van Yperen Jewellers is a Vancouver jewelry studio that designs and manufacturers almost everything in house. Almost everything is handmade on the premises other than manufactured silver and gold chains. They design, manufacture and retail all the products, and do custom orders.
Willy Van Yperen was born in Holland and was a jewellery apprentice prior to immigrating to Canada in 1957. He set up his studio in 1967 on West 10th Avenue, and after about 7 years moved into the current location across the street. Rob Van Yperen, Willy’s older son, started working in the shop at the age of eleven, learning the basics of the trade and adding his artistic traits developed by classes in pottery and drawing. By the time Rob graduated from the jewellery design program at Vancouver Community College, he had developed his own unique style which complimented that of his father’s. In the following years, both father and son accrued awards from the “DeBeers Diamonds Today” competition with their award winning rings that have stood the test of time in design circles.
Question: How are you supporting other local businesses?
Answer: We’re really committed to this neighbourhood – it’s one of the oldest in Vancouver. We think it’s so important that they do things locally and that people help each other and the area as much as possible.We use about 30 vendors – 20 for our inventory, and another 10 for our services. We try to support local. If we can source something locally we can. It’s good for us; it’s good for everybody. We buy conflict-free stones, and many of the stones and metals we purchase are mined in Canada, and some of them right here in B.C. – it’s about 80% of our inventory that is local. We buy a lot of Canadian diamonds, although it’s not always possible for all of our projects, so then we use an importer. Some stones aren’t available here, and there’s one specialized stone cutter that we use who is overseas, but that’s pretty specific and we can’t find that in Canada.
For our services, 90% are from B.C. based businesses – all our accounting & bookkeeping, banking, media (advertising, etc.), IT Services and printing. We use an accountant over on Arbutus Street, a local printer for business cards, Kits Media in Kitsilano does our web design and management, we do all our advertising in local publications. We do use a Canadian company for our boxes, but I think the boxes themselves are not made in Canada. We do have a small selection of handmade wooden boxes made from sustainable forests in New Zealand, made by a very small company.
Question: What social and environmental practices are you proud of?
Answer: We’re a great employer! We have almost four (full-time equivalent) staff, and they are all well-paid career retail jobs. We pay a living wage, and provide a great work environment, giving flexibility for employees who need personal or family. We also support a lot of local charities – we donate about 1% of our revenue to local charities like school raffles, and benefit events for Alzheimer’s, Cancer and other causes. We love supporting the organizations and people who are committed to these issues and to the community.
We have a commitment to conflict-free stones, so all of our gems and semi-precious stones are supporting good lives for people in Canada and beyond.
In terms of the environment, approximately 50% of our work is reusing existing stones and metals. We’d probably make more money as a business if we ordered new, but we love encouraging our customers to recycle their old and sentimental jewelry into new designs. It saves materials, and gives new life to items that are part of their family history. We are always looking for ways to be cleaner and less wasteful. We’ve reduced the amount of solvents we use, and we switched from acetylene to propane. We recycle and compost all our waste of course, but we’re trying to reduce all we can as well. For instance, when we buy sushi up the street, we try to use our own plates and dishes. We don’t want to produce a lot of garbage, and it also costs us time and money to manage it.