Brent Sutcliffe opened Sutcliffe Jewellery's doors in 2004 and since then has been a the height of bespoke, handcrafted jewellery in New Zealand. We talked to Brent about what inspired him to become a jeweller, the latest trends and what questions couples should ask when choosing rings, plus study-up on your 4's.
What inspired you to become a jeweller?
A lack of any other ideas of what to do with my life, but I'd always loved making things so it did make sense, and I gave it a shot.
What is it that you love about designing jewellery?
I design from an aesthetic and craftsman perspective so I'm always pushing the boundaries of being commercial and unique and also pushing myself as a craftsman – I guess you could sum that all up by saying I like to challenge myself.
How long does it take for a ring to be custom made?
A custom made ring could take as long as an hour for the most most basic of bands, to hundreds of hours!! But they average out to about 10 hours.
What about wedding bands – how much before the wedding should they be ordered?
Wedding bands generally only take a couple of weeks from start to finish. But I'd say get onto it a month before the wedding… just in case.
Is every ring that claims to be handcrafted truly that? What makes a ring ‘handcrafted’?
No, there's a lot of places that claim their jewellery is handmade but it's not. Today 95% of people use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) to design the ring and it's then cast. It’s a bit like buying the print of an original piece of artwork. What would you rather your ring was? Unique and special or one of hundreds that are the same?
What we do is actually handmake almost everything we do. Handmade jewellery uses a different alloy to cast jewellery, which is harder wearing. Also when a piece of jewellery is handmade the metal is work hardened making it a lot tougher and it will stand up to everyday wear a lot better, so lasting longer. It's not just the wearability, it’s the fact that the ring is truly unique when it's handmade, and it's had a craftsman pour blood, sweat, tears and a lot of love into that very special piece for you.
You seem to specialise in beautiful designs with stunning stones – do you have a favourite stone right now?
It's hard to pick a favourite. If it’s a beautiful stone, I tend to want it!
What’s the ‘4C’ system?
The 4c’s describes the Colour, Clarity, Cut and carat weight of the stone. These all make up the grade of the stone and in effect its value.
Is there a particularly popular stone right now with brides?
Diamonds are still the favourite with Cushion Cut diamonds coming a close second to round diamonds. In coloured stones the Peach or Padparadscha sapphires are very popular.
What classifies a stone as ‘precious’ and are diamonds rarer than sapphires or rubies?
It’s the rarity of the stone that makes it precious. Some stones are both. Tourmaline is Semi precious but there is one particular colour called Paraiba Tourmaline which falls into the precious category because it's so rare.
Diamonds aren’t the rarest of stones. Rubies emeralds and sapphires are all more rare than diamonds. There are others too but they are more obscure.
What’s the difference between platinum and white gold?
White gold is normal gold alloyed with white metals like platinum and palladium or silver to make it go white. Platinum is just platinum. It is alloyed with other metals (usually with the alloy only being 5%) and it stays a lovely white colour. White gold tends to be a much more grey colour or sometimes even a brown colour. All white gold is Rhodium polated to make it look like platinum, but the plating wears off leaving the true colour exposed. White gold is still a very good metal, but we suggest it's better for dress rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets – jewellery that’s not made to be worn everyday.
Is there a particular stone shape that’s trendy right now?
Round diamonds (always popular) and cushion shaped anything.
Is there a practical reason a woman should choose a particular ring stone shape, or is it a matter of aesthetics?
The stone shape does come down to aesthetics definitely, but there are a few stones that will take a little more care to wear. A marquise is one of them. They have two very pointy and unforgiving ends, which like to dig into things. If you plan on having children at some stage I'd say take a while to consider your options. Marquise are one of the more difficult shaped stones to get a wedding band to fit next to nicely.
What are three questions a couple should ask themselves before shopping for wedding bands?
- Is the ring one that will match my lifestyle?
- Does the ring suit my hand?
- Can the jeweller execute what I want?
Any tips on cleaning rings and how often they should be cleaned?
It's hard to say how often they should be cleaned as everyone has different lifestyles. To clean your jewellery at home I'd suggest some handyandy and warm water with a tooth brush. Otherwise take it back to your jeweller and they should do it for you. We offer complimentary cleaning for the life of any piece of jewellery you purchase from us, whenever you like.