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"She wears her jewellery almost like battle armour. It’s such a part of who she is.”

Pete Rainey smiles as he watches jewellery tumbling from the small, drawstring bag Phillipa Pattison is emptying onto the table.

Every piece, from at least half-a-dozen rings to a striking pair of gold earrings, was designed and crafted by Nelson’s much-revered jeweller, the late Jens Hansen. Three of the rings, Phillipa bought when she was very young, but the rest have been birthday and Christmas gifts from Pete – her partner of the past 22 years.

And, according to Pete, every piece is a pretty good example of his own great taste and great sense of design.

“Choosing jewellery is easy,” he says. “I’m passionate about design and these are all the original, classic Jens’ designs that are still available at the Jens Hansen studio. There’s so much to choose from and the pieces Jens created are so enduring. The only hard part is deciding which piece you’re going to buy this time around.

“I must have got it right every time,” he grins. “Phillipa’s never taken anything back or exchanged it, and she wears it all.”

Just last Christmas, Pete decided he would buy a Jens Hansen designed sterling silver bracelet for Phillipa, and was intrigued when he was shown the original design sketch, drawn by Jens.

“Jens had made a note beside the sketch that read ‘recommended retail price, $18,’ which seemed crazy cheap, even back then.” 

Pete and Phillipa are both well-known to Nelsonians. Pete is a city councillor, the founder and director of Smokefree Rock Quest and organiser of the NZ Classic & Antique Boat Show, which Jens Hansen sponsors. He’s a talented musician, conductor and frequently drives and supports various community projects. Phillipa is the Sales Manager at Mediaworks and, she too has been very much involved with community projects.

They met in 1993 when Pete and a friend were visiting Phillipa’s friend and flatmate and, as it turned out, discovered they lived just up the road from one another.

“Phillipa came flying into the house as she was in a huge hurry,” remembers Pete. “We were introduced and then she was gone.”

And, before Pete can continue with his ‘how we met’ story, Phillipa hurriedly gathers her jewellery into its bag, pulls tight the drawstring, excuses herself for her next meeting and, again, she’s gone.

“Anyone who knows Phillipa would say she is irrepressible, and that’s what I really liked about her when I met her. She is just an amazing bundle of energy. She’s smart and she’s done some great things in a tough industry in a small town – though on a personal level, she is not a tough person.

“I think she wears her jewellery almost like battle armour. It’s such a part of who she is.”

Pete acknowledges; there’s no engagement ring or wedding band in Phillipa’s impressive jewellery collection.

“Funnily enough, our boys – Charle, who is 10, and Ned, who is eight – have been having some interesting conversations about that possibility.

“It’s quite nice they’re thinking about that stuff.”