Ballito-based jewellery designer, Tommy-D, has been making jewellery for over a decade, creating some of the finest custom pieces in the industry — but how did this entrepreneur and creator of unique pieces of art get to where he is today?
When Tommy-D, as he has come to be known in the industry, was just a young surfer boy in Durban, his favourite activity — when he wasn’t ‘hanging ten’ — was to place coins on railways tracks and wait for a train to go over them, flattening them into unique shapes. He would then stamp surfing logos, like Quicksilver, etc onto the coins. Once his ‘masterpieces’ had been created, he would make necklaces for all his mates and thus were born his first one-of-a kind handmade creations. Tommy soon realized that this was a passion that he could definitely take further so, after school, he took his raw obsession and refined it with a jewellery design and manufacturing course at DUT. Four years later, with creativity and science in tow, he began his career as a jeweller, working at a company in Durban for four years and then moving to London for two years, where he honed his skills, often dealing with massive diamonds.
Coming back to South Africa with a wealth of knowledge and experience, Tommy ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and opened his own store in Durban. Five years down the line, the Tommy D brand is a force to be reckoned with and one that holds its own with bigger and more established jewellery companies around KZN. With a great client base, he opened his second store in Ballito’s Tiffany’s Centre in the knowledge that our market craves something different, unique and not mass-produced — the same philosophy that he lives by when creating his jewellery.
However, Tommy’s success isn’t all about his eye-catching designs, it’s also about his passion for not only making beautiful pieces, but also the satisfaction that he feels in knowing that a raw material can be turned into something so amazing that it makes another person want to wear it for the rest of their lives. ‘To create something that is so beautiful that you almost don’t want to part with it excites me immensely, especially ’coz no ring is ever the same,’ says Tommy. A tribute to his loyal client base is his hands-on personal service during and post design and manufacturing.‘I make it a point to go through the journey with my customer from beginning to end and to form personal relationships, as well as to make sure that my after-sales service is even better,’ says Tommy. Unlike most jewellery designers, everything to do with the making of an item of jewellery is done in-house. ‘We melt in-house, sell diamonds, design and manufacture and, as everything becomes more computerized, I take a lot of pride in my hand-drawn designs,’ he tells us.
Despite the glamour of the creative world, running a business is hard and Tommy won’t take on a job under the Tommy-D name and not have Tommy-D make it. “My greatest passion is redesigning old jewellery, creating something new out of something used which is often of immense sentimental value to the client.” Says Tommy
When asked what he deems as the most important thing for men looking to buy an engagement ring to know, Tommy says that education is key. It’s his job to make the man feel comfortable with his choice and to find out as much as he can from family and friends about the prospective fiancée’s likes and dislikes before starting the design process. As well, it’s very important to know the girlfriend’s finger size — which, guys, is not as easy as guessing her bra size!
Tommy Dannhauser | 032 525 5080 | Shop 23, Tiffany’s Mall, Salt Rock
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