Our 'Best provincial retailer: South Island' award was hotly contested in the Gem Retail Hotlist, but in the end, it was Nelson jeweller Benjamin Black that won. Find out more about this boutique craft jeweller.
Nelson jeweller Benjamin Black Goldsmiths illustrates how starting off in the regions can give a business the freedom to take risks.
When master jeweller Benjamin Clark opened Benjamin Black Goldsmiths in 2012, he was in his early twenties, but already had some seven years of experience behind him. The son of a watchmaker began his career in jewellery aged just 16 as an apprentice at the world-renowned Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmiths.
After mastering traditional gold and silversmithing techniques and developing a distinctive style Clark spotted a gap in the market for ethical, handmade jewellery that had a bit of heft to it. “Fine and dainty” designs were dominating elsewhere, and Clark has since had success with a line of chunky engraved signet rings.
Now 30, he co-owns Benjamin Black Goldsmiths with his partner Amy Cunningham. The couple also run sister brand Black Matter, a demi-fine fashion jewellery brand which is sold on a wholesale basis. He answered some questions for us about regional retail.
Tell us how being based in the regions has supported your business’s growth.
Nelson is a hub for artists and creatives. We are constantly being renewed and inspired by the people who surround us. This is not only motivating, it also helps to catalyse innovation in business, and has been instrumental to our growth.
Have you ever been tempted to up sticks and move to Auckland or another major centre? What’s made you resist?
Although a large percentage of our customers are based outside of Nelson, we will continue to base ourselves here for the foreseeable future. We feel fortunate to live and work in a place that has so much to offer, whilst also being able to connect with a national audience.
What’s special about regional businesses?
Regional businesses are special because they represent a piece of their origin. They are quite often smaller, family businesses or boutique stores, which have a beautiful personalised approach and uniqueness. If you go into a regional business, you will quite often be meeting with the owner, and in our case, the makers. Visitors to our region love this as much as we do.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 764 October/November 2019.