SYDNEY, N.S. — A Sydney goldsmith says he’s “deeply disturbed” by accusations that have surfaced online accusing him of thievery and intentionally withholding jewelry items from his now-closed jewelry repair and creative design business.
Within the past week, at least two women — RoseAnne MacDonald of Westmount and Lynn O’Connell of Mira Road — have taken to social media with these allegations against Rob Bowden, who owned and operated Bowden’s Jewellery Repair Studio on Charlotte Street between December 2017 and mid-July 2021.
According to MacDonald, a third, Karen Hall, also alleges that Bowden “left her in debt, traumatized her children and tried to make her look crazy.”
None of the above allegations has been proven in court.
“I don’t even know the full breadth of what’s been said about this,” Bowden told the Cape Breton Post. “About a year ago, I made a decision to remove social media from my life — because I was battling health issues but was also trying to rebuild my personal life.”
CLOSED CHARLOTTE STREET BUSINESS IN 2021
According to a post on his business’s Facebook page provided to the Cape Breton Post, Bowden announced he had to permanently close the studio on July 16, 2021, due to ongoing health concerns developing months before.
“I have been dealing with progressively worsening symptoms from what appears to be ‘heavy metal exposure.’ As of late, these symptoms have become quite debilitating,” he posted at the time.
Bowden had been working as a goldsmith, jewelry repairman and designer since the age of 13, he said, admiring the work of his late father, Jim Bowden, who operated in shops from Louisdale, Bedford, and for a short time out west.
Over the years since returning to Sydney around 1999-2000, Rob Bowden said he has dealt with thousands of customers, many of whom say they directly sought his services to work on jewelry items in need of repairs, appraisals, creative designs and more, particularly once his own business took off.
“I made a lot of people happy with the work I’ve done,” said Bowden, now 54. “I went out of my way to do that — and to my own detriment and my own cost. And you can ask anyone that I’ve worked with. I’ve dealt with a lot of issues (health-wise) over the years. And I’ll find a way to deal with this (new) one.”
‘PERSONAL LIFE’ REBUILD
The “personal life” rebuild, Bowden admitted, comes from years of making what he describes as “stupid decisions on my part,” some of which he says have been connected to his health battles, others from personal relationships that didn’t work out.
As a clergy-abuse survivor, Bowden also comprised 125 plaintiffs in a successful 2008 class-action lawsuit launched by another clergy abuse survivor, Ronald Martin, against the Diocese of Antigonish and the Vatican. The courts awarded the plaintiffs $16 million which Bowden said worked out to more than $100,000 each.
He says he also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), on top of tremors discovered during his time as a goldsmith. Contrary to rumours alleging he plans to set up a new business, Bowden said he can no longer do any goldsmith work.
In mentioning the names of the women making the online accusations, Bowden shook his head in disgust and said two of them happened to be exes of his — and the commentary he believes could very well be a group conspiring together to allegedly tarnish his name.
“All this stuff being said about me now has me deeply disturbed,” he said.
ALLEGATION NO. 1: KAREN HALL
According to Bowden, he and Karen Hall were connected years after his first marriage of 12 years fell apart.
Hall, now 57, claimed that within their long-term relationship from 2007-12, she opened up a shop for him called Onyx Jewellers on Upper Prince Street.
“It pretty much broke me,” Hall said. “But I was wrapped up in this relationship. And in my view, it was a narcissistic relationship. He put me in somewhat of a nasty financial hardship.”
She alleges she “spent over $6,000 on my credit card to get the shop opened up, then six months later, the shop closed because it wasn’t busy enough.”
Worse, she claimed, “within the first six months I was with him, he actually stole a diamond ring that was from my ex-husband, which I was saving for my daughter. He took the diamond out of it, sold it to a job in Louisdale where his father’s shop was. I asked him if he had seen the ring, and he denied it. And about three or four months later, I found a setting in his pocket with the diamond ripped out of it.”
While Bowden conferred that Hall did help him set up Onyx Jewellers, from his standpoint he claimed to have helped her with paying off large debts thanks to the money he received from the 2008 class-action lawsuit.
“She’s called me a narcissist for a long time,” Bowden said. “I know it’s really easy to take parts of a person’s personality and put them into categories and stuff. But as broken as that woman has seen me, for her to say I was narcissistic, that is … (he pauses) … I had a friend tell me the best thing I should do is leave town.”
ALLEGATION NO. 2: ROSEANNE MACDONALD
According to Bowden, he and MacDonald were connected throughout much of the 2010s.
“We were engaged and together for five years,” the 50-year-old MacDonald said. “I gave him my good jewelry for cleaning and he left abruptly after that stating he doesn’t remember the box altogether. Yet a previous boss of his remembers him bringing it in.
“He was also supposed to be helping me out in efforts to repay me for the thousands he took via cash advances daily while I was very sick.”
MacDonald also accused Bowden of allegedly making off with several pieces of her jewelry.
“In my case,” she claimed, “he stole an invaluable diamond ring inherited from my aunt, a gold chain with sapphire and diamond pendants, a gold bracelet, two opaque emerald and sapphire rings, my deceased father’s birthstone ring I was saving for my son, and mother’s ring and daughter’s pride ring.”
She also claimed there appeared to be a pattern of alleged thievery: “He steals from his present partner to woo the next victim and this has about a 20-year plus history. He opened shops with his (partners), and leaves them in debt and courting the new partner with that money.”
In his defence, Bowden countered that during their time together, he tried to help MacDonald allegedly deal with some personal struggles of her own.
“I had to call the cops on her one time; she wouldn’t physically let me leave the house,” he said. “I bet you she didn’t say anything about that, did she?
“This whole thing is personal. It’s because RoseAnne is bitter. She told me what she was going to do — and now she’s doing it. I knew this was going to happen.”
Bowden said he has contacted the Cape Breton Regional Police to file a social media defamation report.
ALLEGATION NO. 3: LYNN O’CONNELL
Bowden knew of O’Connell but according to the goldsmith, she was merely one of hundreds of customers he dealt with over the years.
But as O’Connell remembers things, she had moved to Halifax from a Long Island, N.Y. residence, about two decades ago to look after her daughter’s grandson.
“When I got to Halifax, I had all my jewelry with me that I picked up — some items mailed in from Long Island. I went by this jewelry place in Bedford,” said O’Connell, now 76. “His father was in the store to look after what I needed. The next time I went back with my jewelry, his son (Rob) was there by himself to take my order, saying his dad was sick.”
The items involved were a gold ankle chain in need of repair and an issue with an antique watch, she claimed.
“Later, when I went to pick up the jewelry, the store was closed and he left (town),” O’Connell said. “He really screwed me over badly.”
She claimed she went to police in Halifax to file a complaint.
“So many places I’ve tried to track down where he was, but by the time I got to these places, he was gone. Yet I never gave up,” O’Connell claimed.
She said that she did finally make contact with Bowden in Sydney, alleging that he confessed taking her jewelry, apologized and wanted to make amends by returning any jewelry. So far, she claims, two rings were returned to her.
“We had meetings set up, but he never followed through on them. I later went into his store to talk with him, and he was so rude to me — in front of another customer — and yelled, ‘You need to make an appointment.’”
Responding to McConnell’s claims, Bowden said he remembered her walking into the Sydney studio, saying — in his words — “‘Hey, do you remember me? I met you like 20 years ago and you did a job for me and you left town with my diamond.’
“I’ll tell you, I didn’t remember her from a hole in the ground,” Bowden said. “So I asked if she had any kind of receipt from this job. She said no — not a thing. So I told her, I have no idea who you are but here’s what I’ll do: I’ll try to work something out with you to make this right.”
He added that O’Connell later used his business for more items — and worked out an arrangement to have some items returned to her when the store closed for good.
“So why would she still be complaining if she brought in more work for me? The whole thing is ridiculous — mind-blowing ridiculous.”
BEYOND BAFFLING COMPLAINTS
Past customers and close friends, however, say the accusations against the goldsmith are beyond baffling and do not reflect the Rob Bowden they’ve encountered publicly.
“Rob would always step up to the plate and do things for customers like me and others,” said Therese Boudreau of Evanston, adding she often took expensive jewelry items to the Louisdale jewelry repair store operated by Rob’s father, Jim. “My husband bought me a diamond ring and wedding band to go with it, but the wedding band didn’t fit properly — was too big for me. So I took it in and Rob fixed and appraised it properly.
“My daughter wears a very special handcrafted piece of art around her neck every day,” said Donna-Lee Parker of Bucklaw. “I commissioned Rob to crest a piece that reflected my daughter’s essence for her high school graduation in 2018. Rob’s craftsmanship is unique and he truly has a gift. The piece was done on time for her graduation celebration.”
And although Harvey Pyke got to know Bowden through their performances in many theatre productions over the years, the Grand Mira resident also took in some of his wife’s bracelets, watches and necklaces to Bowden’s store for repairs.
“I always admired his work,” Pyke said. “I watched Rob do some of these repairs. He went at it with such dedication. You could see where he had a love of what he was doing.”
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER
Bowden said since the studio’s closure, he claims he contacted everyone who had jewelry items left in the store. Many customers that he contacted, he said, did collect their items, otherwise, he would deliver those items.
“I made 10 rounds of calls,” Bowden said. “But I still do have stuff that belongs to people that I have been trying to get a hold of — but numbers (or other contact information) might have been disconnected, who knows? So what else am I supposed to do? I have nothing to hide.”
– Ian Nathanson is a multimedia journalist with the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_Ian.
- Bamboo came into jewelry maker's life; been creating with it ever since
- Caught on camera: $2 million in diamonds stolen from Bronx jewelry store
- Jean Jean Vintage’s Eclectic Mix Of Antique And Vintage Jewelry
- Long-lost Elvis Presley jewelry is headed for auction
- 10 Pieces of Turquoise Jewelry Worth Investing in, From Harry Winston to Irene Neuwirth and More