Cameron Jewellery’s newest owners, Jessie Cameron and Sam Drummond, talk about their different roles in the business and how they are keeping up with the rising trends in the jewellery scene.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that’s certainly the case for jewellers Jessie Cameron and Sam Drummond.
The pair recently took over Cameron Jewellery, the Palmerston North business Jessie’s parents set up almost 40 years ago, where Sam has worked for the past 20 years.
Some of Jessie’s earliest memories are of wandering into her family’s Feilding garage, where her parents Peter and Jill turned precious metals and stones into a range of jewellery.
Roll forward a few years and Jessie started helping out in her parents’ shop at weekends and school holidays. But in 2003 she moved to Wellington to study – first an industrial design degree at Massey University, then a BA at Victoria University.
“My aim was to work in PR and communications and I did that for two years at Federated Farmers.” But when a boy lured Jessie back to Palmerston North, she decided to train as a primary school teacher. During the summer school holidays of 2012, Jessie was asked to help out at the shop again – a decision that changed her life.
“At the end of summer my parents said, you seem to be happy here, do you want to stay? And that’s when I realised I love this industry and creating magic for people, especially brides and grooms.”
She was happily running the digital side of the business, managing the social media and website when her parents hit upon a succession plan, asking Jessie and Sam if they’d consider taking over the business.
“About five years ago Peter and Jill decided they wanted us to carry on their legacy. We were thrilled to be able to do so.” Although the family had discussed Jessie and Sam taking on the business for a long time, it was still an exciting moment. “Jessie and I work really well together,” Sam says. “We have different skills and strengths, and know how to bring out the best in each other. We can’t do this without each other.”
Over the years Jessie has learned a lot about how jewellery is made, but admits it’s not her forte.
“I have tried making jewellery but it takes a lot of physical strength to be a manufacturing jeweller because you’re working with metals, bending them and shaping them.”
Instead, Jessie takes the lead in designing pieces alongside Sam, who then turns their ideas into an extensive range of pieces featuring gold, silver and platinum, as well as precious and semi-precious stones.
Cameron Jewellery’s unique proposition, they say, lies in “pushing the boundaries”.
“Peter has always specialised in one-off, custom-made pieces that you can’t find in any of the chain stores. And that’s what we still do,” says Sam. That includes using coloured gemstones in their engagement and wedding rings, somewhat of a departure from traditional diamond settings.
“We use sapphires from Sri Lanka and Australia, emeralds from Zambia and Colombia and garnets and aquamarine stones from Thailand and India. I have couples saying to me, I’d love to have a coloured stone but granny told me you can’t have a coloured ring, you have to have a diamond! That’s not true and I’m so excited to see more and more brides being braver and asking for coloured stones. For us, it’s so much fun to play with colour, cut and shapes.”
Some of the colour combinations they’ve recently featured include a deep pink tourmaline stone paired with a bright yellow sapphire. And then there was the mint green garnet and pale pink morganite.
“In the past, brides who wanted colour have favoured blue and green stones and they’ll always be popular, but it’s exciting to see tastes expand into yellows and pinks.”
Using different cuts of stone is also a trend Jessie and Sam embrace in their ring designs. “Traditionally, gemstones have always been cut in a round shape but we’re using lots of oval shapes, what we call a pear cut, as well as diamond-shaped kite cuts and hexagons.”
They’re also starting to use two coloured stones of different shapes in their rings. “Peter always said never use two stones, use an odd number,” says Sam. “But we’re finding that if you set the angle of each stone the right way, and use contrasting colours, you can create a striking ring with two stones.”
Another trend is the rise in signet rings, particularly for grooms who wear them instead of traditional wedding bands.
If Jessie and Sam have any advice for couples it’s to get their rings made by a manufacturing jeweller. “You can sit down with a jeweller and get them to custom design your ring, as well as picking the stones,” says Sam. “That way you’ll get strong rings which aren’t hollowed out under the stone and have well set stones and well defined claws that will last a lifetime.”
Jessie says she’s thrilled to be able to take the business to its next level with a craftsman as talented as Sam.
“Sam is one of approximately 80 members of the New Zealand Goldsmiths Guild and to be granted membership into the Guild, manufacturing jewellers workmanship must meet an extremely high standard. Sam’s talent at the bench and with his design is extraordinary. We are 50/50 in our partnership.”
Although busy getting settled into their new roles, the pair are also looking forward to 2023 when Cameron Jewellery turns 40 and, coincidentally, the heritage building the business has called home for the last 15 years turns 100.
“We’ve come a long way since Peter and Jill set up Cameron Jewellery in the Square Edge Arts Centre which was full of craft artisans,” says Jessie. “They then moved to the Coleman Mall and for 15 years the Regent Theatre until they renovated a former Salvation Army Hall where we’re currently based. It’s an amazing legacy that Sam and I and all of our staff are committed to continuing.”
Sam also intends to live by Peter’s advice — that every piece he makes. “Jewellery can be beautiful and fashionable, but it also has to be wearable, practical and made to last a lifetime. Peter has always given me that advice.
“Also to never let our standards drop, no matter how busy we get. Our standards are what we are known for.”
WORDS: Sharon Stephenson / PHOTOGRAPHY: David Le