Siblings Cushla, Anna and Hamish Whiting grew up with twinkles in their eyes. These days, they put their childhood lessons to beautiful use in their Melbourne-based jewellery business…
Since when have the rough-and-tumble sport of rugby and fine jewellery had anything in common? For the Whiting family, since 1976. All Black Peter Whiting was on a tour to South Africa when his interest in diamonds and gemology was piqued. Next minute, he was signing up to study gemology in Europe, then returning to Auckland in 1978 to found the New Zealand Gem Trading Company. So began a lifetime in gems as he built it into the largest diamond wholesaler in the country. Watching from the sidelines were Peter’s children, Cushla, Anna and Hamish.
In 2013, Cushla had moved to Melbourne from Amsterdam and London, where she’d left a career in architecture to work for a top jeweller while studying jewellery design at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Hamish had just arrived in the city after working as a diamond buyer in New Zealand, with emeralds in Colombia, and studying diamond grading in Belgium and gemology at the GIA. Lawyer Anna was moving down from Sydney and keen for them to start a business together. “It just kind of came together,” says Anna, who’s now a GIA-qualified diamond expert. “The diamond industry has always been a family industry, so it was really special to be able to build on our experiences and memories of growing up around diamonds and put our own twist on it.”
They established Cushla Whiting the following year, with Cushla taking the role of designer/creative director, Hamish as gemologist/buyer, and Anna as general manager. “In the beginning, we definitely had our teething problems working together, but the good thing about siblings is you can be completely honest,” laughs Anna. These days, it’s a level playing field. “Our brand has a clear personality and direction, so we’re all on the same page, and there’s no doubt where our individual talents lie.”
Working alongside the talented trio is a handpicked squad of jewellers, stone-setters and other professionals, who make the magic happen in the newly designed Cushla Whiting showroom in the heart of Melbourne. The open-plan space by Richard Stampton Architects is all whitewashed walls, exposed beams, and pink and grey concrete, with the jewellery displayed on floating nuggets of granite. It’s exceptional, as is the jewellery. Classic and contemporary pieces made with platinum, nine- and 18-karat gold and an unrivalled array of gems, the Cushla Whiting aesthetic is minimal and sleek, and pays homage to antique aesthetics.
The siblings start their days together over coffee at Brother Baba Budan a few doors down, then it’s game on. “We like sharing ideas, so when designing new collection pieces, I usually come up with designs based on a particular stone we want to use, but I always ask everyone in the studio’s opinion before I finalise them,” says Cushla. “In terms of bespoke designs, it’s often very collaborative and a result of the clients’ ideas and mine.” For now, their collections are stocked exclusively in Melbourne. The bespoke service begins here too, and lovers abroad can access it all via email, high-quality videos, and Skype consultations.
“The bespoke process is really fun,” says Cushla. “We love to educate our customers about what they’re buying so they can make a well-informed decision. We start by walking them through our displays, so they can see the collection rings and select the designs they like before we sit down to show them our beautiful gemstones. It’s a collaboration, but we encourage people to go with their gut and follow the gemstone they keep coming back to.”
Those gorgeous gems are a big part of what makes Cushla Whiting jewellery so amazing. Hamish’s stellar skills mean they have access to the largest pool of diamonds in the world, while their spellbinding, ethically sourced coloured gemstones come from all over – the sapphires from Australia, Sri Lanka, Africa, Madagascar and the US; the emeralds from Colombia; the rubies from Myanmar, and the spinels from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. “It’s a very personalised service,” says Anna. “People always comment that they couldn’t have a ring more perfect for them.”
It’s not just for the betrothed. “We have some beautiful minimal cufflinks and gemstone studs that are great for gifts,” says Cushla. “We’ve also just released a range of unisex signet rings that are popular as gifts and with guys as an alternative to a wedding band – you can personalise them with your own engraved monogram or family crest. We’re all wearing our signets and Continuum loop rings at the moment. The piece I never take off is my Art Deco COG ring. I don’t feel like myself without it. It’s amazing how jewellery can define your style.”
“To make jewellery that symbolises love and commitment is such a wonderful thing to be part of,” says Anna. “The look on their faces when they open the ring box and see the final creation is always the best part.” cushlawhiting.com.au