THIS POST ORIGINALLY FEATURED ON JEWELLERMAGAZINE.COMDespite having only been a part of the industry full time since late 2009, New Zealand jewellery entrepreneur Chris Benham is already catching international attention.

Benham, 30, is co-founder and director of The Inspired Collection and the only New Zealand finalist in the inaugural Jewellery News Asia Awards Young Leader of the Year category.

 Formally a chartered accountant, Benham said he had always had a passion for design and an urge to start a business from scratch. The chance to do both presented itself when he met Ian and Christine Douglas, his co-founders of The Inspired Collection, in 2005 while working as a consultant.

 “This was my first introduction to the industry and I worked with them on all aspects of their existing retail and manufacturing business The Village Goldsmith,” Benham said. “From that early stage we all clicked. We realised that there was an opportunity to get these amazing engagement and right-hand ring designs on the hands of women all around the world.”

 The Inspired Collection has exhibited each year since its inception at the September Hong Kong Jewellery Fair, with Benham saying it was from last year’s fair that he was made aware of the opportunity to nominate for the awards.

“We felt that it was a good chance to see how we stacked up against other international brands. It’s an honour to be announced a finalist in the awards and to be amongst such high profile nominees. This nomination reflects the work of the entire Inspired Collection team’s fresh approach to jewellery design. We’ve only been trading since December 2009 and already we’ve had terrific success all over the world.”

 The Inspired Collection is already racking up some impressive accolades for such a young brand, having won back to back GIA George A. Schuetz Awards for men’s jewellery in 2010-11 and back-to-back supreme awards in the New Zealand Jewellery Design Awards in 2009-10.

For Benham though, the most exciting achievement for the young brand has been signing a recent deal with luxury Chinese jewellery brand Hiersun to design a diamond collection to be sold in more than 200 of their I Do stores across China. He hopes his nomination as one of the young leaders of the year can help the company sign other exciting deals like this

“Hopefully the awards will help increase the exposure of our designs and brand and help us establish new relationships with progressive jewellery companies that are looking to partner with jewellery design companies like ours.”

The award will be announced in Hong Kong on December 20