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Nelson's Jewel Beetle celebrates 10th birthday

Nelson's Jewel Beetle celebrates 10th birthday

They’ve survived fluctuating gold prices, slow sales during the global financial crisis and juggling their hours to deal with the arrival of new babies - this month Nelson jewellers, Yvon Smits and Allison Judge are proud to celebrate their tenth anniversary in business.

Jewel Beetle is known for bespoke wedding and engagement rings, but also produces a range of critters: dragonflies, bees, beetles, kiwi, geese, dogs, cats and once a whole bracelet of animal charms ordered by a visiting farmer.

The name comes from incandescent jewel beetle, highly prized by collectors with shining bodies that were worn as jewellery in ancient times, and the beetle related charms created at the Nelson workshop attract niche fans: “Entomologists are fascinated. They see our sign and can’t help themselves – they have to come up the stairs to see what we do.”

The two business partners say a big factor in the success of their ten-year business partnership is that they both understand the challenges faced by working mums.

“When we started my youngest child was only four, but sharing the business meant I could spend time with my family,” Yvon says. “Now it’s Alli’s turn to spend less time at the workbench and more time with her young children – we think the combination makes us better mums because we have a creative outlet.”

The pair met through a mutual friend and initially Alli rented bench space in Yvon’s workshop. However, in 2004, they heard the upstairs space at 240 Trafalgar Street was vacant, ‘semi-joked with each other’ that they could make it work, and Jewel Beetle was born.

Most of Jewel Beetle’s work is by commission and although Yvon and Alli have very different styles, their classical training and solid design advice helps customers select the right piece.

“I think because we are women, and we wear jewellery, people feel comfortable working alongside us,” says Yvon. “When people buy jewellery made especially for them, the experience lasts a lot longer than just going to a shop and buying something.”

Yvon and Allison are both fully trained manufacturing jewelers and between them have 48 years of experience. Yvon trained as a goldsmith at the Vakschool, Schoonhoven in the Netherlands, while Alison is a graduate of the Kent Institute of Art and Design in the UK. Both women have lived in New Zealand since the 1990s.


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