Nikki Partridge grew up surrounded by jewellers, but she didn't think she would end up becoming one.
As a child, the sixth-generation jeweller crawled around under the table searching for diamonds that her father, Grant, had dropped.
From next month, the 27-year-old's first collection, Halo, made of congac diamonds and white diamonds, will be in glass display cases at Partridge Jeweller stores.
While her family has been selling jewellery to Kiwis for five generations, it's the first time a Partridge has designed a special range.
Halo includes rings, earrings and pendant necklaces crafted from marquise and round-brilliant cognac (yellow honey-coloured diamonds) and white diamonds set in white and rose gold, ranging in price from $7000 to $49,000. ''The diamonds just go really beautifully together. I love diamonds that are slightly off-coloured,'' she says.
One of Partridge's favourite musicians, Kiwi artist Gin Wigmore, is the face of the brand. ''I have always listened to her music. And I really like her style and personality,'' she says.
''We want to have New Zealanders represent it, but also New Zealanders that are known for international success - because that's kind of what we are wanting to do. We want to have that international feel, that international quality.''
For Partridge, having grown up in a jewellery-making environment, the profession came naturally.
However, although she has always been creative, she didn't plan to follow the family tradition and only joined the company fulltime two years ago.
''I remember my mum would thread the pearls at the kitchen table at night, and dad would very much be involved in getting the diamonds and getting the jewellery, and putting it all together.
''I've always thought I would do something creative just because I've always been quite artistic, but I didn't grow up thinking, 'I'm definitely going to go into the family business and do jewellery'.''
Partridge has set up a studio in her Wellington apartment, where she does all her design work.
''I take a lot of photos and I have a lot of images that inspire me, and I have them up around the walls. There's just heaps of imagery around, and I'm always playing music - I do find that really helps.''
Currently working on the next range, this will come out in a few months.
''Starting fresh, it's nice, it's exciting. I guess what we are trying to do is we definitely want to start putting out our own ranges of jewellery. So eventually we will have quite a line of different collections.''
Partridge studied a design degree, majoring in jewellery, at Auckland's Unitech, and loves working with beautiful stones and other materials.
''I still think that it's not the actual jewellery I'm interested in, it's just the feeling of getting to design and create something that I love.''
Before Partridge's range Halo, Partridge Jewellers made specific pieces to meet individual requests, often based on a customer's own stone.
''Someone would come in and want something specially made just for them,'' she says. ''Some people would want a really rare stone, and we could get it for them but it's not something we would keep in the shop, so we'd bring it in and then we'd show them the stone and then I'd sit down and design a piece of jewellery with them around it.''
Partridge Jewellers has had individual pieces on display in stores previously, designed by local designers - including both Grant and Nikki Partridge - but Halo is the company's first cohesive range.
Her father turned the stores into more of a brand, and Partridge Jewellers now has shops in Wellington, Auckland and Queenstown.
''Before that it was much more your typical little jeweller, a one-little-man shop. Dad came on board and he hired other jewellers. He knows the basics of jewellery making just from growing up in it.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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