If there is one thing that is true about Whitehurst, it is that the journey matters. It is what informs who we are, who we want to be, and how we treat others.
The founder of Whitehurst, Gareth Whitehurst, originally wanted to become a clinical psychologist. After graduating from Anderson College, he was accepted into the doctoral program at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.
To support himself, he worked part time in a jewelry retail store, managing the sales floor. He was fascinated by jewelry and frequently found himself engaged in lengthy discussions with the bench jewelers who worked there. He also loved the customer interaction, and discovered he had a talent for listening to his clients’ needs and transforming their ideas into sketches. This experience ignited in him a passion for creative collaboration and the making of custom jewelry.
Bespoke custom jewelry would become Gareth’s career. He wasn’t interested in the typical corporate mass-produced jewelry of the 1960s. Still in school, Gareth also continued to take on more responsibility at the store. Then an opportunity opened in the company for him to go to St. Petersburg, Florida to open and manage a store of his own.
A Career Change
It was a difficult decision. Gareth had been focused on a career as a psychologist and academic … a career in jewelry wasn’t part of his life plan. But he loved it, and he made the leap. He moved to Florida and deepened his knowledge about the business, design and production of jewelry.
In time, though, Gareth found the restrictions of the retail environment getting in the way of the experience he thought clients loved most ... the opportunity to collaborate in creating jewelry for themselves. His vision was different from the vision of the company he was working for. Once he realized the only way to have autonomy over the experience was to branch out on his own, he seized an opportunity to purchase his first piece of commercial property and founded his very own company in Clearwater, Florida. This year was 1988.
A Passion Project
Around the same time, Gareth began working on another passion project. He had spent his boyhood in Washington D.C., and as a child of the ‘50s it was possible to roam around the city and explore. “I could wander anywhere in the Capitol, in the offices, and explore everywhere easily,” he says. Today these buildings are much less accessible to the public, but they made a lifelong impression on Gareth – particularly the Jefferson Memorial. So around 1988 Gareth began designing a dream home that would include architectural elements of these historical buildings. His vision for the home was to showcase his vast library collection, display a curated selection of his most coveted jewelry designs, provide a space for artistic collaboration and share it all with his friends and family. “I just started playing around with designs that might be suitable for a building for myself,” he said. “I never really expected to build it.”
As part of his project he acquired the original plans for the Jefferson Memorial, and fell in love with them as works of art themselves. All done in pen and ink, Gareth says they were “masterpieces of drafting.” He continued to play around with the designs over the next few decades, enjoying them as a daydream and a hobby.
Perfecting His Craft
In his work life, Gareth continually pushed the boundaries of his small design studio to make his clients’ visions into realities. If a client came in and didn’t know what they wanted, Gareth would begin with a blank piece of paper and a pencil, sketching until he and the client came up with a design that excited them both. Gareth also spent time educating his customers about the industry. He believed that the more knowledge he shared with the client throughout the design process, the better the client would feel about their investment. As Gareth’s business grew, he brought more incredible production processes in house to have more control over quality. He also built a diverse team of incredibly talented craftspeople, specializing in casting, stone setting, wax carving, model making, hand engraving and 3-D CAD/CAM jewelry design. And through it all, Gareth stayed focused on treating every single client like family.
A Dream Becomes Reality
In 2010, Gareth was finally able to begin the construction of his dream home, The Whitehurst Gallery. This would become more than just a home for him. For Gareth, the building represents a lifelong pursuit of happiness, creativity, and accomplishments–his very own pièce de résistance. He was also looking forward to retirement, and this would be a place for him to continue his creative pursuits in jewelry design, musical composition, and a myriad of other hobbies and interests.
By 2015 the building was nearing completion. Throughout Gareth’s life he had always “consumed books with some regularity” and he sought out a professional librarian to catalog his book collection, totalling nearly 11,000. The building has since functioned, primarily as a private residence and gallery for friends and family. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that a new vision began to emerge for the “Whitehurst Gallery”.
Gareth’s newly married son Griffeth and daughter-in-law Sarah moved to Florida in January of 2020 from New York City at the beginning of the pandemic to help Gareth with the family business. As with many small businesses facing great uncertainty, Whitehurst began to think about ways to reinvent themselves and navigate through those challenging times.
Back in 2018, Griffeth and Sarah were planning their wedding and he asked his father if they could have it at the family home. To no surprise, it was the perfect setting for their wedding and would lay the foundation for what would become the Whitehurst Gallery.
Gareth always wished for his home to be enjoyed by his community and to share its beauty with those he knew– a “destination” of sorts for the creative and curious. Griffeth sought to double down on that vision and now the Whitehurst Gallery is officially available for private social functions and events. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between offering bespoke custom bridal jewelry, as well as a completely unique wedding experience at the Whitehurst Gallery.
A New Adventure
Whitehurst has embraced the latest in online technology and created a fully loaded virtual design studio where clients can speak directly with a custom jewelry design specialist. Whitehurst’s design specialists walk each client through the entire design process just as Gareth had done for decades. Their two-camera system allows Whitehurst designers to have a face-to-face conversations with clients, even as the second camera focuses on the desk, displaying hand drawn sketches on the screen and making it easy for the client to comment on the design and make suggestions to the designer. Once the sketch is approved it is converted to a virtual 3D/CAD design to show a full rendering of the finished product. Once the CAD is approved, it goes into production in Whitehurst’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, equipped with the latest in jewelry fabrication technology and fully staffed to handle every process.
Whitehurst believes the use of responsibly sourced materials should be a minimum standard, and we take this very seriously. We source responsibly mined diamonds and gemstones, and we buy all our precious metal from vendors using 100% recycled materials. We only partner with vendors who share our social responsibility values. We are also proud to say that our entire manufacturing process happens right here in the USA.
After joining the company in 2020, it was important for Griffeth to provide the best experience for our clients and to create a great place to work. We’re proud to offer our full-time staff with competitive salaries, 100% medical coverage. This allows us to attract, hire, train, and retain a highly skilled workforce. Whitehurst also invests in training and professional development for their employees. “I want our staff to constantly push themselves to achieve their personal and professional goals and give them the tools to do so” says Griffeth.
Whitehurst has always been a company that survives by the word-of-mouth recommendation from our loyal customers. We believe the honest, friendly, and high quality service we provide our clients has kept us growing through the many decades of service to our community. “We like to think of ourselves as a ‘trusted resource’ to our clients. No hyperbole, no deception, just an honest offering of service with the goal to bring our clients the best value possible.” says Griffeth.
Every one of our clients means the world to us and we look forward to welcoming you into the Whitehurst Family!
Gareth and Griffeth Whitehurst, February 2022