Originally from UK, I came to NZ on my big OE with a ‘round the world’ ticket. I never completed the full journey when I fell in love with NZ. I was fortunate enough to be offered a job as a jeweller in Queenstown. For four years I worked as the in-house jeweller for the Jade factory. It was a great place for a girl in her twenties. The job taught me about the qualities of NZ pounamu a material I hadn’t worked much with in London. It was a boom time for tourism in NZ at that time, we were enjoying the flow of overseas tourists purchasing our one-off high-end jewellery pieces.
After four years, the Queenstown party vibe was wearing thin so I came to the creative hub of the South Island – sunny Nelson. In the early days before Jewel Beetle I rented a space in Yvon’s goldsmith studio on Nile Street.
Although we didn’t do any collaborate work at that stage it was the start of a good working relationship. Six months later an opportunity to share a work studio in town came up. The creative partnership of Yvon Smits and Allison Judge had begun. In 2004, Jewel Beetle was born.
What’s Jewel Beetles point of difference?
Yvon and I are both classically trained in Europe and have quite different design styles. Our pieces are usually a fusion of both of our work. We complement each other and utilise each other’s strengths and skills. Jewel Beetle unique design style is influenced by our European background, we like clean lines and believe “simplicity is genius”. We are well known in Nelson for our commission work and most of our clients like to be involved in the design process. We love the challenge this occasionally presents as things often look good on paper but not necessarily translate into precious metal. As women jewellers we feel we have a better grasp on what women actually want. I think our design flair and experience we gained from being trained in UK and Holland really sets up apart. We have many lovely customers that have supported us over the years and most of them have become good friends too.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The golden question! I’m pretty down to earth so I am not going to say the waves lapping on the beach or anything like that! Although nature is evident in a lot of our designs, I am more pragmatic in my approach to design. Most designers view the world in shapes and pictures, I can get an idea in my head and go from there. I start with a simple concept and play around with the shapes. You get to develop a style of your own and know what is going to work well in precious metals and what isn’t.
Some designs I carve and shape in wax and it will just evolve. Yvon works very differently from me, she’s the mechanically minded wizard. She enjoys the micro engineering, coming up with amazing locking mechanisms. Her latest ingenious idea is for a ring that has a hinge for ladies who suffer from arthritis. It opens up enough for you to slip over your enlarged knuckles then clicks neatly in place.
What’s the key to Jewel Beetle’s success?
Team work is the key to our successful work/life relationship. It is very important to us that family comes first. We both have children and at various times they require our attention. While one is attending to family matters the other will keep the business running smoothly. Sharing funny or serious stories about our families also creates a special bond.
What are you currently working on?
We ‘re exploring the idea of running winter workshops for couples to create their own wedding rings with us. How cool would it be to be part of the creation that signifies the bond of your loving relationship?
What’s hot this season?
Blue Pearls! We’re making lots of Blue Pearl jewellery! We ‘re Nelson’s exclusive stockist of Eyris Blue Pearls. Our love affair for these gorgeous pearls started over fourteen years ago. We really enjoy creating beautiful pieces with the pearls, they’re just so unique and fit beautifully with our design style.