Inspiration can come from the most unlikely situations. For Ian Douglas, the founder and owner of Wellington’s The Village Goldsmith, inspiration took the form of a man strolling naked through the streets of Barcelona. Hombre desnudo probably has no idea that he has been immortalised in a technically ambitous diamond ring that has reached the finals of New Zealand’s most prestigious jewellery design competition. The ring has been created by master craftsman Dan Palmer, who has had a long association with Douglas. Palmer took the design brief and created the highly technical and challenging ring in his own inimitable style, blending platinum and gold around a stunning pear shape diamond

2011 is the fourth consecutive year that jewellers from The Village Goldsmith have been named as finalists in the New Zealand Jewellery Design Awards. Palmer is now in direct competition with the firm’s apprentice Nick Hensman who won the award in 2009 after only fourteen months in the industry. Palmer on the other hand, has been a goldsmith for more than thirty years and is a highly regarded figure in NZ jewellery circles. Douglas’ own finals entry for the 2010 competition ‘What’s the Point’ was given as a gift to Katy Perry on her recent trip to NZ, while the top prize that year was claimed by Nigel Wong - yet another jeweller from The Village Goldsmith.

Frustration with the commercially oriented and creatively static direction of the jewellery industry moved Douglas to launch The Inspired Collection as a global brand, where the focus is first and foremost on the design and the story behind the pieces that they make. Each year Mr Douglas gives his staff two weeks of paid time and supplies all materials for the team to get creative and work on their competition pieces. Inspirations for last year’s competition pieces ranged from Ancient Egyptian mythology to extendable bathroom mirrors.

The inspirations behind this year’s entries are eclectic as ever. Douglas was out for a mid morning walk on Barcelona’s busiest street when he encountered the inspiration behind ‘Naked Barcelona’. “It was highly amusing watching the reaction of other people and the casual manner of the naked walker. The whole situation seemed to epitomise the fun and spontaneous nature of Spanish life”, says Douglas. ‘Naked Barcelona’ was designed by Mr Douglas and expertly executed by Palmer in a collaborative effort. Reminiscent of an abstract Picasso, the offbeat ring houses a beautiful pear shaped diamond. “It’s a highly technical ring and required someone of immense skill to execute. Dan was the obvious choice to craft this piece,” said Mr Douglas.

Hensman’s piece takes us back to this side of the world and is inspired by New Zealand’s fabled pink and white terraces that were recently rediscovered by scientists underneath Lake Rotomahana. He has called the gem encrusted necklace of silver and rose gold ‘1886’ after the year of the Mt Tarawera eruption that sunk what many called the Eighth Wonder of the world.

The design-centric ethos combined with talented goldsmiths and using only the best gemstones and precious metals in their work has helped Inspired Jewellery and The Village Goldsmith go from strength to strength as evinced by their recognition in the  NZ Jewellery Design Awards in consecutive years and also taking the top prize in the 2010 GIA International Award for men’s Jewellery.

“It’s a bit strange having the apprentice and a master craftsman vying for the same prize, but it’s a thrill to have just come this far again”, said Mr Douglas.”We can’t wait until the final announcement of the grand winner in September”.