All that glitters is not gold, a smart gentleman named Shakespeare once said. And by that I’m sure he was referring to all the shimmering sterling silver, sparkly diamonds, and twinkling gemstones that the world has to offer—and, oh, let’s not forget beautiful pearls.
Whenever I travel to new (or old) places, I like to buy local jewels or handmade trinkets to remind me of my trip. Then when people comment on the mini-ornaments hanging from my earlobes (likewise, around my neck, wrists, or fingers), I can say matter-of-factly, “These little things? Why, I found them in an adorable little shop in the South of France.” (I don’t really talk like that, but it’s never too late to start.)
As such, when my out-of-town girlfriends come to Montreal, I like to steer them toward local boutiques, so they can peruse the baubles of our belle province for their own “souvenirs”—and so I can get my fill of retail therapy too.
Let’s begin in my Mile End-hood at Argent Tonic (138 Laurier Ave. W.). Owner Aaron Maya makes one-of-a-kind statement rings (this year he’s really into antique coins), which he makes in his hometown of Taxco, Mexico. The store is about yay big, (be mindful, you might miss it) but is always jam-packed with gorgeous goodies.
Nearby nibbles: If you’ve worked up an appetite after the visual overload, Pizzeria Magpie (16 Maguire Ave.) is only a couple of blocks away, just east of St-Laurent Boulevard. Alternatively, walk south down the Main, and dip into vegan delights at Aux Vivres (4631 St-Laurent Blvd.), or (for the opposite of vegan) smoked meat at Schwartz (3895 St-Laurent Blvd.), the famous deli in the Plateau neighbourhood.
Sonia Escriza’s shop Freitag (3762 St-Laurent Blvd.) is stocked with a bevy of Montreal talent like that of Joanna Szkiela from Red Sofa whose organic, nature-themed pieces are tiny works of art. Sonia also carries her own avant-garde designs. Think lots of brushed silver and leather cuffs – for him and her.
Going eastward, crafty, do-it-yourselfers should pass by Bidz (3945A St-Denis St.) where you can stock up on all sorts of beads (metallic, wooden, glass, and semi-precious stones) to make your own jewellery.
You’ll find hoards of indie-scores at Headquarters Galerie & Boutique (1649 Amherst Street), such as the quirky antlers or branch necklaces in sterling silver by Roadkill designer Elaine Ho. HQ, as it’s called, is run by newlyweds Angie Johnson and Tyson Bodnarchuk. Angie also makes her own line of accessories (fringe is still big) under the banner Norwegian Wood, which was so cool it got picked up across the pond at U.K. mega-retailer Topshop.
Nearby nibbles: Go for pastries and coffee at La Mie Matinale (1371 Ste-Catherine St. E.) where the owner has dedicated the interior to Dalida, the Queen of Divas. Trust me, it’s cute, in a super-homo way.
Delano Design (70 St-Paul St. W) is a colourful boutique-plus-gallery that shines a spotlight on local talent. I’m a fan of This Ilk by Montrealer Tamara Bavdek who makes unique lace earrings that are as light as feathers. Manager and buyer Elise Gabbay also scooped up some Victorian-inspired collar-necklaces by local darling Charlotte Hosten.
Just across the street at Reborn (231 St-Paul St. W.), more underground collections abound. Don’t miss the exclusive complete collection of Pearls before Swine by Himo Martin, Harakiri’s gothic looks by Mireille Boucher (she’s a regular collaborator with local fashion guru Denis Gagnon), and the hand-crocheted metallics by Arielle de Pinto.
Nearby nibbles: Of course, you have to have poutine. Montreal Poutine (161 St-Paul St. E.) is minutes away by foot.
In the up-and-coming area La Petite-Bourgogne (a.k.a. Little Burgundy), Portland, Oregon-import Marie Khediguian (she studied at McGill and never left) sells her brand Markhed at Fait Ici (2519 Notre-Dame St. W.), not a fashion shop per se (they also sell other stuff like groceries and baby clothes) but most of their stock is, as the name says, “made here” in Montreal. Besides Markhed’s semi-precious stone rings, Fait Ici also has the label’s fun 80s-mixed-tape and stitched-heart pendants.
Nearby nibbles: McKiernan Luncheonette (2485 Notre-Dame Ave. W.) is the little sister to the trendy Joe Beef restaurant, and your best bet for a casual but high quality lunch.
Joshua David (4926 Sherbrooke St. W.) is run by one of the cutest couples in retail – Joshua Fagen and David Archer. They carry an exclusive, limited edition collaboration with Charlotte Hosten (I told you she was hot), which features a black silk band with white pearls. David says it’s “sort of a modern approach to Audrey H.” Also in-house is the terribly chic Micalla brand by Danish-born Camilla Jørgensen who does wonders with semi-precious stones in sleek Scandinavian style.
Those with deeper pockets can head on over to Gloria Bass Design (1361 Greene Ave.) – or you can go just to window shop. Namesake owner Gloria offers elegant refined jewellery that’s definitely heirloom worthy. Pearl aficionados take note: This is the place to scope out exotic pearls in contemporary styles.
Nearby nibbles: Mini-chain La Pâtisserie de Gascogne (various locations, including 4825 Sherbrooke St. W.) is one of my go-to places for a nice latte and little French goodies. They also have yummy salads and soups.
Montreal natives Anzie and Jaclyn Stein are a mother and daughter team, respectively. Anzie is their sophisticated collection available at the prestigious Holt Renfrew (1300 Sherbrooke St. W.) department store. Right now you’ll find lovely beaded bracelets made from lapis, pearls, and onyx; drop-dead gorgeous necklaces with diamonds and amethysts, as well as the Angelina collection, which is, yup, named after Ms. Jolie, and inspired from the emerald earrings she wore once to the Oscars – the Anzie version is the same design, but made from emeralite.
Much easier on the budget is Uranium. I’ve always admired the street philosophy of Montreal-based designer Mary-Eve Ruel whose four collections are based around hip characters Lucie, Stella, Luv Machine and Hayden. (I personally gravitate toward the whimsy of Stella). You can find a selection of her wares at Little Burgundy (various locations, including 1127 Ste-Catherine St. W., and Centre Eaton, 705 Ste-Catherine St. W.)
Nearby nibbles: Call ahead and arrange to have high tea at Le Maître Chocolatier (1612 Sherbrooke St. W.)