Business Day: Dominion Post by Catherine Harris. Photography: Maarten Holl

Proving that inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources, Wellington goldsmith Nigel Wong has won one of the jewellery industry's top awards with a design inspired by a towel rack.

Mr Wong took the fine jewellery section at the New Zealand Jewellery Show last week. His winning necklace, "X-tension", was modelled on a device he saw while his father-in-law was showing off his new camper van.

"He told me he had issues about placing his towel after his shower in such a confined space, and then he showed me this extendible shower towel rail and I was quite impressed by the mechanism."

A few weeks later when Mr Wong was working on a competition entry, he realised his initial design thoughts mirrored what he had seen.

The piece, on sale for $18,000, is a concertina style design in yellow and white gold, with 13 diamonds and a centrepiece of triangular green tourmaline.

True to its name, the piece is extendable, allowing the wearer to adjust the length.

"It has a lot of versatility," Mr Wong said. "If you have a low neckline dress, you can extend it down and if you want to wear it casually you can wear it closer to the neck."

It is the first time Mr Wong has won the fine jewellery section although he was a finalist in 2008. His employers, the Village Goldsmith, have a good track record in the competition. Colleague Karl Williams was a fellow finalist this year and another colleague, Nick Hensman, took the title last year.

"There's a little in-house rivalry here – although it's all friendly – to improve our levels of skills and design parameters," Mr Wong said.

He has been with Village Goldsmith for 12 years and goldsmithing for 30 years.

Meanwhile, Village Goldsmith is working to establish a global brand of designer diamond rings.

The collection, designed by owner Ian Douglas, was launched eight months ago after several years in development.

Mr Douglas described the rings as "almost architectural".

"They explore new techniques of holding diamonds and settings. They're done in such a way that they're nothing like traditional engagement rings."

The company was aiming to establish a chain of overseas distributors for the range. Talks were already under way with a small jewellery chain in Helsinki, he said.

Sales were doing well through its Auckland distributor.

The range will also show alongside a select group of exhibitors in the design gallery of the world's biggest jewellery fair in Hong Kong later this year.