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Veronicas Gamble pays off

15 Jul 2008

It is standard practice to describe Awards ceremonies as 'glittering'.

However, the term was never so appropriate as when NMIT jewellery apprentice Veronica Arkins walked up between the designs in gold, silver and precious stones to receive her runners-up prize in the 2008 AGR Matthey 'Next Generation' Jewellery Design Awards.

Veronica is a slightly unusual apprentice. She is not keen to discuss her age, but will admit to being in the jewellery business for almost 30 years before biting the bullet and beginning her apprenticeship.

She came second in the category 'The Gambler' with her magnificent square gold ring featuring designs of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades on each side.

Actor Claudia Karvan presented the awards at an event at Zinc in Federation Square on 10 July.

'It was amazing,' said Veronica of receiving the award. 'It was a tough competition. I thought the standard and the ideas were very good.'

Jewellery company AGR Matthey sponsor The Next Generation Jewellery Design Awards to encourage innovation in design.

Students and apprentices send drawings to the competition and from these designs 25 finalists are chosen. The shortlisted candidates are supplied with precious metals to work up their design, and the finished pieces are submitted for judging in the finals.

'The pieces were all on display at the awards, so everyone could walk around and get a good look at them.'

The Awards was also an occasion for networking, not only for important industry professionals but for students and apprentices too.

'All the finalists except one were there - there were 24 people from all different states. It was good to have a chance to talk to them,' said Veronica.

The judges, a panel of jewellery and design professionals, awarded points based on design, wearability, saleability and craftsmanship

'I was in shock when they called my name,' said Veronica. 'I was just happy to be in the top five.'

Veronica's road to the red carpet began with a chance comment from her jeweler husband Matthew Arkins.

They had worked together for years in their business, The Goldsmith, located in Kingston, south of Hobart in Tasmania.

Veronica was peering over Matthew's shoulder, commenting on the way he was working on a piece, when he politely suggested that perhaps she would like to become qualified herself.

'I asked, how old is an apprentice allowed to be?' said Veronica. After discovering there was no age limit, she decided to give it a go.

There is nowhere to do the training for jewellery design in Tasmania, so Veronica is subsidized to come to Melbourne to NMIT's Fairfield campus one week a month for eight months of the year.

'The course is very interesting - it's an opportunity to get to the bench and do different things,' said Veronica.

The Award will not change Veronica's life. Regarding her plans for the future, she simply says she will 'get back to work', and she has not made any decisions on how to spend the prize money. But it has been a great boost for her confidence and enthusiasm.

'I would really encourage other students to go in for the awards,' she said. 'AGR Matthey are doing a great thing for the industry.'

Veronica said that other jewellery awards require that entrants pay a fee and provide their own materials, which puts them beyond the reach of many apprentices and students. But given that this award only requires a design on paper initially, it means anyone can enter and have the chance to see their ideas realized in spectacular fashion.

While Veronica has been involved in the industry for a while, for many, it is just the beginning of a successful career.

Angela Eichler, General Manager of Jewellery, AGR Matthey, said 'Our aim has been to encourage and celebrate upcoming design talent in Australian jewellery students. We are delighted to report that many of last year's winning students channeled their winnings into their careers by establishing their own workshops and websites.'

As for Veronica's husband and employer Matthew, Veronica said he is 'very happy.' And not just because Veronica now has her own designs to work on.


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.