Last year, Melbourne designer Cushla Whiting started her bespoke jewellery business with her brother Hamish (a gemologist and diamond expert) and sister Anna, the business manager. It’s a natural fit for the siblings whose father is a retired gemologist and diamond wholesaler. “It’s funny that it came together so organically,” says Cushla, who works from a showroom in McKillop Street in Melbourne’s CBD. “I guess it was always in the back of our minds that we might do something together.” Adds Anna: “We’ve all got totally different skills, which complement one another.”
Cushla studied architecture at the University of Melbourne, but after moving to London in 2012 she decided to try her hand at jewellery and took a job assisting jewellery designer Hannah Martin. “It’s architecture on a very small scale. I started off just wanting to make fine jewellery, things I would wear myself. But I’ve come to really appreciate engagement jewellery more because it’s quite a challenge to create something that’s really classic that you want to wear forever, but that’s unique.”
While Cushla was assisting Martin, Hamish was working in Bogota, Colombia, where he was meeting people in the coloured-stone industry. He was sourcing the famed Muzo emeralds, which are ethical and internationally regarded as the best in the world. “We’re buying mine-to-market emeralds, which no-one else in Australia is doing,” Hamish explains. His relationships in the trade enable him to source exceptional stones from all over the world, including rare antique-cut diamonds, sapphires and coloured diamonds.
The process of crafting a bespoke ring begins when customers meet with Cushla and Hamish in their showroom. Because there are natural variations in each gemstone, Cushla fashions her designs around the stone customers select. “It’s definitely a very collaborative process,” Cushla says. The cost of a ring depends on the stone and metal selected, but can range from $5000 to $100,000 and take six to eight weeks to make. Cushla also offers a signature collection of 15 engagement rings, which can be modified to hold a different size or type of diamond or coloured stone, and she is about to launch a fine-jewellery collection.
“My idea was to create a jewellery business that wasn’t stuffy, where people felt relaxed coming in and sitting down and actually learning about what they’re buying,” says Cushla. “I’ve become kind of obsessed with the small details of engagement jewellery, and how you can make the pieces different but still design something that’s going to be an heirloom.”
Cushla Whiting Jewellery
105 20–22 McKillop Street Melbourne
(03) 9670 4403