He may surround himself with “bling” every day – he has been crafting stunning designer pieces by hand for over 30 years – but none of the showiness of his industry has rubbed off on Paul New.
A humble and unassuming soul, Paul is a craftsman at heart and is happiest when perched at his cluttered Sunshine Coast workbench surrounded by tools. He designs and manufacturers custom jewellery pieces by hand from his tiny studio tucked behind his spacious retail showroom, NY2K, in Cotton Tree’s Rovera Plaza. The NY2K showroom exudes elegance and grace – think polished wooden floorboards, white leather ottomans and spot lit glass cabinets.
On display is a treasure trove of Paul’s stunning handcrafted pieces, including necklaces, earrings and bracelets that feature jaw-dropping diamonds, dreamy tourmalines and moody amethysts, amongst other precious gems. In contrast, Paul’s cluttered studio is a true working space. Scattered across the workbench is a curious collection of tools, from chunky clamps to tiny pliers and scuffed hammers. Paul picks up a flimsy ring from his bench. “A client brought this $1 resin ring to me,” he says, holding the piece of costume jewellery in the palm of his hand.
“She likes jewellery that is a bit different, so she asked me to recreate it and here it is,” he says proudly, reaching for a neat little ring box and opening it to reveal the reincarnation – an elegant dress ring featuring a shiny south sea pearl encircled by glistening diamonds. Paul explains this ring is a good example of the creative challenges of his job, which involves designing custom pieces that vary from the simple to the grandiose.
Upon embarking on a new piece, Paul will chat extensively with the client, then draw a few sketches and discuss cut and quality, clarity and colour. It’s then his mission to recreate the agreed-upon design to the utmost professional result. Paul admits he is fortunate to have followed his passion from a young age.
At school he revelled in crafty subjects such as art and woodwork rather than maths and English. “I had a really good art teacher,” Paul recalls of his high school days. “We mucked around making different things and working with copper and other metals.” At 15 he decided to learn silver smithing with a qualified jeweller on his weekends and at 16 left school to complete a traineeship with a large jewellery manufacturing company in Sydney.
Paul learnt from master jewellers who taught him diverse skills. “The advantage I had during my traineeship was that I was able to learn from more than 25 jewellers from all over the world. That was a major plus rather than just doing an apprenticeship with one technician.” Paul remains firm friends with one of his mentors Kenton Joyce, a renowned Sydney-based master jeweller. “He attempts things that no one else will attempt,” Paul says admiringly of Joyce, who famously designed a gold chalice for Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Australia in 2008.
"Ken is a lovely fellow" says Paul. “He doesn’t brag about himself and that’s a good way to be. You let your work speak for itself.” In 1991, after spending eight years training as a jeweller in Sydney, Paul returned to his hometown of Dubbo in country New South Wales.
He ran his jewellery business until 2004 when he made the sea change to the Sunshine Coast with wife, Kristen, and their son Cooper and daughter Paige. “Our friends told us to come for a holiday and have a look at Cotton Tree. We had a look and fell in love with it,” Paul laughs.
While still on holiday in 2004, Paul and Kristen signed a lease on a retail property on Cotton Tree Parade and opened NY2K the same year. “It was a struggle but we got there. No one knew us when we arrived here. It took us three years before we started getting really busy,” Paul says of building their business, which moved to its current location in Rovera Plaza five years ago.
“Word of mouth is everything.” Now happy to call Cotton Tree home, it’s important to Paul and Kristen that NY2K supports local charities, including Wishlist (the Sunshine Coast’s hospital foundation), Give me 5 for Kids, Seeing Eye Dogs, National Breast Cancer Council and local charities.
It is another way Paul will use his impeccable taste and attention to detail, this time to share his talent for the benefit of others. But never call him a "MASTER JEWELLER". Paul feels that title is over-used in the industry these days. I am who I am. Nothing more.