Chris Hood: Metal Urges Fine Jewellery
Chris Hood is a field gemmologist, diamond grader, jewellery designer, internationally-roving gem dealer and, above all, a fiercely proud Tasmanian.
Master jeweller Chris Hood had his first commission working from his father’s Hobart cellar at age 16 – a metalworking passion that has evolved into Metal Urges, the largest jewellery manufacturing business in Tasmania, producing high quality handmade jewellery.
Hidden up a flight of stairs on Hobart’s Liverpool Street, is Metal Urges. The unassuming street presence means most people are unaware that 11 highly qualified staff busy themselves preparing engagement rings, wedding bands and original pieces for clients the world over.
What sets this jewellery business apart is the founder’s dedication to vertical integration. What does this mean? It means a gemstone that reaches someone’s finger doesn’t come via an unknown wholesaler, manufactured in a generic way. It means that more than likely Chris has sourced the stone from a far flung mine and the entire process from source to client finger is controlled by Chris and his team.
“This is about river to ring, mine to market; that paddock to plate style significance. These days we all like to know the source,” explains Chris. “This is the reason I travel internationally more than four times a year. Rather than passing through seven or eight entities before a jewellery piece reaches the end client, often it’s just me and a Madagascan miner or in the case of fossicking for rare Tasmanian sapphires, it’s just the Tasmanian stone and myself.”
There are few master jewellers who move more freely between layered neoprene wetsuit and business suit. There are even fewer who seek rare stones in freezing Tasmanian rivers thick with leaches and winter mist, followed by searing Sri Lankan heat and long dusty African days.
“If you look into my eyes while [I’m] in a river digging for stones, the look is identical to the eyes of those mining gemstones anywhere on the planet,” says Chris. “It’s an addiction to hard work. There’s a gambling aspect, there’s risk, but we are chasing treasure.”
Once he has a gemstone in his hand, the next step is to engage one of the Metal Urges cutters. This brings out the beauty of the stone. The stone is then assessed, priced and placed in the vault. It is shown to a customer who selects between two or three stones from a bracket based on size, shape and colour. The team then move into ring design and production. Finished pieces are delivered to clients Australia wide and the world over.
Over the years, Chris’ interests have changed. In the early days it was the metalwork side, a developed skill that was rewarded with victory in all four of the major Australian jewellery awards against hundreds of contenders. He then moved into the study of gemstones and diamonds before finding deep interest in the business and financial side – all self-taught. Today he enjoys discovering the stone’s origin.
“I take great pride in my staff. Every one of them is Tasmanian. They want to be here and live here, as I do. There has been opportunity to expand into Sydney or Melbourne for far greater financial reward but I have no desire,” adds Chris. “Tasmania is a brilliant testing ground for business. Costs are infinitely smaller compared to any other CBD in the country. I have the skilled staff I require and access to everything in the most beautiful, liveable city.”
Chris was not always a Hobartian. He moved to Tasmania when his father, winemaker Andrew Hood, sought desirable winemaking territory back in his island home. Although Chris worked hard in the bottling and labelling area of his father’s business initially, it was a metalwork classroom at The Hutchins School that ultimately set the career path that has shaped his adult life.
“I was instantly very happy living here in Tasmania, being avidly into hunting, fishing and the outdoors. I continue to enjoy these pursuits 28 years on. My passion for Tasmania didn’t appear until I left the island and returned. Today, I’m probably the most fiercely proud Tasmanian around. When I travel the world I don’t say I’m from Australia, but Tasmania. I always will.”
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.