One of the things I love about putting together our Expert Interview series is basking in the enthusiasm and passion people have for their jobs! Edric Taing, owner of Melbourne-based SH Jewellery, is definitely one of those people. He is also a fountain of knowledge, which makes total sense considering that SH has an education-first philosophy. SH has helped over 10,000 bridal couples say “I do”, guiding and educating them through their diamond purchasing decisions. Today we chat to Edric about this process, how the business got started, what he loves about the materials he works with and what sets SH apart from its competitors.
How long has SH Jewellery been making engagement rings and wedding bands?
My family’s love affair with fine jewellery dates back to the 1960s when my father was working in the sapphire and ruby mines of Pailin, Cambodia. It wasn’t until 1998 though that he started making engagement rings and wedding bands.
It began as a hobby initially, designing rings for friends and family, but they quickly drew the attention of their friends and before long, orders were flying in.
In 2005, my father officially opened the doors to what is now known as SH Jewellery, a second-generation, family-run boutique jewellery store. So as a brand we’ve been making engagement rings and wedding bands for 14 years, but our story dates back almost 60 years.
You’re an independent jeweller. What exactly does that mean?
Being an independent jeweller means we have the freedom and control to run our business in a way that best serves our customers, rather than a board of directors or shareholders.
It means we have full creative freedom over the look and feel of our range, so we get to personally design our collection in-house from the ground up, then prototype and wear-test each design before releasing it in-store.
We also have control over how we treat our customers. People do business with people, and that’s what we aim to be – not commissioned sales drones working under the pressure of targets and KPIs. We have an education-first philosophy, so our KPIs are centred around how informed our customers are when they walk out our door.
Ultimately, as an independent jeweller, we have control over every aspect of our business, in which our customer is always considered. Because without them, we wouldn’t be in business.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our quality control methods are much more stringent than the big-name chain stores you see in shopping centres who focus on quantity over quality, so this is primarily what sets us apart.
Our diamonds are consistently 3-4 grades higher than industry standards and 7-8 grades higher than most retail chain stores. Every one of our diamonds is hand-selected by our team of experts and precision cut and polished to ensure they live up to their reputation: diamonds with fire and sparkle far superior to our retail competitors.
Because our engagement rings and wedding bands are designed by us in-store, you won’t find an identical design with comparable diamond quality anywhere else in the world – our collection is 100% unique to SH Jewellery, so we’re also very proud of this.
As I mentioned, we don’t incentivise staff with commission, so I think this sets us apart, and people can tell the difference – we’re often praised for how patient we are when customers are struggling to decide. Buying a diamond is not a decision you make on a whim, and we totally understand that.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I like to get up early to meditate and show gratitude for all the opportunities life presents – it really helps set the tone for my day.
I usually start the working day with a meeting to discuss anything from product launches, ring designs, diamond and gemstone sourcing, order fulfilment, website changes, social media campaigns, merchandising and customer experience… As the Co-Director I need to be across it all.
Throughout the day I’m involved with designing and fulfilling customer orders, diamond and product selection for our growing collection, customer service, and sales, which involves getting to know our customers better to help them choose the perfect piece.
At the end of the day, I dedicate an hour to brainstorming. Again, this can be anything to do with SH, from deciding on the next giveaway to streamlining our systems… There’s always room for improvement.
I then have a nutritious smoothie before hitting the gym to let off steam, followed by some quiet reflection at home in the evening to recharge and prepare for the next day.
You specialise in 18ct white gold and platinum rings. What do you love most about these metals?
Both metals produce exceptional rings for different reasons. White gold is harder than platinum, so it doesn’t scratch as easily. Due to its strength, prong-tightening isn’t required as often with white gold, however, high-intensity impacts can break white gold prongs, whereas platinum prongs will bend rather than break. Platinum is a ductile material, so the prongs holding your diamond in place will wear better over time.
As wear and scratches appear on white gold it develops a slight yellowish tinge. This can be corrected every 1-3 years by rhodium plating to restore its original shine. Platinum, however, is naturally white and doesn’t require quite so much maintenance.
People with skin allergies can sometimes experience a rash from white gold, although it’s a very small percentage of the population. Platinum is therefore generally preferable for people with sensitive skin.
Weighing up the benefits of both we find more customers prefer white gold, which stays brighter for longer, even though rhodium plating is recommended every few years. Platinum also requires rhodium plating to remove deep scratches, so we recommend chatting to our Diamond & Jewellery Specialists to get a full understanding of which metal is best suited to your needs.
I personally prefer white gold over platinum as it maintains a brighter finish when worn or scratched and any work required can be done more easily. It’s also less prone to bending, which means less reshaping work down the track.
Why is it so important that people educate themselves about different metals and diamonds before purchasing a ring?
You don’t just buy a car because you like the colour. There are a whole range of technical factors involved that should be considered before making such a significant purchase. The same is true of diamond rings. There are multiple variables with metal composition and diamond quality that should be considered in totality before reaching a decision.
Metal composition can determine the durability, weight, strength, rarity, purity and lustre of your band. Some metals are rhodium-plated, which although produces a brilliant lustre, will wear over time and require re-plating in future to maintain its shine. This is why it’s important people understand the qualities of the metal they like and how that meets their needs, both now and in the future.
When it comes to diamonds, education is everything. As a starting point, people should familiarise themselves with the 4 C’s: the globally recognised system used to rate carat weight, colour grade, clarity grade and cut grade. With a basic understanding of these, a trustworthy and reputable jeweller can help you find a diamond you love, for a price you love.
How does SH Jewellery guide customers through the purchasing process?
Our entire process is focused on making it easy for the customer. To achieve this, our ring designs fall into five easily distinguishable categories based around personality traits and stylistic preferences.
Instead of having a limited range of stock and forcing what’s available just to make a sale, we start with questions to determine customers’ design preferences. We’re then able to shortlist styles we know they’ll love, some of which they may never have considered, so it’s about opening their eyes to the possibilities.
Many of our customers have very little experience with diamond jewellery, so we use an education-first approach to inform them about the design features and benefits relevant to them. The same education approach is used for discussing diamond size, quality and budget.
We like to ensure our customers are 100% comfortable with their choice and invite them to ask as many questions as possible… There’s no such thing as a silly question! With patience and expertise, we relieve uncertainties and help customers reach a final decision with confidence.
Having helped thousands of customers navigate the diamond-buying process, we have a wealth of experience to draw from. While every customer is unique, the process remains centred around education to guide them in the right direction.
What questions should people ask their jeweller before making a purchase?
I get asked this a lot, so I’ve put together a 9-step checklist to guide people through what to ask and what to look for when buying an engagement ring or wedding band. It’s a handy little guide for comparing jewellers’ products and services to ensure you’re getting the best quality diamond and post-care.
In a nutshell, make sure your diamond is GIA-certified and that the jeweller’s warranty and aftercare service are strong compared with other jewellers. If you’re having to pay extra for extended warranties or aftercare service, it’s worth shopping around to avoid these unnecessary ‘upsells’ which should really be a standard inclusion.
You promise to maintain a ring for the life of the diamond. What does this involve?
Our rings are like family to us. They’ve been designed and refined by our family over decades to achieve a product that we’re really proud of. This is why we promise to maintain clients’ rings for the life of their diamond, which, as you know, is forever.
Not only are we emotionally invested in every ring that leaves our showroom, but our rings are also a walking advertisement for the SH Jewellery brand, so we want them to look as good fifty years from now as they did the day they left our workshop.
To achieve this, we offer a lifetime aftercare cleaning service for all of our diamond engagement rings and weddings bands. Our clients bring their rings in up to six times a year and we perform a professional deep-clean to get them shining as bright as the day they left home. It usually only takes an hour, so it’s quick and easy and clients can grab a coffee while they wait.
How have engagement ring trends changed over the time you’ve been in business?
The diamonds in engagement rings have definitely increased in size over time as the world has embraced this gemstone as the stone of choice. In terms of bands, designs used to be bulkier, but modern technology and manufacturing methods mean proportions can be kept beautifully slim while showcasing gemstones more effectively.
Traditionally, most engagement rings featured Round Brilliant diamonds, but over time more people have opted for fancy shapes, especially as designs continue to improve and modernise.
Popular shapes nowadays include Pear Shapes, Oval Brilliants and Emerald Cuts. While these shapes were always available, cutting technology and design changes have improved the brilliance and look of these shapes, which has given these styles greater variation and distinction.
What style are you selling the most of right now?
While solitaire rings used to be very popular (and still are), we’re finding many people stepping outside the norm and taking up halo rings in Round Brilliants, Pear Shapes, Oval Cuts, and Emerald Cuts. Solitaire rings are still the highest selling item, but that proportion is starting to shift.
What about men’s wedding bands? There seems to be more design choices these days…
Absolutely. Men’s bands now come in a variety of shapes and designs – with and without diamonds. We’ve seen many gents step away from the traditional polished wedding band and embrace rings with a touch of diamonds or different surface finishes. Designed correctly, these pieces can still look very masculine and eye-catching.
We predict the more innovative design trends for men’s wedding bands will continue to grow. Because we design our own men’s collection, we’re able to experiment freely with design features to produce some really bold and unique concepts, which have been well-received by our customers.
You have a showroom in Springvale – what do you like most about meeting future brides and grooms?
There’s a really special energy between a couple that’s about to get married. It’s a mix of excitement, nervousness and hope, with hints of stress, but above all, friendship and love.
To be allowed into this love bubble to help them choose wedding bands is an absolute honour and the reason we do what we do. Every client is so different, and we love hearing about their wedding plans and honeymoons, and following their journeys on social media when the big day finally arrives.
Of course, it’s a very different energy when a client is buying a surprise engagement ring. This presents a new set of challenges, but it’s equally exciting for us to be a part of that new beginning, and a thrill to meet the lucky lady when the couple return to buy wedding bands later on. It’s great to finally put a face to a name that we’ve helped choose a beautiful engagement ring for!
You also have an online store. Where in the world have you sent rings to?
While the majority of our orders come from within Australia, we do ship internationally to USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. We recently processed a Minimalistic 6-Claw Solitaire engagement ring for a customer in Dublin, Ireland who had been following us on social media for a while, so our international orders are steadily increasing.
It’s a really humbling experience to know that a ring we designed is walking around somewhere in Dublin and that we’ve played a special part in that couple’s love story from all the way over here in Australia.
Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
Wow, that’s a tough one. We have over 300 Google reviews and nearly 100 Facebook reviews, so choosing just one is tricky, but I think this testimonial highlights the personalised service our customers receive, even when they buy online.
We still love being involved in the process of online orders and are more than happy to help with modelling rings in-store and sending images and videos to help our customers find the perfect ring.
I was sceptical initially to order a ring online without seeing it in person but with the 30-day money back guarantee and PayPal protection I thought I would at least try and I am so happy I did. I was immediately drawn to their designs and reasonable prices. I was looking for a ring I’d seen everywhere on Pinterest yet couldn’t find in any store in Canberra. I then found it on the SH Jewellery Instagram page. I was undecided on which width band to order so I sent an email asking if I could see some photos of both rings side-by-side. Edric and Che emailed me a few photos so I could compare the 2.3mm vs 2.6mm. I placed an order that day and received the ring that week. It exceeded my expectations! I was so relieved and happy when I tried it on. The diamonds just sparkle! I didn’t want to take it off. Within a few minutes I decided I wanted more diamonds in the band – I called and spoke with Che and she helped me arrange the return of the ring and placed a custom order for my new band. The quote was fair and the process was really easy. Throughout the entire process, they’ve kept me informed with my order via phone/email. I highly recommend SH Jewellery for anyone looking for a special piece of jewellery and their customer service is just fabulous! – Lisa Onorato
What’s your favourite SH Jewellery ring?
My favourite has shifted over time, but at the moment I’m enjoying the Pear Shape halo. The correct Pear Shape diamond, when handpicked and integrated well with the ring, produces an outstanding look without being over the top.
It has an engagement ring and dress ring feel at the same time, making it a versatile choice for women who want something a little more adventurous.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to surround myself with like-minded and positive people; people who are passionate about what they do and have a greater vision for what they can offer the world. For this reason, I enjoy travelling and networking with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, to learn about their journey and what’s brought them right here at this very moment.
I think there’s a lot of hidden beauty in the world that needs to be told through stories, and it’s connecting and learning from these stories that makes the journey so satisfying.
I’m a big fan of technology and am intrigued at how it’s currently being used to shape society. I like to read and absorb knowledge and then share it with my team.
I make exercise a daily habit and use it as a method to bring more to myself and others. I also enjoy catching up with family and friends over a meal and drink, and appreciate the presence of the people around me.
And even when I am working, it hardly feels like work. You know what they say… Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!
Thank you Edric for giving us a behind the scenes look at SH Jewellery. You do such a fantastic job in educating your customers and the care you take in creating your jewellery is evident in its beauty and quality. To find out more about their engagement rings and wedding bands, visit the SH Jewellery website.
Images courtesy of SH Jewellery