Cathedral loss creates demand for souvenir memories

By Amanda Cropp

Beadz Unlimited shop assistant Paula Cornborough with one of its rose window pendants. Photo / Amanda Cropp
Beadz Unlimited shop assistant Paula Cornborough with one of its rose window pendants. Photo / Amanda Cropp

While debate rages about the Anglican Church's decision to "deconstruct" its battered Christ Church Cathedral, there is a ready market for souvenirs of the iconic city building.

On Friday Bishop Victoria Matthews announced the walls of the cathedral will stand two or three metres high once make-safe work is completed.

There is no word yet on what form a replacement building will take, but fans are keen to buy mementos of the famous landmark cathedral as it was pre-quakes.

Beadz Unlimited has sold 2500 items of jewellery based on the cathedral's famous stained glass rose window.

Business owner Rowena Watson brought out the design last year just before the June 13 quakes wrecked what was left of the window and she believes it will become a collectible item that continues to sell well for years to come.

Earrings, pendants, rings and cufflinks in the rose window design are made in sterling silver and 9 k gold, and a tiny 12 mm version is popular for hanging on cell phone chains. Prices range from $30 for the smallest up to $750.

"At Christmas time a woman came and bought 12 gold ones (rose windows) to go on Christmas crackers. Lots of men were given instructions (to buy them) for both Valentines and Christmas."

Watson also commissioned a heart shaped pendant with the rose window on the front and an image of the broken cathedral tower on the back, and $5 from each sale is going to a quake charity.

She says a lot of parents are buying the jewellery as family heirlooms, putting pieces aside for youngsters who went through the earthquake but may not remember it when they grow up.

Over the past year the store has sold 5,300 earthquake beads in the shape of damaged houses, the cathedral, the trams, and the arts centre.

But Watson says the rose window design has proved popular because "it's whole" and people want to remember the building as it was, rather than what it looks like now.

Wellington company Abstract Designs makes souvenir wooden replicas of well-known buildings and landmarks in the main centres and Deanna Dickerson says her two Toi Toi stores in Christchurch have sold 800 of the miniature wooden Christ Church cathedrals since last November.

"I think sales will only get stronger. It's something about the emotional loss of the building."

Abstract Designs co-owner Chris Baxter says the Christchurch range of souvenir buildings came out in January 2010 and after the September quake they checked to ensure the subjects they had chosen were structurally sound.

At that stage the cathedral was OK and of their other six Christchurch models, only Clarendon Towers is on the demolition list (the fate of the town hall is still undecided).

Baxter, who was born in Christchurch and has seen the quake damage during return visits to the city, says the cathedral is closely associated with the heart of Christchurch and its fitting that the model shows the building in its pristine state. "There's no way I'd make a broken one... That would be a terribly tacky souvenir."

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