Joel Whitwell of Benjamin Black Goldsmiths has been named the top jewellery manufacturing apprentice in the country. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Jeweller Joel gets NZ’s top marks

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It has taken four years and 8000 hours of hard work, but Joel Whitwell is well on his way to forging a career as a manufacturing jeweller.

He has recently come away with the top marks in the country for an apprentice after honing his trade at Benjamin Black Goldsmiths.

“It was a really nice surprise,” says Joel.

He first started working at the goldsmiths just after he graduated from NMIT. Owners Amy Cunningham and Ben Clark had seen Joel’s work in a local news article and thought that he should work for them.

“We literally chased him down the street,” says Amy.

But it wasn’t to be. Joel went to Auckland for three years, but then he and his partner grew tired of the big city and started looking around for other options. Joel called up Amy and asked if they would be keen to take on an apprentice.

“We knew he was talented,” says Amy. “For us, it’s about the right personality.”

It also helped that Joel was extremely studious – immersing himself in the work of a manufacturing jeweller. He had to understand chemistry, maths, metallurgy and gemmology, as well as passing dozens of tests.

“You have to work full time as well as studying,” says Joel.

But now the hard work has paid off with a qualification that is internationally recognised.

But as for what is next, Joel has his sights set on the next piece of jewellery in front of him.

“I just want to keep learning.”