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Undulation, 2012 JAA Awards, Martyn Brown and Martin Linning
Undulation, 2012 JAA Awards, Martyn Brown and Martin Linning

Everyone wins in jewellery awards

A trophy may be the ultimate aim, but the moment a jeweller decides to enter the Australasian Jewellery Awards is the point at which they truly benefit. Stephanie Chan reports.

The JAA Australasian Jewellery Awards offers entrants more benefits than many initially realise: something that reigns true even if they don’t take out the prize for their category.

As a result of winning the 2012 Precious Metal award for his Tertawa Masker (Laughing Mask) ring, Riki-Mojag Tait says that his personal and professional confidence increased  – to the extent that it encouraged him to try for the same category again this year.

“Winning has given me more faith in my own abilities, and allowed me to strive for another level of difficulty and craftsmanship in this year’s award piece,” he explains. “It has also given other people more confidence in my work, which led to being sponsored to enter this year’s competition.”

Martin Linning, who not only took out the CAD/CAM award but also the Jeweller of the Year award in 2012 with co-entrant Martyn Brown for their Undulation bangle, describes the last two years as being “the most uplifting and fulfilling stage of my jewellery career”.

“It makes all the long hours and sacrifices working on designs well worth it,” he states. Linning has again been named a finalist for the CAD/CAM category, although this year he has entered the awards in his own right.

Linning adds that winning the awards has also raised the profile of the regional Queensland-based store – Jewellery by Design. “Demonstrating we can be competitive in the JAA design awards has made a positive difference when it comes to our client’s confidence in us to create an important piece of jewellery that they will be proud to wear.”

Jason Ree is a multiple winner of the prestigious awards, which he says offers a great selling point for his namesake business that is located in Sydney.

Ree won the Gold and Jeweller of the Year categories in 2002, the Diamond, Platinum and Jeweller of the Year awards in 2004, and the 2008 Platinum award with his Fusion neckpiece.

“Winning an award lends so much credibility to yourself and your brand,” explains Ree, who, like Tait, is also a finalist in this year’s Precious Metal category. “My customers love being informed of competitions that we enter. It’s nice to know that the jeweller who made your diamond ring is also a design award winner.”

A platform for creativity
Although winning a jewellery design award can be, as Ree describes, a “golden marketing opportunity”, Craig McKim – along with a number of other finalists – believes that jewellers start to gain value from the awards the moment they decide to enter.

McKim says that the design competition allowed him to express and challenge himself in ways he normally wouldn’t as a bespoke jeweller. “I don’t have the restrictions from clients’ briefs on design and material used when entering the awards,” explains the 2014 Coloured Gemstone category finalist.

Another finalist for this year’s Precious Metal award is Benjamin Hart who believes that the high standard required to compete in the JAA awards provided him with the “perfect opportunity” to further his skills and creativity.

Finalist for the 2014 Bridal award, Jarrad McErlain, shares Hart’s sentiments: “The challenge in designing and making a unique piece is an all-consuming process that carries so many benefits. Entering the JAA awards seemed the perfect platform to push myself a bit further.”

Inspiring the next generation
Design competitions can also encourage innovation among the next generation of jewellers with apprentice categories, and it seems that for many young jewellers, the awards are a way to test their skills and creativity as much as they are about winning a trophy.

Jason Nesbitt and Samantha Kelly, both finalists in the 3rd and 4th Year Apprentice/Student Craftsmanship and Design category, are two people who enjoy a personal challenge.

“The awards allowed me to create something unique that I generally would not get the chance to make in my everyday job,” Nesbitt says, while Kelly attests, “The JAA competition gave me a chance to make something original and push the jewellery boundaries to another level. It also allowed me to push myself, and create something completely out there.”

The JAA awards were founded in 1968 and were exclusive to Australian jewellers until 2012 when New Zealanders were encouraged to enter. Kiwi apprentice Hannah Cross, a finalist in the 1st and 2nd Year Apprentice/Student category, also comments on the design freedom that entering the awards granted her.

“At university we are required to complete set technical exercises. This competition allowed me to take the skills I have learned from these exercises and go one step further by enabling me to dream up an original concept with no design restrictions,” she says.

Mehrnoosh Ganji, another First and Second Year category finalist, says that entering the awards allows her to “communicate with the jewellery industry from all over Australia and New Zealand”.

“It gives me the chance to see the most recent technologies and fresh ideas,” Ganji adds.

New Zealand-based apprentice Erika Watson also sees the awards as an opportunity to compare her work against peers, including her “cousins” across the Tasman. 

As a 3rd and 4th Year category finalist, Watson believes that the competition assists in building a strong portfolio that will support future career endeavours.

“At the end of my course, I will be looking to the future and I think that positive results from this competition would be beneficial in showing prospective employers my skills,” Watson states.

Strengthening the industry
Aside from the personal benefits gained by entering – and hopefully winning – a JAA jewellery design award, many agree that it is an excellent initiative for the industry as a whole.

“While I think the personal recognition is a huge benefit, I think the competition helps to create a supportive industry environment whilst pushing growth, diversity and a sense of camaraderie within the jewellery community as a whole,” 2014 Coloured Gemstone award finalist Rhys Turner comments.

Ben Preston-Black, who won the 2012 Diamonds Above $5,000 award with his OUTside IN ring, and who is a finalist in the same category again this year, concurs.

He says, “As an industry the awards are important because the public – our customers – need to see that Australia has jewellers of international standard and they need look no further and support the Australian market.”

Jeweller Shiree Hobson, a finalist in the Bridal category with co-entrant and designer Jo Saxelby-Balisky, believes, “The JAA awards celebrate the creative passion, technical excellence and innovation that exists within the jewellery industry of Australia and New Zealand and it’s a fantastic event to be involved in.”

Hobson describes the experience as an “exciting and emotional journey”.

While her sentiments may be particularly true for the awards’ entrants and finalists, the rest of the industry and public are also along for the ride, eager to see what jewellery innovations will emerge now and in years to come.

In this competition, it seems there aren’t any losers. 

Stephanie Chan • Staff Journalist

Stephanie Chan is a staff journalist for Jeweller. She has more than four years’ experience in business-to-business publishing, covering a wide range of industries.

SAMS Group Australia

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