05/12/2013 - 14:36

Master craftsmen face changing industry

05/12/2013 - 14:36

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EXCLUSIVE COMPANY: Rohan Milne, at his jewellery store in Leederville, is now one of three WA jewellers to gain membership to Australia’s only association exclusively for diamonds. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Leederville jeweller Rohan Milne is moving in esteemed circles, having joined two other Perth jewellers and 17 nationally as members of the exclusive diamond association, Diamond Guild Australia.

The guild, which includes Western Australian businesses Solid Gold and Linneys among its members, is the sole industry body for diamond jewellery in Australia. Only businesses that meet its code of conduct and ethical stance regarding the sale and promotion of diamonds are granted membership.

Mr Milne said it was one the greatest compliments he could receive to be a part of a membership that included master craftsmen he has looked up to throughout his career.

Mr Milne and his small team of goldsmiths at Rohan Jewellery have been handcrafting jewellery for the past six years, after he returned home from several years working overseas

Clients can view the creative process on site as the four goldsmiths work on their jewellery. Sales roles have been eschewed in favour of a more affable approach taken on by Mr Milne, who appreciates the value of effective communication with customers.

“I think what makes this business work is our ease of conversation about what we do. I think that’s what we do really, really well – impart knowledge, make people feel comfortable and make amazing jewellery,” Mr Milne told Business News.

Mr Milne said a key component of his business was working to create jewellery that told a story and fitted a client’s criteria, despite them often not knowing exactly what they wanted.

“They might come in and say ‘my partner absolutely loves blue’, and we give them different options of blue stones. It might be sapphires or topaz, or aquamarines and stones that most people have never even heard of like the beryl or tourmalines and spinels,” he said

“It’s about finding what they’re looking for and finding the meaning behind the gift and turning that into something. Most of the time people say ‘that’s awesome, you’ve actually conceptualised what I was thinking’.”

Rohan Jewellery gives clients a coffee table book, which features the first sketched designs through to photos of the jewellery being made, and the final product.

Mr Milne said the books allowed him to showcase the difference between handmade jewellery and the rise of computer aided design, which he said had significantly changed the jewellery industry and was responsible for fewer people learning hands-on crafting skills.

“That part of the industry is actually being lost,” he said.

“I can make a ring that might take me 10 hours to hand make. You can have it computer aided designed and it will take just three hours, so you’ve just saved seven hours, and then the margin is there ... to make it cheaper than I can and still have more margin than I do.”

Mr Milne said he recently took on a new goldsmith who had left his previous job because he didn’t want to clean castings from CAD moulds. Rather, he wanted to continue creating jewellery – a production distinction Mr Milne hopes will be clearly labelled for consumers in the future.

Because Mr Milne feels so strongly about creating an experience for clients, he is toying with the idea of opening a shop in Italy, where people can combine a holiday with commissioning a piece of jewellery.

It’s an exciting prospect for Mr Milne that gives him hope about the future of the jewellery industry, which he said was also facing uncertainty due to a fewer jewellers being willing to take on goldsmith apprentices.

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