Julie and Alexandra are the charismatic mother-daughter duo behind Hammon Diamond Jeweller – Tauranga’s family-owned jeweller now into its third generation.
WORDS LAURA TUCK / PHOTOS RACHEL DOBBS
Julie was thrust into the world of diamonds when she married her late husband, Ian, in 1974. In 1986, they moved the family business from Gisborne to Tauranga. Fifteen years later, daughter Alexandra stepped up to take her place at the helm alongside her mum. And today? Business is better than ever – but family always comes first.
I walked into my future as a 17-year-old customer in a jewellery store in Gisborne. I didn’t know then that I would marry the owner’s son and end up running the business. Romance blossomed with Ian from that first meeting. I was quite a bit younger than him and my parents had hoped I’d move away to study, so it was all a bit scandalous.
Ian’s father started the business in 1947 after the war. Back in those days, the store sold silverware and trophies, as well as fine jewellery. As a young mum starting out in the industry, I was under the tutelage of a pretty formidable lady, Mrs B, who was the store manager. I wasn’t allowed to touch the jewellery, I just had to watch and learn. I lived in fear of her for quite some time and became very good at cleaning!
Weekend shopping wasn’t really a thing back then. We’d have late nights so couples from the country could come in and shop for engagement rings; Friday nights were always crazy – we’d be open until 10pm.
In the mid-eighties, we decided to pursue other opportunities outside of Gisborne. I wasn’t that keen to leave, but Ian needed a change. He jumped in the car and headed towards Auckland but, for some reason, he stopped in Tauranga. It just so happened the business we have now was for sale, as the lovely gentleman who owned it was about to retire. So, we bought it.
We’ve seen major changes in the city over the 34 years we’ve been here. All those years have gone by and we’re still here doing the same thing – although a little better and smarter.
It’s a privilege to continue the family business, and one of the highlights is working with Alexandra as a motherdaughter team. Growing up, all Alexandra and her brother Duncan heard across the dinner table was jewellery and business talk, so I guess it was only natural she’d take an interest.
We have complementary strengths – Alexandra will tell you about my completely useless IT skills! She’s great with social media, so I’ve given her that responsibility. Alexandra and I have quite different taste when it comes to jewellery, but that doesn’t matter because we’re not selecting it for us, we’re selecting it for our customers.
We’re a full-service business, which means we offer everything from jewellery and watch repairs through to cleaning. We keep our ready-to-wear range fresh and up-to-date, especially for our regular customers. Locally, we support the Karen Walker brand, and we also have premium international brands such as Swarovski crystal jewellery, watch specialist Michel Herbelin, and Seiko watches.
While some things have changed over the years, other things remain – like our intergenerational customers. We’re so lucky to look after the sons and daughters and grandchildren of some our original customers. Everyone who walks through our doors has a story to tell, so we love getting to know them on a real and personal level.
Owning a business is like anything in life, if it’s not your calling, you find something else. I’ve been doing it well over 40 years and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t love turning my key in the lock and walking into the store.
I’m completely fascinated by diamonds. I recently completed an intensive diamond grading certificate which involved studying under the guidance of some very respected people in the industry. Estimating and calculating is something I used to associate with maths – which isn’t my strong suit – but, when it’s related to something you love, all of a sudden it becomes enjoyable.
I like talking in depth about the characteristics of a diamond with someone who’s excited to give it to their partner, because every stone is different.
We source our diamonds, which are conflict-free, from all over the world. Our diamonds arrive already cut and we design them from there. Cutting a diamond is one of the most important processes – it must be cut perfectly to maximise its beauty from its raw state. If the cutting isn’t done to the highest standard, everything else is thrown off-balance.
Jewellery is associated with such beautiful occasions. I take so much pride in what we do because everything is hand-picked or custom-made for someone special. We don’t talk in ‘units’ because everything is unique and is treated as such.
Working alongside Julie is fabulous. She has such a breadth of knowledge around jewellery, gems and design, and she’s funny as heck! If we’re not laughing and joking or giving each other grief daily, we know we’re out of sync and need to reset our buttons.
I remember when I was little, I’d go to the store a lot. Around the age of five, I had my own station near the back wall – I felt so important, even though it was more of a distraction to help keep me out of Mum and Dad’s hair.
I started working Saturdays when I was about 13 years old, learning the basics of repairs. It wasn’t until my father passed away that I realised I was at a real crossroads with what I wanted to do. By that stage, Julie and I were on a path of friendship and closeness after my teenage years. I came in as a full-time junior, learning the ropes on a more serious level, and the rest is history. Now, we work side by side every day, while sharing our love of diamonds. A life of love and sparkle.