Hammon Diamond Jeweller is a real kiwi, family-business success story. Seventy years ago in post-war Gisborne James and Zalie Hammon saw a business opportunity and opened a manufacturing jewellery workshop and retail store. They could not have foreseen their founding business, which relocated to Tauranga in 1986, would carry on growing, changing and adapting through the generations to continue being the successful retail jeweller it is today.
The Grey Street store, established by Ian and Julie Hammon, is now owned by Julie and her daughter Alexandra Hammon Elliott (daughter-in-law and granddaughter of the founders), who bring the same passion of loyal customer service as their forebears instilled in the business back in 1947.
Julie Hammon has been a retail jeweller almost all her working life and says family businesses are indeed all about family. She values the support her parents provided with childcare as she built her career, and Alexandra enjoys similar support from her own parents-in-law as she raises her two young daughters.
Julie says while significant occasions, such as engagements, weddings and other celebrations continue to be a big part of their business – with precious stones and bespoke settings still in hot demand – unusual, contemporary pieces are always on-trend.
“We bring together collections from around the world that reflect certain styles and influences that we think our clients might like,” says Julie. “We combine our exclusive brands, like Swarovski and Karen Walker, with some more eclectic jewellery and clients like the pieces because they are quite different.”
Where traditional jewellery used to contain a single metal, such as yellow gold or rose gold, now the mixed-metal trend is hugely popular.
“Layering is a big trend we are seeing. People like to take some old and some new and mix it up. They incorporate other elements and personalise their jewellery.”
“We help to educate our customers about the different gemstones, and the 4 Cs – cut, colour, clarity and carat – and work with them to design a custom piece. We want them to come away with something they love.”
The women have also noticed a trend towards more and more guys being involved in selecting engagement rings. “They’ve been listening to what women want and design the rings themselves,” says Alexandra.
Hammon Diamond Jeweller works with manufacturing jewellers locally and internationally to craft personalised pieces for their clients and Julie says once they know what kind of design a client is looking for, they also know who can best create it and will work together to meet the client’s requirements.
The women have worked together as business partners since 2001 when Ian Hammon passed away and Alexandra, then aged 21, decided to come into the family business. Even though as a teenager she would never have envisioned working alongside her mother one day – and didn’t ever give serious thought to being involved in the business permanently – she says the partnership has worked really well.
“Some of my friends thought I was mad to go into business with my mum, but once Julie and I established a working relationship there was nowhere else I wanted to be. We just ‘get’ each other. Now many women say I’m lucky to have such a great relationship with my mother and for the two of us to be able to work together.
“I love our product and the symbolic nature of it. We are a part of so many occasions which usually all revolve around love. Sometimes people have lost family or a loved one and they want to remember them with a piece of jewellery. Selecting a special piece is a very personal thing and I enjoy being able to assist with that.”
Julie was tentative as well as excited when Alexandra decided to come on board, but considered herself open for change, and says from day one she knew it would be a success.
“We have a great business relationship and an increasingly close personal one. We share the same values but have our own opinions too and are not afraid to give a different point of view when we’re discussing new ideas. It’s always about open communication.”
Hammon Diamond Jewellery team
Julie and Alexandra both work five days a week in the business and employ four other part-time staff members. Alexandra takes responsibility for ordering, stock management and social media marketing, while Julie’s first love and focus is being available to customers on the shop floor. They share the buying, as well as the retail side, and both do minor bench repairs, such as replacing watch batteries. Julie’s son, while not involved in the retail side of the business, continues to provide valuable business support and mentoring.
“It’s so nice to be able to hang out with close family members most days and do something we really enjoy,” says Julie. “I feel privileged to have so much history in our business as well as the integrity and trust of those who went before us. I feel very blessed.”
Words Millie Freeman | Images Supplied