Covert Operation - Hannah & Liz

A story of love and secrets

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Hannah and I grew up on the same leafy street of the Canberra suburb of Narrabundah.  I remember hanging out at her house in the mornings before we'd head off to the bus stop to catch the bus to school. I was a little bit older than her and was in charge of keeping us safe so it wasn't a great day when we caught the bus for the first time and instead of the 10 minute trip it should have taken to get up to Red Hill Primary we got on the wrong bus and made it all the way to Civic before I had the guts to ask the driver what we should do. We were only seven and eleven years old and this was before mobile phones were ubiquitous. It was a truly terrifying experience and I still get nervous catching buses today. We managed to get back to school safely though, only a few hours late. 

We grew up, went to different high schools, my family moved to Tuggeranong and we lost touch - until, out of nowhere, 20 years later Hannah made contact and asked me to make a ring for her girlfriend, Liz. The ring was a beautiful, sentimental gesture of love, symbolising the support and stability they give each other. Two Lighthouses - guiding and protecting. 

About 18 months later it got a bit full on! All within a few weeks of each other Hannah had commissioned an ear cuff for Christmas 2017 and an engagement ring due for Australia Day 2018, while Liz requested a special repair for Hannah's bracelet that required some fairly heavy duty restoration. These commissions were all to remain secrets from the other party...

Each job had a different time frame for completion and they were all on track to be delivered by their due dates. The ear cuff was ready and collected for Christmas 2017. The engagement ring took approximately 3 months to complete as I had to source and import diamonds from overseas especially for the job.

The bracelet repair consisted of removing a poorly executed fish engraving from a steel anchor and having an Angel Fish re-engraved by my Master Engraver in Adelaide, who is normally booked out 3 months in advance but somehow managed to fit it in within a few days. The bracelet restoration was completed and we let Liz know it was ready to collect. Liz couldn't collect it straight away but would let us know when she could make it around.

The botched engraving that had to be removed.

The botched engraving that had to be removed.

The new, hand engraved Angel fish.

The new, hand engraved Angel fish.

A couple of weeks later the engagement ring was also ready for collection. We covertly texted Hannah - something along the lines of "The eagle has landed" and we're told they were going away that weekend so Hannah would collect the ring next week. 

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Early the next week I got two phone calls - Liz and Hannah were both ready to collect their commissions and could pop out on Wednesday  during their lunch break! I scheduled them within half an hour of each other! Why??? Liz was due first and she was, of course, running late! Stress levels were through the roof by this stage and I made the decision that if Liz didn't arrive within the next 5 minutes I would have to phone Hannah, explain the situation and get her to hide around the corner until Liz had left. I figured if one surprise had to be ruined it was going to be the bracelet repair for Hannah, not the engagement ring for Liz. Thankfully Liz arrived, collected the bracelet and raced back to work. Fifteen minutes later Hannah arrived and collected the engagement ring. Phew! We had done it! Successfully delivered 3 months worth of work and covert operations to their owners within half an hour of each other. Now I just had to wait...

That evening I got a text from Hannah saying "Now I know who your 12 pm client was and why you definitely didn't want us to cross paths!" Okay, Hannah had received her bracelet. This was the 24th of January 2018 and Hannah had plans to propose on Australia Day. I couldn't wait!

When I say 'plans' I mean SERIOUS PLANS. Hannah had covertly arranged for a photographer friend of theirs to ask them to "model in a photo shoot" for him, scouted the location, hidden a bottle of sparkling wine and glasses, organised for the guests of their Australia Day BBQ to arrive while the couple were out and surprise them when they returned. And it was all executed perfectly! Liz said 'Yes', the photos are absolutely gorgeous and I am so happy for this beautiful couple!

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben

Photo credit @Photoxben


Hannah & Liz!



The Makers Collective 'Meet the Maker' feature


Mikaela Danvers is a fierce supporter of women following their dreams. She runs the online community The Makers Collective where she provides resources and tools for women to grow and run their businesses. Mikaela featured me on her blog 'Meet the Maker' below. 


"Today for Meet the Maker I’d love for you to get to know Venetia Major, a bespoke jewellery designer and all-round talented lady! I’ve known Venetia for several years through my sister-in-law, and I’ve always marveled at her intricately detailed designs – with all engraving done by hand! She really is an artist. 


Who are you and what do you do?

Hi there, I’m Venetia from Venetia Major – Bespoke Jewellery, I’m a qualified jeweller and gemmologist working from my studio in Charnwood, Canberra. I’ve been in the jewellery industry for almost 14 years and I’ve been a qualified jeweller for ten. I make predominantly wedding and engagement rings out of 18ct yellow gold, white gold and platinum, featuring diamonds and sapphires.

Why is it important to you that you run your own business? 

I’ve always been independently minded, wanting to do things my own way and proving that I can. I worked for other people after my apprenticeship to gain a broader experience but made the change to fully self-employed fairly quickly after I became qualified. I’ve loved every moment of it, even the leaner times in the beginning because they were mine. Now, every success in growing the business, however minor, is still such a thrill.

What is the most significant way in which your life has improved since starting your own business?

Satisfaction is the most significant improvement to my life. I could easily go and get a standard job and earn more money and get Super and sick leave but I would have no say in what i did everyday and that would not be acceptable to me.

What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

The freedom to make decisions about what direction the business is going to go in. Whenever I worked for somebody else I could immediately see business processes that were inefficient and I always had ideas to improve them but you pretty quickly become indoctrinated to how your workplace does things and forget that there are actually better ways. Today my business’ survival depends on me being as smart and efficient as possible.

Why do people love your product/service?

The jewellery I make is high quality and designed to be passed down for generations. The service I give to my customers from the design stage to years after the completion of the piece is attentive, professional and generous.

How did you work out exactly who your ideal customers were?

I figured out my ideal customer after a few years of experience. A person who understands the skills, training and workmanship that goes into a single piece of jewellery, somebody who appreciates fine quality and somebody with patience.

Where do you go for inspiration on how to continue to build and grow your business?

My most valuable resource for inspiration and advice is a private online forum for independent jewellers throughout Australia and the world. There is a wealth of knowledge there and they are always generous with their time and advice. I have a jewellery mentor who has taught me so much and I was a BNI member a few years ago.

What would you say your biggest strength or asset specifically as a woman has been, in running your biz?

The ability to listen and understand my customer’s wants. Like with any specialist industry, jewellery has its own language and most people don’t know it. I focus on not overwhelming the customer with technical terms. I listen to their ideas and translate them into a beautiful piece of jewellery. I personally hate going to a business and being bambozzled by industry jargon that I’m expected to understand so I try to keep it simple and use a lot of sketches and photographs to illustrate my ideas.

What challenges have you faced running your business whilst raising your kids?

Ooow, it’s hard! I have a 3 year old boy and he knows exactly when to get sick or when not to sleep just before a big deadline but luckily I have a great network to fall back on.

As a small business owner, what is one thing you would say that every business owner should be doing right now in their business?

Planning, strategising, thinking, scheming your next major business direction. With your own business it’s never ending, as soon as you reach one goal you’ve got to be focusing on the next. I can’t do everything so I’ve got a great group of advisers around me – accountant, book keeper, financial adviser, insurance broker, lawyer, setter, valuer, mentor etc. Find reliable professionals that you trust and keep them close – you’ll need them for your next business move.

What words of wisdom can you give to anyone just starting out on their small business adventure?

If you love it and have a passion for self direction you’ll succeed.

What excites you when looking ahead at the next three years for your business?

I just hired an apprentice, Kelsey, and a jewellery apprenticeship takes 4 years. I’m really looking forward to watching her grow and develop over that time. She’s been with me for only 5 weeks and is already moving forward in leaps and bounds, I’m excited to see what she’ll acheive. I’m also taking a new direction with the business in terms of marketing and I’m curious to see what effect that has on the business.

How can people find you? 




To contact me directly you can email or phone 0420 636 224."

Easy to Support Local

It's now even easier to support local industry. As the city grows so to does the number of qualified professional tradespeople situated in Canberra. The money you chose to spend with me not only supports one local Charnwood family but also three others in the local area.

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