Celebrating over 110 years today
Over the new millennium, Thomas kept on with their expansion plans, opening new stores in Wagga Wagga and Warrnambool in 2004 and following that up with a new store in Mildura two years later. Jim Thomas continues with his busy schedule, often working six days a week and managing all nine stores from Melbourne, regularly visiting branches to keep touch with staff and local demands.
The New Generation
Maintaining the tradition of expertise in fine diamonds and precious gems are Jamie, Jeremy and Sam Thomas. Each of the three brothers is a highly qualified gemmologist and diamond technologist, as well as a registered jewellery valuer. All of them have had extensive overseas training in the jewellery trade, and are playing greater roles in the management and development of Thomas.
The Women of Thomas
Often going unnoticed, the women behind the Thomas men each play an integral role in the family business as well. Most notably Sophie Thomas, sister to the three Thomas brothers, who has served the family business for over a decade. Jim Thomas and his wife, while having handed the reins over to Jamie, Jeremy and Sam, still remain very involved with the business through regular store visits, as well as overseas buying trips.
The wives of the Thomas brothers also play their part in helping to manage and run the business and its stores.
The Thomas Team
It is only through the diligence and hard work put in by our loyal staff that Thomas has been able to expand so efficiently. From our senior buyers to store managers, sales assistants, craftsmen and office staff, every effort has been made to recruit only the best – highly qualified and talented people, and meld them into an effective and cohesive team.
A measure of staff loyalty and dedication lies in how 35 of our current staff members have been employed for over 10 years while we have a further 40 employees who have been with us around five to ten years, and four who have stayed with us for over 40 years of service.
Fun facts about Thomas
Well known and respected in Ballarat and the district, George Welfare currently holds the record for the longest service in the family business by a non-Thomas. He has served a total of 46 years, most of it as the Manager of the Thomas outlet in Ballarat.
Royal Cuff Links
1974 was the year Prince Charles paid a visit to the city of Ballarat. A week before his visit, the City Council commissioned Thomas to handcraft a pair of 18-carat solid gold cuff links with the city’s coat of arms meticulously engraved by hand. This job was made the top priority and the end result was a magnificent pair of cuff links, fit for royalty.
Calling back later
A soldier had brought his watch into a Thomas store in 1939 to get it fixed, but was then called away for active service overseas before he could collect it back. He returned in 1945 and called in to collect his watch which was produced almost immediately, still keeping perfect time.
The Thomas workshops have produced pectoral crosses for three bishops so far. These are extremely demanding jobs and our head jewellers advised that they’ve each been well and truly blessed before leaving our workshops
Years ago, the internal gears of a tower clock that had not been functioning since 1910 were brought into one of the Thomas workshops, completely seized up in what resembled fine cement. It was only after hours of careful chipping away that our craftsmen realised that the cement was actually eight decades’ worth of pigeon droppings!
Cleared of the dried droppings, the clock now runs perfectly with a protective cover over it.
Late night shopping
In the early days of the business, it was normal to remain open until 11.00pm each Saturday, and on the midnight of Christmas Eve. Then, the average working week was 48 hours long without sick leave.
A couple walked in to one of our stores to buy a diamond engagement ring. The lady began to introduce her future fiancé to the salesperson and was embarrassed because she had forgotten his name!
When Finance Director Les Drury commenced in 1956, the exchange rate with Japan was 415 yen to the then-equivalent of AUD$1. Now the rate is around 80 yen to AUD$1.
Up a flagpole
In 2010, the manager at the Warrnambool store accessed the roof through a service hole to replace the then-damaged Thomas flag. It was only when he was up on the roof did he remember that he was scared of heights. Paralysed with fear, he then used his mobile phone to call for help. Five minutes later, the fire brigade arrived, promptly rescuing him using their cherry-picker.
Thomas... A History
Established in 1896 with a modest shopfront in Ballarat, Thomas has since grown to become one of Australia’s oldest and most trusted family jewellers with stores all over Victoria. Known for carrying a wide range of jewellery of exceptional value, we pride ourselves in delivering satisfying shopping experiences for our customers.
The Early Years
The Thomas family business began in 1896 when its founder James Thomas commenced trading at 15 Sturt Street, Ballarat. While open to public, the business also supplied an extensive range of merchandise to smaller shops and Indian hawkers, including jewellery, watches, clocks, glassware and crystal, most of which continue to frame the Thomas product range to this day.
Originally supported by a staff of three, James Thomas worked hard to expand the business. Handwritten ledgers reveal that on one occasion when James Thomas gave a pay increase to a staff member, he reduced the same amount from his own pay.
The Store Receives a Facelift
In 1922, James Alfred Thomas joined the family business and immediately set out to redesign the shopfront, incorporating new and interesting window displays that no other modifications were required until a move of premises in 1954.
An active member of the community, James Alfred Thomas served the family business for over 50 years. Having travelled extensively on business trips, he formed significant business relations with renowned potteries in England, some of which still supply products to Thomas today.
Following his completion of studies in Melbourne University, Jim Thomas joined the family business in 1962, bringing about the third generation. To further complement his studies, Jim Thomas conducted extensive overseas trips to learn from diamond experts and world famous brands such as Omega, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Bohemia Crystal, equipping himself with specialised Diplomas in Gemmology and Diamond Technology respectively as well as qualifications as a certified jewellery valuer.
Upon joining the business, Jim Thomas’s first order of task was to overhaul the Ballarat store with a comprehensive renovation. Following that, he turned his attention towards expanding the company, purchasing the National Mutual Building in Geelong in 1978, then continuing the growth with new stores in Bendigo, Shepparton and Albury.
The year 1987 remains a significant milestone for Thomas as that was when the first store in Melbourne opened at the Royal Arcade within the Bourke Street Mall. A long-held ambition for the business, the Thomas family then relocated to Melbourne for greater control over the rapidly expanding family business, and has been there ever since.