Ex-jeweller shines as mentor

22:30, Jan 23 2013
Noel Herd
Well polished: After more than 50 years of experience hand crafting jewellery, Noel Herd has helped Xuemei Zhang establish herself in the jewellery manufactdhuring business in Blenheim

Retired Blenheim jeweller Noel Herd is keeping his craft alive by teaching aspiring designers the art of making jewellery.

The well-known jeweller, who specialised in handmade pieces made with precious metals, started learning the trade at 15 and has been honing his skills for 58 years.

After retiring about five years ago he has been running workshops from home, teaching people some of the tricks he has picked up over the years.

"I'm very keen to guide people in the right direction if they're interested and want to have a crack at it," he said.

One of his students, Xuemei Zhang, was a relative newcomer to jewellery making, and the region, when they met almost two years ago.

Ms Zhang, a social analysis consultant, met her Kiwi husband Roland van Asch when they were working for the same firm in her homeland, China.


After moving to Blenheim, the couple bought the Blenheim jewellery manufacturing and retail business, Gifts on Grove, despite having virtually no experience in the trade.

Ms Zhang tracked down Mr Herd through the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, hoping for some advice.

What started as a few casual chats resulted in Mr Herd becoming the "backbone" of her business, Ms Zhang said. "We took the time to get to know each other and since then I've been working with him learning about design and jewellery making," she said.

"I still go to him once or twice a week if I'm not happy with something, he has given me really good support."

Ms Zhang employs four staff at the Grove Rd site, where they design, create, and distribute products under the Jewellery of New Zealand brand.

The jewellery has a strong Kiwiana theme and is sold by about 30 retailers around the country.

Her mentor's guidance, knowledge and sometimes strictly honest feedback has given her the confidence to believe she is doing a good job, she said.

Mr Herd does not apologise for being a hard taskmaster.

"I'm not keen on letting someone do something in my workshop that's not good enough," he said.

"If it's not good enough, they have to go away and do it again. Good's all right, perfect's better."

The Marlborough Express