Right rock for any season, The Mercury, Newsfront, Friday 14 October 2011

Right rock for any season

The Mercury, Sunday 14 October 2012

In the past Tasmanians typically enjoyed the privilege of a couple of pieces of jewellery in their lifetime - perhaps a wedding band and a diamond engagement ring.

But the times have changed and Tasmanian men and women are now splurging on rings and other jewellery for numerous occasions - to mark the birth of a child or grandchild, to celebrate a birthday, to honour Australian citizenship and even to signify divorce or the death of a loved one.

And they want unique, custom-made jewellery to mark these milestones, spending from $1500 to $50,000 to have their perfect item made.

Metal Urges jeweller Chris Hood says pieces of jewellery are no longer confined to engagement and marriage. 

Hood, 34, has designed rings set with precious stones for anniversaries and birthdays and says there's also demand for what are called 'push rings' - rings given to women by their partners after giving birth, with some women adding a new ring to their collection after the birth of every child.

Hood once created a diamond-encrusted southern cross for a woman celebrating her Australian citizenship and has made 'mourning jewellery' for people wanting a lasting way to remember a deceased relative. And some women come to him after a divorce wanting their old wedding and engagement rings transformed into a new piece of jewellery.

"Divorce rings are unfortunately part of our business" Hood says.

"People don't want to wear their rings in the same format so we do whatever we can to reinvent them."

Some proud grandparents buy rings and add a diamond for every grandchild born, and some design rings with input from their children and grandchildren with the intention of handing down the jewellery when they die.

Other Tasmanians want rings based around designs they have seen celebrities wear.

Many eye-catching engagement and wedding rings including more unusual stones like pink or green diamonds.

Rings for men are also popular - especially titanium bands - and Hood has made rings for gay couples wanting matching engraved bands.

Hood collected rocks and gemstones as a child and studied metalwork at The Hutchins School before gaining his qualifications and starting Metal Urges seven years ago.

With people marrying later and having children later, he says they want to enjoy luxuries like jewellery. 

"I think the young set are generally a lot more likely to buy pieces of jewellery to mark major times in their lives" he says.

Custom-made rings start from $1500 and the average is around $3500 although Hood has made pieces for Tasmanians that cost $50,000.

Though some clients buy rings and even raw diamonds as an investment, most buy so they can enjoy wearing their chosen piece.

"You don't want to buy a Ferrari and then garage it because you're too scared to drive it," says Hood who makes four trips overseas each year to buy diamonds.

Bombardieri Jewellers owner Grace Bombardieri is amazed by the number of Tasmanians wanting custom items.

"We are flat out with handmade designer pieces," she says.

"I think people are tired of chain stores, they prefer to come to an owner-jeweller and choose what they want."

Custom-made diamond crosses are a popular request, as well as unique earrings, pendants and rings.

Jeweller Claudio Pavez, who has run Hobart's Pavez Jewellery for 30 years, remembers the days when friendship rings and ID bracelets were popular among Tasmanian teens and 20-somethings.

These are unheard of now, and buying jewellery isn't just about being in a relationship.

Many of his clients are single women wanting to treat themselves to a rock, others are women in committed relationships who have no plans to marry but still want a nice piece of jewellery.

New Town's Cassandra Colefax recently treated herself to a custom-made Metal Urges ring for her 42nd birthday.

The married mother-of-three had never been completely happy with the mass-produced engagement ring she chose when she wed eight years ago, so she had her wedding and engagement rings remodelled into something she liked better and says the final result is "just magnificent".

She still has some diamonds left over from the original rings and hopes to get another piece of jewellery custom-made soon. 

Mrs Colefax has often celebrated milestones in her life with jewellery - after her third child was born she treated herself to a locally made 'maternity ring' and says it's great because she always thinks of her kids when she looks at it.

She is not surprised more people are buying jewellery for special occasions.

"I'm a great supporter of local business, particularly local artists," she explains.

"Some people believe handmade costs you the earth but you really pet the price based on what you want."

"I really like the fact that you can choose what you want and have something no one else has".