MICHAEL HILL: LORD OF THE RING
Diamond enthusiasts across the world can engage in unified misery: an extremely rare and coveted ring has slipped off the market and onto a willing ring finger. Point the blame to jewelry giant Michael Hill who, after three decades in the business of romance, decided it was time to celebrate love with a challenge.
In December 2010, Hill awarded happy New Zealand-based couple Cameron and Shariyah Morris with the “Amazing 22CT Diamond Ring” after they documented their love and bested competition in a six-week “The Ultimate Engagement Ring Search for the World’s Best Couple” online contest. The special engagement ring – laser engraved with Michael Hill on its girdle – effervesces brilliance with a clear white 22-carat princess-cut diamond set on a platinum band.
A ‘lord of the ring,’ Hill’s intentions to crack the jewelry industry were not as clear as the colourless diamond he gladly gave away. Late to the game but ahead of the curve, he was 40 when he debuted his entrepreneurial endeavour in Whangarei, New Zealand, having gained 23 years of priceless retail experience at his uncle’s jewelry shop. Before a fire destroyed his home and possessions, fanning the flame of capitalism running through his blood, Hill had let go of his aspirations to become a concert violinist. “I had unbelievably hard times but what I learned is that every time there is an obstacle, there is also a hidden golden lining along with it,” says Hill.
Since then, Michael Hill International has expanded to a globally recognized conglomerate. He offers carefully crafted diamonds, jewelry, charms and men’s watches. Today, there are 250 Michael Hill boutiques across Canada, the U.S., Australia and Hill’s homeland of New Zealand. The latter continue to outperform the former. “I think bigger by pushing just a little bit harder and it opens up another door of another world that is actually far easier and far more fulfilling and then one can achieve one’s full potential,” says Hill, who in 1995, reached his goal of 70 stores in seven years. In 2009, Hill’s efforts to deal with the difficult economic climate resulted in the closure of eight stores in the U.S. That same year, Hill received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. “If one is not to make one mistake in a year, I use that as a benchmark that you are not pushing yourself hard enough,” says Hill, who recently expressed interest in unveiling more than 500 additional stores in the U.S. alone.
His personal accomplishments ring true to his ambitious nature. He was appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of Merit early this year; he’s an author, founder of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition and plays host to the New Zealand Open at his personal golf course, The Hills. He is also an avid philanthropist, supporting Cure Kids. He shares two children with Christine, his wife of 45 years.
Hailing from an artistic family, Hill surrounds himself with canvasses of beauty – contemporary paintings and sculptures, music and precious stones. “Art and jewelry work quite well together,” says Hill, a Bach devotee. “When you go into his world, it’s a world that has so much undiscovered feeling and interpretations.” The same can be said for Hill’s jewelry, with each piece evoking its own special story.