Husband and wife team Charles and Melanie Panaho have transformed an ugly duckling - the old Dove hospice shop premises - into a stylish, relaxing environment for their bespoke jewellery design studio, Alluvium.
Why did you choose to move Alluvium from Newmarket to Remuera?
Remuera has always been our first choice for location! However, when we started out in 2010 there were no compatible sites. Newmarket was our next choice - but not on Broadway, as we wanted a more exclusive, boutique feel - so we spent the next seven years in Osborne Street.
You must have been excited when this site became available then?
Yes, and it coincided with our Newmarket lease coming up for renewal...so it was a no-brainer really. In Osborne Street we had a large showroom, whereas here we've created a much more welcoming, intimate showroom, and more importantly there's more workshop room out back.
So all of your work is done onsite?
Having our own master goldsmith and gemstone setter here on site we ensure that every aspect of our client's jewellery creation can be considered by the team - guaranteeing the design is faultless, with perfect translation from concept to reality. It also gives our clients peace of mind as it means nothing leaves our showroom until completion and client collection.
And what can your customers expect afterwards?
As part of our ongoing commitment to our clients we offer free lifetime servicing of their purchases. This can be annually checking their jewellery setting and adjusting if necessary, Rhodium plating (if required), cleaning, polishing and updating their insurance valuation.
What sets Alluvium apart from other jewellery stores?
Right from the start we knew we didn't want the 'us' and 'them' feeling that rows of cabinets separating the client from the jeweller can create. We've done this with our furniture and layout - customers can come in to discuss their needs and relax on the settee with a glass of champagne; the display cabinet is right in the middle of the floor, and we've also introduced 'floating' suspended black cubes to showcase our jewellery collection.
What is the process involved in making a bespoke item?
Usually I would meet with the client to discuss their ideas, either sketch their concept or find a representative image online. Once finalised, our goldsmith hand carves a 3D wax model so the client can see, feel and fit the piece. On client viewing and approval the design can then be crafted by hand in the client's selected metal and gemstone hand set.
Have you always had an interest in jewellery? What is your background?
I originally worked in the corporate world - I was a senior business systems analyst for a financial institution for quite a few years! I then moved into the fashion industry, both local and international, and owned several successful fashion-based companies. My interest in creative design had been piqued! A sales, marketing and design role with an exclusive Queen Street jeweller solidified my passion for fine design and beautiful gemstones...so the next logical step was my own jewellery studio.
Do you personally get involved with the design process?
Our jewellery is predominantly designed by me, in collaboration with the client. My role as designer is to listen, interpret, and guide the client through all the options available to them...and ultimately provide the best solution to achieve their jewellery vision. As part of the design process I rely on input from our jeweller and gemstone setter; a design has to be technically possible, as well as being exactly what our client envisaged.
Where do your ideas come from?
We keep current with the latest jewellery design trends, predominantly from Europe, and Melanie and I regularly attend large international jewellery fairs. Our collections also reflect our own classic and elegant style.
Is the focus on a particular style of jewellery, or can you design and make pretty much anything?
We design everything from vintage, Art Deco to modernistic and Avant Garde jewellery. We also remodel old, pre-loved jewellery, usually to modernise it. Then there's our own collection which customers can buy, or have adapted to suit their desires. Our design scope is really only limited by our imaginations and what is technically feasible.
What is the most memorable, special piece you have designed or sold?
Oh, so many! We have had the privilege to design and custom craft a number of magnificent items. It's impossible to single one out, they are all special to me and, more importantly, the client! Have a look on our website to see some of our past designs. We've also got in stock a selection of rare Columbian Emeralds for purchase - any one of these will make a truly stunning jewellery piece.
Is it a family business?
Very much so. My wife Melanie works with me designing the jewellery, and she worked very closely with the team that put together the interior and exterior design of both our stores. My eldest son James handles the IT side of hthe business; he created our website, and handles our social media presence. My daughters are a bit young to be in the business at 7 and 11, but they know what they want! I've already co-designed a couple of pieces for them both.
Do you live locally?
Yes, we recently shifted to Remuera, and all four of my children went to Victoria Ave Primary. The youngest is still there, and another is at Baradene.
Are most of your clients local too?
The majority of our clients are from Remuera, Newmarket, Parnell, Mt Eden and Eastern Bays. But we also have clients scattered around greater Auckland and across New Zealand, and internationally.
What has surprised you most about Remuera?
How friendly and welcoming people are here! We opened at the end of March and have had a steady stream of retailers and locals welcoming us. I enjoy meeting people and love the wisdom of age; having a yarn with local residents about everything and anything is always entertaining.
336 Remuera Road
Ph: 09 523 3113
Photos by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson. This story was first published in the July/August 2017 issue of The Hobson magazine.