meteorite that collided into Eastern Europe nearly 15 million years ago. The emerald green rock was discovered in Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) during the mid 18th century and has since become a valued stone among jewellery makers because of its distinctive translucence.

Brad’s specimens are artfully arranged into eye-catching pendants, breathtaking necklaces and beautifully subtle earnings.

Nearby is a find Brad discovered during a tour of European auction houses. Roman glass was commonly used for ceremonial and decorative purposes across much of Europe in ancient times. When Brad happened upon a lot that included intact pieces and an assortment of broken artifacts, he couldn’t resist placing a bid. He won, and the result is an historic treasure repurposed as stylishly modern accessories that conjure the earliest days of civilization.

“My concept is that there aren’t many items that can’t be made into incredible and impeccable jewellery, and I find these items wherever I travel,” he says.

Some discoveries emerge from extensive research, others are the product of chance. With time to spare between trade shows in Hong Kong and Bangkok, Brad once headed for Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, one of the world’s largest religious monuments. While travelling to his destination through northeastern Thailand, he found himself with a long wait for his next bus in a dusty and congested border town. He headed to a nearby beach, where he met an awe-inspiring sight.

“I was literally the only person on that beach,” he recalls. “I walked its entire length, and the shells that I was pulling off the beach were magnificent. I’ve never seen shells in such abundance that were so magnificently beautiful.”

Each of the shells contained a distinct collection of naturally formed crystals unlike anything he’d seen before.

After Brad crossed into Cambodia and toured the sprawling temple complex at Angkor Wat, he found even more glorious artifacts to behold. It’s in places such as this, he says, amid timeless ruins and inspiring early architecture, that creativity emerges.

“When I see these monuments of civilization, they give me the inspiration to fuel our design approach,” he says. “As a designer, you change as you have that emotional feeling.”

Brad hasn’t always been an avid treasure hunter and globetrotting gem finder, but the Southern Ontario native has been travelling for much of his professional life. Prior to pursuing his creative tendencies, he worked as a jewellery wholesaler. He’d travel across the country, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and back, twice a year, selling products to 300 stores.

Much of his time was spent supplying jewellers with a consistent and predictable product. While the quality was certainly consistent, Brad found little excitement in the homogeneity of the products he supplied. Electing to taking the giant leap into jewellery design about 20 years ago, he hasn’t looked back.

With a fondness for Impressionism, Brad is drawn to subtle variations in colour. In a sense, every stone he selects will speak to him through its distinctive hue. His task is to work with the stone’s innate expression as he strives to create a masterpiece unlike any he has made before.

“I’ve always tried to make the stone the star,” he says. “I think that when you make the designer the star, you often get something that no one would wear. To me, what we design is wearable art. For us, to see the faces of people when we finish or recondition a product is what it’s all about. It’s always a thrill for me.”

Brad Leith shows off rings in his shop Impeccable Jewellery. Don Denton photography

The shop in downtown Duncan has become the crowning achievement in a journey to make pieces that marry unique stones, inspired design and a craftsman’s eye for quality.

“We design every piece, we pick every stone, import it and sell it. Lots of people do one of these or maybe even two, but very few do the whole process,” he says. “We do just about everything, and we do things that are different. We distinguish it from mass-produced product and get the opportunity to achieve some really interesting results.”

Brad’s design work is complemented by custom projects for clients in addition to restoration and repair services undertaken at the downtown location, where Impeccable Jewellery has grown to become a familiar landmark in a vibrant downtown core that values friendliness and service.

Brad says he’s thrilled to be part of downtown Duncan’s remarkable resurgence as a prime shopping destination. In a competitive marketplace, where small-town downtowns are in a constant battle with generic big box stores, Leith says, a personal touch and attention to detail is what has helped Duncan’s downtown thrive.

“You have to get off the highway to get here, and I think that’s why this downtown has preserved a little of the old feeling,” he says. “This is the best downtown business association that I’ve ever been involved with. They work very hard at making the downtown successful. I think it’s a testament to them and a testament to the merchants that are down here. We all have the same mentality — we emphasize service over anything else.”

You can see more about Brad and Impeccable Jewellery here.

Fashion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More sleeping cabins for the homeless in the Cowichan Valley could soon be put in place if a $2.5-million grant application to the UBCM Strengthening Communities’ Services funding program is successful. (File photo)
Funding sought to expand homeless initiatives in Cowichan Valley

$2.5-million grant would see more sleeping cabins and outreach projects

The old Stanley Gordon school in Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)
Editorial: Old school properties represent potential for our areas

There are opportunities, often sitting right in the middle of our small communities.

Sweet gum trees like this one in City Square will be replaced over the next three years. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan plans big tree replacement project for downtown

Sweet gums in City Square and along Station Street will go over the next three years

Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Logan Rands pokes the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Talon Duff. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Offence sags as Cowichan Capitals reach midway mark

Caps score one goal in three games as pod season continues

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
VIDEO: B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

B.C. Ferries’ sixth Island-class vessel launches at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania. The ship is the second of two that will service the Nanaimo-Gabriola Island route starting in 2022. (Photo submitted)
Second hybrid ferry for Nanaimo-Gabriola route launched overseas

Island-class vessel will enter service in 2022

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine for injection at the Victoria Clipper Terminal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout not enough to bring back normal life by fall: report

Only 51% of the population will be protected under B.C.’s current rollout, SFU professors say more vaccinations are needed to achieve herd immunity

Letisha Reimer, 13, was killed Nov. 1, 2016 in a stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
UPDATED: Second-degree murder conviction stands for Abbotsford school killer

Judge finds that Gabriel Klein is criminally responsible for death of Letisha Reimer

Most Read