It was on this day in 1839 that the very first Birks jewelry store opened its doors on St. James Street in the heart of Montreal’s financial and commercial district. Since its inception, the Birks brand has continuously built up and deservedly improved its reputation to become what is known today as Canada’s premier luxury jewelry brand and most respected designer and manufacturer of fine jewelry.

Henry Birks’s career in jewelry began in 1857 when he was hired as a clerk by Savage and Lyman in Montreal which at the time was arguably the most reputable fine jewelry house in Canada. By 1868, Birks had become a partner in the firm but was later influenced to leave this post when the company encountered some financial difficulties in 1877.  In 1879, with a C$3,000 investment, Birks opened his first store. In 1893, Birks went into partnership with his three sons, and the company’s name changed accordingly to Henry Birks and Sons. Shortly thereafter in 1894, the store took up residency on Saint Catherine Street, the new emerging commercial district. The company still maintains a store and corporate office in this location. In 1901, under the watchful eye of the man who started it all, Birks began its nationwide expansion, with stores opening in all of the major cities. The stores have since become a popular fixture in Canadian culture. Henry Birks may have thought he was just opening a jewelry store, but he served a much larger purpose-as a major pioneer for entrepreneurship in the 19th century. He utilized his experience in an already established business, to open a business of his own which he nurtured and grew through vigilant observation and involvement. Since its inception in 1879, five generations of Birks have played an active role in the continued success of this iconic Canadian company, and we are sure that there will be many more generations to come.

-Brooke Benjamin

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