August 15, 2022
Behind every single handcrafted piece we create, is the expert eye and hand of our Master Jeweller, Joachim van Oostrum, one half of LOVE IN A JEWEL. A keen interest in art from a young age greatly informed his career in jewellery, now he works behind the scenes to bring our client’s bespoke jewellery dreams to life. Here, Joachim delves into his career trajectory, design philosophy, and source of inspiration.
What inspired you to get into jewellery?I've always been interested in three dimensional shapes. As a young man, I was trained as a welder and always paid high attention to the finer details. I enjoyed making sculptures from the left-over pieces of steel. One of my teachers at high school in The Netherlands suggested I consider art or goldsmithing, so we had a look at the jewellery education and I really liked it. I never looked back after that.
What is it about jewellery design that you specifically love?The skills and techniques. No two people will create the same piece of jewellery. It's a very personal expression. I’m passionate about crafting jewellery that reflects the personality of my client.
What’s involved with becoming a jeweller? - talk us through your experience and journey in jewellery to dateI had five years of training in Amsterdam at Vakschool Edelsmeden (Goldsmith School), where I qualified as a goldsmith at the age of 21. I loved testing my skills, so in my final year of study I entered the Netherlands Goldsmith Competition, where I was awarded third prize. After I qualified I worked for top jewellery establishments in the Netherlands creating many varied and high end commissions. After ten years’ experience, I decided it was time to venture abroad and left Amsterdam for New Zealand.
What have been some of the highlights in your career so far?Some key highlights in New Zealand include winning the New Zealand Jewellery Showcase, as well as creating unique pieces for some high-profile clients including British Royalty. Tracy, my wife and co-founder of LOVE IN A JEWEL, and I were also finalists at the International Jewellery Design Awards in 2017 with our Keepsake Collection.
I've now been a goldsmith for 29 years and I'm still learning new things every day and still loving it. I think it's really important to always be open to learning new techniques. I hope to still be making jewellery even when I'm an old man.
Tell us about the moment you decided to create LOVE IN A JEWEL with your wife Tracy?When Tracy lost her Mum she asked me to make her a pendant, which could hold her love close. So, I designed a pendant that looked beautiful on the outside while holding some ashes inside. Then, we wanted to make something for her young nieces, and as their nana had always made them beautiful handmade birthday cards we decided it would be a fitting tribute to her to have her handwriting inside their pendant saying, 'Love Nana'.From there, we started to think about how important it is to let the ones you love know just how loved they are. We thought many other people would also love something personal and meaningful for themselves or to give to someone. We imagined people writing notes to mums, dads, grandparents, partners, and children, and how those people would feel when they read the note that was held inside their pendant forever.
The name came about as Tracy was looking at the ring on her finger, which was previously her mums, and realised that the most precious jewellery in life is not the most valuable or the latest modern design - it is the jewellery that is connected with love and memories which is the most precious. Her mum's ring is priceless to her because it's the love associated with it that makes it so treasured. We worked together night after night on the designs and all the details around it like the box, gift bag, and website. Together, we built the business from the ground up. Tracy worked with her laptop on an ironing board in the lounge and I worked in a make-shift workshop in our spare room. It really was a labour of love and quite healing in many ways. The keepsake collection is the perfect tribute to her mum. Tracy also always had the dream of me being in the spotlight and recognised for my work as a goldsmith (instead of being hidden out in a back room working for someone) so LOVE IN A JEWEL was a great platform to launch not just the sentimental keepsake collection but also my work as a bespoke Master Jeweller.
You’re partners in life and business – what’s it been liking working together?I know for a lot of couples it's hard to imagine working together, but for us it's a dream come true. We bounce ideas off each other alot and love each other’s company.
What has the process of launching LOVE IN A JEWEL been like?It was a rollercoaster ride at the beginning. The biggest challenge for us was that our collection was copied by the local casting company we entrusted our designs to for casting. We had to fight for some justice with lawyers, which was a cost we couldn't afford when we were starting out. It was very disheartening in the early stages of establishing LOVE IN A JEWEL, especially as the journey was so personal for us. However, that aside the highs have been amazing. Our first day of working together was at the Sydney International Jewellery Fair in Darling Harbour, where we launched the Keepsake Collection. We were so nervous that we smiled at everyone who walking by our stand butno one stopped to talk to us. On the second day of the fair, a woman (Fiona Platje), her husband (Michael Platje) and daughter (Alicia Platje) walked up to us - they had three stores in Hamilton. They listened, smiled and said they would take it and signed up to be our first stockist. It was such a huge moment for us after over a year of working on the weekends and after work every night. The relief that others resonated with the concept and were willing to back us was so rewarding. The minute they said they wantedto sign, Tracy walked away and was crying in the toilets for a few minutes until she pulled herself together. It was an amazing moment we will never forget. Another highlight, is the day we showcased the Keepsake Collection to a buyer at Ballantynes Department Store.We had been told it would be impossible to get into Ballantynes but we gave it our best shot and managed to secure a meeting. We got to the cafe early so we could set up the display with our keepsake jewellery. When we explained the concept the Buyer had tears in her eyes. She understood how much it would mean to people and told us then and there she would love to take it.Walking down the street after the meeting we were on cloud nine!
What does a typical day in the life of LOVE IN A JEWEL’s Master Jeweller entail?It starts by me making sure my bench is under control, then, the production begins!
We usually start with keepsake orders and only ever work on one order at a time and it is a process we do in tandem. I prepare the piece and make it perfect then Tracy photographs the note or keepsake with the jewellery then carries it to my bench. If it is a note, we discuss what words are the most special, then thoughtfully fold it so those words are sitting on the top when I close the piece. Following this, Tracy captures more imagery. Finally, it goes back on my bench to be sealed and polished. It's a smooth system and we really enjoy the process. Meanwhile, the doorbell rings quite a bit as we get customers popping up to meet with me about bespoke pieces, repairs or remakes. We always answer the door with "Welcome to LOVE IN A JEWEL"; - so that is said quite a few times a day!Some keepsake pieces need alot of concentration. For example, if I'm making a Full Heart, I am hand setting 26 diamonds just for the one pendant, so I need my eyes on for this. I always use my x5 magnification goldsmith glasses. We even make all of our Silver pieces in our workshop so that means setting 26 crystals for one pendant!
Plus I'm ordering big diamonds and gems in for the bespoke engagement rings and making them from scratch...it's busy!
If you weren’t a jeweller, what do you think you’d be doing?
I think I would enjoy making sculptures out of steel or teaching goldsmithing. Both of my parents were teachers.
What sets LOVE IN A JEWEL’s keepsake jewellery apart?It's personal. There’s real love inside yet it looks just like a beautiful piece of jewellery. Only the person wearing it knows what’s enclosed.
There’s a lot of confusion around ‘ethical diamond sourcing’ – what does this mean? How do you ensure you’re sourcing ethically?An ethically sourced diamond comes from a mine that is in compliance with strict labour and environment regulations. We source our diamonds from a top New Zealand owned and operated diamond supplier. They have an excellent reputation and only source their diamonds from ethical mining. Our supplier only deals with family and very close business contacts the world over, ensuring the chain is maintained. The diamonds they stock are hand-picked by them ensuring excellence in all aspects of the stone.
Where do you craft LOVE IN A JEWEL’s jewellery?I have a workshop based in Christchurch, which is open plan with Tracy's office. There is also an area where I meet with clients for a one-on-one consultation.
Alongside keepsake jewellery, LOVE IN A JEWEL also specialises in bespoke engagement and wedding rings. What does this process involve?I like to involve the customer as much as possible in the custom jewellery process. For locals, we even invite them to come into my workshop, put on a leather apron, and melt and roll the gold for their ring. Initially, I sit down with the person or couple to get a sense of what their dream ring/s looks like. If they don't have any specific thoughts, then we go through different designs together for inspiration. From there, I do a detailed drawing of the final design, then we order the diamonds or gems in and invite the customer back to see them. As I am making their ring I take progress photos so clients feel part of the process every step of the way. Our goal is to make the creation process a memorable and enjoyable experience, adding to the special memories already associated with getting engaged or married.
When designing new pieces, where do you draw inspiration from?Most of my inspiration is out of nature and sometimes even architecture. Any shape that is well balanced and can be applied to jewellery.
With keepsakes at the heart of the brand, what’s one special object you could never part with?This keepsake would not fit into our jewellery! It is the trumpet I was given by my favourite uncle for my birthday as a child.
If you had to pick, what’s been your favourite piece you’ve created to date?My favourite keepsake piece was a pendant a family organised to gift to their Nana. She had been in lockdown at her rest home and they were going to see her for the first time in six weeks on her birthday. They wrote a really nice note telling her how loved she is by everyone and this went inside her pendant. On the outside of the pendant we did a gem stone for the birth date of every child and grandchild. Her daughter sent us photos of her wearing it and she absolutely loved it.
My favourite bespoke piece was one I made in Amsterdam. It was four days before Christmas and one of my favourite customers walked in and said he wanted to have a necklace completely set with stones. He wanted a one carat diamond in the middle and the chain to be made out of diamonds and sapphires. I was allowed to spend as much on the stones as I wanted. It was an adventure because it had to be perfect and it had to be done in time for Christmas (which is already a busy time for a goldsmith). I really enjoyed working under pressure and illustrating my skills as a goldsmith without budget restrictions. The price came to 45,000 euros and the customer loved it. I finished it on Christmas Eve on a huge high.
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