In 1943, Sam Baker and Sol Mayoff became partners and set up shop in a 500 square-foot store front in a Vieux Montreal building. There, with four employees, they sold costume jewellery, various accessories and religious articles.
In 1947 already well known as Continental Jewellery, the small firm began to manufacture rhinestone articles which were all the rage at the time. The ever growing demand forced them to move into a larger space on Bleury Street.
In 1951, Continental Jewellery became the largest, manufacturer of mid-priced rhinestone jewellery in the country. Due to the whims of fashion, the market for rhinestones was gradually declining. To protect its market share, the firm hired a European designer to create a major line of fashion jewellery, making Continental one of the most important fashion sources for the Canadian market.
It is difficult to have a discussion regarding Continental jewellery without mentioning Sherman Jewellery. Continental’s line of rhinestone jewellery was said to be the main competition for Sherman Jewellery, which was also being produced in Montreal at the time. Continental’s high end rhinestone jewellery was very similar to Sherman designs but usually had less stones. These pieces were offered as a lower priced alternative and did well as such.
Many collectors of Sherman jewellery have been pleasantly surprised at the quality and beauty of Continental’s vintage rhinestone jewellery lines.
The company moved to its present location at 55 du Mont-Royal Avenue West in 1963. Six years later, partners Baker and Mayoff diversified the manufacturing end of the business and developed their own gold line. This did so well that today they make 95% of their own gold jewellery, importing only 5%.
Continental’s clients included large chains like The Bay, Eatons, Simpsons, Birks, People’s as well as a majority of independent jewellers and it employed a staff of 360. The firm had an annual retail business of $80 million.”
Continental jewellery continued to expand the company up until 1997 when the company was sold to an interest in the Far East.