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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Neena Bhandari
Date: 27/08/2012
Words: 353
Source: SMH
        Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Supplement
Page: 7
A local jewellery maker is a diamond in rough times, writes Neena Bhandari.

ANDREW Sampson launched Rings of Melbourne in 2009 as a counter to the imported jewellery flooding the retail sector.

"The consumer has no choice but to buy the imported product, which is inferior in quality compared with the locally made ones. It is pushing designers and manufacturers like me out of business," says Sampson, who has worked in the industry for the past 25 years.

Passionate about Australian-made products, Sampson says the country is "losing an entire generation of skilled [craftspeople] because they can't compete with cheap imports. For our jewellers and goldsmiths to survive, we need handcrafted pieces, made here in Australia, back on the shelves."

Sampson designs and makes custom handcrafted engagement, wedding and dress rings at his Collins Street studio in Melbourne's CBD. The metals and gemstones are sourced from Australia, diamonds from Russia, Israel and Belgium, rubies from Myanmar, emeralds from Colombia, and coloured gems from India and Sri Lanka.

He says rings are the most popular, but also the most challenging, jewellery to make.

"Mostly customers come in with ideas and I blend them with my own design based on a contemporary, yet timeless, feel. I just made a 2?-carat diamond ring costing $50,000. The lady was over the moon.

"This is the other reason that motivated me to start my own company. The sheer delight and satisfaction on my customers' faces when they receive the ring knowing they have purchased a high-quality, Australian-made product surpasses the monetary gains."

On average, engagement rings cost $5000, with 80 per cent of his customers opting for a solitaire diamond and the remainder choosing coloured gemstones.

The company has seen a modest 5 per cent year-on-year growth since its inception.

"It is difficult to compete with cheap imported products. I used to sell 50 per cent of my work to bigger retailers, but that has been steadily declining as retailers are increasingly stocking imported jewellery."

However, he is confident that as long as people are getting engaged and married, rings will always have a market and people will soon realise the value of Australian-crafted jewellery.

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