We are a marketplace for artisan Norwegian jewelry designers and goldsmiths, remaining true to the handmade tradition and the use of traditional techniques. Our goal is to promote the diverse styles of Norwegian jewelry abroad, sharing Norway's long and rich jewelry tradition.
The VÍKINGR exhibition at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo offers a view of the most glamorous and romanticized objects from the Viking Age (780 – 1050 AD). The display is expected to last five years. It covers not only weapons but also jewelry, produced locally and acquired during travels from trading and pillaging. Furthermore, the artifacts illustrate an emerging era of travel and interaction during the of the Dark Ages (500-1500).
The Hoen Hoard from Buskerud Norway. Photo by Ove Holst.
Digging in a Marsh
In 1834, while digging a ditch in a marsh, a laborer discovered the find (photographed above) when his spade got stuck in the large gold ring. He informed the farmer, which he worked for. Instead of keeping the 2.5 kg treasure for himself, he decided that the treasure belonged to the country. So, he traveled to Oslo and presented it to the Norwegian Parliament. The politicians were speechless. After much discussion, Parliament awarded the farmer with a substantial payment, which he shared with the laborer.
Silver was the metal of choice for jewelry during the Viking era and in Norway today. However, this find was mostly gold, making it extraordinary. Finding gold from this era is extremely rare and difficult. Much of it has been recycled repeatedly into newer jewelry over the years. Originating from different historical periods and locales, the antiquities come from Rome, Byzantium (Turkey), England (Anglo-Saxons), and France (Franks). Moreover, the hoard reveals adaptation: modification and alteration of existing designs to suit current needs. In the design itself, we also see the transfer and sharing of ideas from culture to another.
This sturdy gold bracelet weighs about 400 grams – almost one pound! Relatively prevalent during the Viking Age, examples in various forms (bracelets, rings, and necklaces) have been found throughout Europe. Although not practical to wear today, the over 1000-year-old design has inspired modern adaptations like those of Dutch designer Leen Heyne.
This pendant charts a journey through time, adapting to each situation as well as taking something from each period, which it was active. The centerpiece is a red carnelian, engraved during Roman times (ca. 200 AD) that depicts a satyr (a figure from Greek mythology representing excess and gluttony). Several hundred years later, the stone found itself in the Kingdom of Charles the Great (The Franks ca. 800 AD). Charlemagne and his descendants were fascinated by Roman culture. They often reused or copied elements from the fallen empire. Adapted into a Carolingian gold pendant, it eventually found its way to Scandinavia as part of a Viking Necklace (ca. 900-1000 AD).
The three-armed mount originally belonged to a baldric (sword belt), worn by military officers in the Carolingian court. The design and intricate patterns (made from silver, copper, lead, and borax) indicate rank in the Frankish army. When the object found its way to Scandinavia, a pin was attached to the back, transforming it into a fashionable brooch.
The Hoen Hoard (Hoenskatten) demonstrates the timelessness of gold and perhaps offers us a deeper understanding of what is money. Able to wear or trade, the currency of antiquity was solid, brilliant, offered utility, and independent of governments. The money itself contained the value in the form of a scarce metal, universally accepted and considered beautiful worldwide no matter the form (known as intrinsic value). We hope to see a revival in the use of gold to make jewelry. The possibilities could be limitless – recreating pieces from past in precise detail or adapting them to contemporary forms and uses: cell phone cases, smartwatch bands, or digital rings containing a payment or identification RFID.
VÍKINGR (Book) – Journeys, War, and Belief in a Time of Transition. Multiple Authors, Catalogue for the Viking Age exhibition, Historical Museum, 2018. The University of Oslo.
I visited the Netherlands three times: 1986, 1998, and 2019. Tradition and modernity coexist in all aspects of life: architecture, art, and technology. The contrasts are not striking but rather harmonious. At street level, you can see that the mixture of old and new buildings flow together. The eye does not dwell on an edge or transition but keeps following a continuous line. It all fits together naturally. The continuity is so uninterrupted that I never gave it much thought until recently.
Photo by Herman Wouters
However, on Instagram, Leen Heyne's rings and bangles caught my attention, the bends and twists were so smooth that they required a second and even third look to comprehend. Although they appear natural, I understood that they were deliberate and needed to find out more. On May 29th, I interviewed Leen, revealing an interesting story of trial and error mixed with adventure, grounded in respect for tradition. Leen Heyne turned out to be very modest, finding it difficult to talk about himself. Design sense is not only learned but also embedded in the sub-conscious. So, I had to spend some time studying his surroundings, which may have influenced his formative years.
Left to Right: The Twist ring made from a single 750 (18K) gold strip and The Knotted Ring made from a single 750 grey gold flat-rolled wire with a brown oval diamond.
Historical Surroundings & Early Influences
Nijmegen, where Leen was born, is the oldest city in the Netherlands. The 2000-year-old city, situated near the German border, dates back to the Roman Empire. It showcases architecture and history from the time of Tiberius, through the Dark Ages, to the Renaissance and into modern times. Born in 1986, Leen grew up in an academically oriented family as the oldest of three siblings, taking responsibility from an early age. His father is a Doctor of Social Science and his mother an artist. Later the family moved to Tilburg, where his mother took a position at the De Pont Museum (one of the world's leading private contemporary art museums) developing educational projects.
In addition to his mother taking him to art galleries and museums, he was also naturally curious and mechanically inclined. He had busy hands from the beginning. During his childhood, his interests ranged from making model boats to discovering "small treasures," in second-hand markets. Describing the finds as old and old and well-made objects, he collected ornate rings, rare knives, and sturdy hand tools. Although fascinated by nature and history (water worlds, dinosaurs, the Romans, and Ancient Egypt), he was not a serious student. Shy expressed himself through skateboarding and live street sports. The structure was not easy to accept and he even had to repeat a year. Nevertheless, he found biology and math interesting. After graduating high school in 2002, he decided to strike out on his own.
Determined to be independent, he refused help from his parents and even declined scholarships. For the next four years, he lived frugally, trying different things from washing dishes in a restaurant to collecting old bicycles which he repaired and sold for a profit. During the evenings, he partied a lot and enjoyed life like anyone else in their early 20s. He commented that, during those wonder years, he spent much of his free time drawing pictures. Yet he never considered himself artistic nor gave much thought to his "busy hands" or creative energy.
Education & Techniques
Eventually, he found his way to Schoonhoven (2006), enrolling at the local vocational school (Vakschool Schoonhoven). Still undecided and balancing a part-time job, he studied each, goldsmithing and clock repair, one day per week. Fascinated by the Art Deco period, he aimed to recreate pieces from "Gatsby era." After a year he dropped the clock repair studies. The patience required drove him nuts. He not only had to make and retrofit gears for 300-year-old timepieces but also make them look old to blend in with the aged mechanism. Hence, it bound him to existing parameters, not allowing him to fully utilize his creative potential. During his second year, he apprenticed under the renowned Dutch master-goldsmith Jos van den Elzen. Leen commented that he was a very demanding teacher and he continues to consult him until this day. During that time, Leen started to develop his trademark design and the underlying techniques.
Leen Heyne's design process starts with a single length of metal, which he forces, bends, twists, and presses into the desired shape.
Fascinated by the bending and tension of materials, Leen applies traditional tools and methods on to pull, force, press, fold and twist a single length of metal into a finished ring or bangle. He doesn’t file the finished works to enhance the shape nor use any modern tools. He works with gold, silver, and platinum, his favorite being 18K yellow gold. All the while, a shape appears, either intended or not, that he would like to amplify. But first, he must understand how it came about.
"I consider myself more of a conductor than a designer. I merely guide the material and help to finalize its own shape.”
Prototyping in copper, there is no drawing to start with. He makes multiple iterations, fine-tuning, and documenting each step, ensuring the process is repeatable and reproducible. Once the design is established, it doesn't take long to make any single piece. However, the finishing touches and details take some time. Ironically, the stone setting was not his favorite class in college. The patience and fiddling required with getting the gems into the right position was overwhelming. Yet, he developed his own technique to set stones during the fabrication process and without prongs, adding to his smooth and continuous signature appearance Diamonds are his preferred stones due to their ability to amplify the tension in the metal and withstand the heat associated with fabrication.
Left to Right: The Bended ring made with 750 gold and two brown diamonds and The Solitaire ring with a single white diamond.
Asked about his source of inspiration and if there were any influences from the Scandinavian Viking era, he commented that it was the metal itself and the forces within that drive him. Asking about music, he enjoys the 60s and 70s music but tunes into the classical music station at work. Bach is his favorite during working hours. Nevertheless, he commented on a Viking piece and its twists. It's amazing that it was made ca. 1000 years ago, with similar techniques. In retrospect, he does not recall that "aha" moment when he decided to become a goldsmith but rather got there through a series of trial and error. He never guessed that he would be making contemporary jewelry sold in galleries throughout the world.
His jewelry blends with the wearer, aiming for an understated appearance, projecting sophistication. Aiming for a traditional – contemporary blend, the buyers, for now, are mostly German: well-educated and introspective.
Where to Find
Today Leen is in a committed relationship for the past ten years and a father of three daughters, two of whom are twins. Hence, he has been extremely busy on all fronts. Working from a home-based studio outside Tilburg, he mainly sells his work through boutiques in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom, America (Washington DC) and China. Recently joining Instagram, he started to sell directly.
His shows include:
2019 - Inhorgenta Trade Fair (Munich)
2016 – Exposition and Gallery Van Dun (The Netherlands)
Since my wife and I started on this journey, covering jewelry design and the people behind it, we could no longer ignore it. Searching fashion and jewelry on Pinterest and Instagram, one inevitably comes across Goth fashion. They are impossible not to notice: sexy, black, and sometimes creepy and dark, seemingly expressing strong emotions. It seems so out there, yet we don't realize it's a part of our lives whether or not intended.
When I was a teenager in 1980s, attending a typical American high school, Goth was still "punk," defined by trench coats and unusual hairstyles. One of my best friends was a "skate punk," blasting the Dead Kennedys, riding a skateboard, and sporting a mohawk. Hence the Goth clique was there, but I never paid attention, accepting them as something that was just there like the cheerleaders and chess team. Today, I walk through a graveyard everyday, to and from work, without giving it much thought. (That friend is a father of three in California, wearing a suit and tie to the office, working in biotech. Yet, he still craves the music. He is known as a corporate Goth)
My wife and I admire the ornateness and attention to detail associated with Goth fashion. Someone put as much or more time into these works as the couture found in Paris or New York. Reviewing our jewelry selection, we could not help but notice that some of our items offer hints of darkness while others are outright sinister. It's all strangely curiously and mesmerizing. Therefore, now, it is time to ask, “what is all this about?”
The Dark Ages to the Renaissance
Although it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint Goth’s origins, most agree that it started in the late 70’s - early ’80s, emerging from the punk scene in the UK. Gloomy lyrics, dissonance, and imagery from the Victorian era and horror films characterize the music and, to some degree, the culture. Bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and Love and Rockets are examples of Goth bands (that I listened to in the '80s and '90s).
The term "Goth" goes back to the Roman Empire: a Germanic people, originating from Southern Scandinavia from the second to the sixth centuries AD. They have no ideological or physical connection to Goth in the present day. Divided into two factions: the Visigoths were the western tribes settled in modern-day France and Spain. The Ostrogoths were the tribes to the east that settled north of the Black Sea in modern day Ukraine. Both tribes contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire, rebelling against oppression and exploitation.
The period after (ca. 500 to 1300 AD) or the "Middle Ages," was one of severe economic decline, tribal wars, and the plague. Italian scholar Francesco Petrarca coined the term "Dark Ages" in the 1330s, describing the intellectual darkness, superstition, and simplicity until the start of the Renaissance. From 1137 to the mid-1500 Gothic architecture, in the form of cathedrals, made its way across Europe. Compared the classical designs of ancient Greece and Rome, these buildings were literally turned "inside out:" exposing their structural elements on the outside. Stained glass filled the voids between the supporting columns, offering an airy environment rising to heaven.
Notre-Dame (Photo: Shutterbug JB Magers) is an example of Gothic architecture. The key characteristics include flying buttresses, pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, gargoyles, and other ornate carvings. Stained glass was also introduced during these times.
Eventually, many Renaissance scholars and architects reverted to classical preferences of Rome and Greece. In 1550, using derogatory terms, Giorgio Vasari, in his book " The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects" referred to the architecture, originating from the Dark Ages, as "Gothic." He felt that they were barbarians who destroyed the "classical" civilization.
Literature & The Victorian Era
In the 19th century, scholars started to use Goth to classify literature associated mystery and horror in the Northern European medieval setting. Notable authors and works include Horace Walpole and The Castle of Otranto (1764 - considered the first book in this genre), Mary Shelley and Frankenstein (1823), Edgar Allen Poe and The Raven (1845), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). These books were revolutionary for their time, brilliantly written, bringing dark forms to life, evoking strong reactions, suspense, and emotions. The night was no longer solitary with soothing silence. Now the silence was deafening, and every step was wrought with peril. This literature coincided with the Victorian era, which was one associated with mourning and sadness.
As a child, Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901) received a locket from her mother that contained a lock of her late father's hair, offering a physical link to him. Inheriting the throne at 18, she became the Queen of England (1837). She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. Prior to their engagement, in love, the young queen asked the prince for a lock of his hair, which he obliged. Encasing it in a heart shaped pendant, she wore it continuously for the rest of her life. As a romantic and deeply attached to her husband, she preferred jewelry of a sentimental and symbolic nature rather than a monetary one. Prince Albert was passionate about fine jewelry. He designed and commissioned many magnificent works for her, which she enthusiastically acknowledged in her journals.
The Present Day
Today's Goth can be complicated, depending on one's perspective. Although find inspiration from the Victorian era, there are no set rules. Goth is extensive and decentralized. It branches into Cybergoth, Steam Punk, Gothic Metal, and Gothabilly. Social Media makes it even more difficult to understand, offering many interpretations.
Moreover, Goth often fuses with other genres, such as anime, vampires and science fiction. People are drawn to the darkness culture for many reasons: coping with tragedy, looking to fit in somewhere, rebellion, and non-conformance. For others it's something much simpler: a friend or group of friends are into it, or they like the music.
Goth today is not so much about embracing and living in the darkness but rather acknowledging it. Counter-culture or alternative existed throughout history. Today with the internet, it is no longer exists on the fringes, making it easy for the like-minded to find each other. Although still not in the mainstream culture, Goth runs parallel to it. Some are on track 100%, and others jump in on the weekends, dressing up for concerts or special events. Yet, Goth routinely appears on center stage for all to see: Batman's overt dark tones and Gotham's skeletal buildings, exposing steampunk inspired mechanisms. Game of Thrones is another example, capturing Dark Age mysticism and imagery. The fierce dragons, castles, and the Iron Throne, dark and with sharp edges, are overt references.
Norwegian Gothic Jewelry
Living in Scandinavia, it's easier to understand Goth's foundations where darkness is a fact of life. The original Goths (thought to be from southern Sweden) preceded the Vikings. Although the ancient Goths and the ones in present-day Scandinavia are not connected, except in name, they may have experienced the darkness in the same way. The long winters are little changed, affording only a few hours of sunlight per day from late November to early March. The never-ending night and cold alter emotions and the way one perceives life, expressed in art, music, and fashion.
In the Goth world, the jewelry and accessories stand out against a mostly black background. Sometimes fabrics (or hair) can be red or purple. Silver dominates the choice of metal. Others opt for white gold and stainless steel, offering the same effect. Goth design draws influence mainly from the Victorian era, the Middle Ages, and ancient Egypt. Bats, crosses, skulls, bones, cameos, and filigree reoccur. The jewelry offers protection, makes a statement, or mournes the loss of someone close. Crystals are also prevalent, guarding against negative forces. Note that the beforementioned is not all-inclusive. There are many inspirations and purposes within the Goth sphere.
One does not have to draw lines between the universes. Corporate Goths can subtly integrate the darkness into our daytime attire, letting kindred spirits know that darkness is our friend.
Acknowledgments and References
In addition to the references listed below, John Zohar (34) of Skull Flow accepted an interview and offered us insight. Popular amongst the Goth, his online store offers skull-themed clothing, jewelry, home décor & accessories. He offers a 15% discount to our readers (code: GOTH15).
An Interview with an up and coming creative talent.
Several months ago, Luci contacted me via Instagram, expressing interest in our project. The ElClay website, which is very well put together and easy to use, shows a lot of interesting and colorful jewelry. Luci's products are well made and professionally packaged. However, there is very little if any information about the founder. After a short phone call, it was obvious that Lucie is charismatic and driven. Although our biographies focus on established jewelry designers and goldsmiths, her spirit and positive energy were difficult to resist. Moreover, I wanted to capture youthful energy and the realization of potential as it happens.
Lucie's entry into jewelry is non-traditional both in terms of education and choice of materials. Made from PVC (polymer polyvinyl chloride), polymer clay is a modeling compound, hardened in a kiln. (It is interesting to note that there has been an emergence of non-traditional materials in the jewelry trade: wood, plastics, and even concrete!) Offered in a variety of colors and textures, the designer forms and sculpts the material, places it in the oven for 30 minutes, attaches the metal accompaniments, and finally, applies three layers of glaze. The results are jewelry that is colorful and interesting: a means of self-expression with infinite possibilities.
ElClay, VIA University College - entrepreneur's story - YouTube
At age 17, she set aside dancing to focus on school. Generally carefree and easygoing, she had her eyes set on studying abroad. At 18, she applied and gained acceptance to VIA University College in Horsens near Aarhus, Denmark. That following summer, she went to Scotland to earn money for school, picking strawberries. "It was very hard work. If she had to do it again, she would think twice." Hardworking and driven, she also picked up a part-time job, cleaning houses and apartments, to make ends meet.
Majoring in Marketing, she wanted to learn about business in the startup and entrepreneurship context. When she was met with disappointment, a curriculum that prepared students for monotonous office life, she looked towards entrepreneurship.
Luci started ElClay on February 25, 2018. After trying several ideas, proposing them at startup events, she revisited her creative talents, related to ceramics. Using polymer clay, she made a collection of figurines and presented them at a campus to Sarah-Isabel Lykke Cobos from VIA Student Incubator, stunned by the craftsmanship and attention to detail, offered Luci a place in the startup incubator. In addition to an office and address, they offered her mentorship and coaching. They even featured Luci on the cover of their brochure. After attending several workshops and consulting with mentors, she started to turn her creations into jewelry.
Starting in the outdoor markets in Aarhus and Fredericia, Luci worked tirelessly from morning to evening, selling out her inventory every time. Asked what inspired her the most, Luci said that she saw someone wearing earrings that sold a few days before. She likes to see that her creations make people happy. Alex, her mentor, who had his own website selling personalized teas, helped her remake the website. He specifically coached her on SEO, design, and usability. Moreover, he offered professional advice on marketing herself. Luci recently took on an intern to assist her with the growing demand – the future is looking bright.
Luci does not derive her designs from a single experience or theme but rather from stimuli that she encounters in her environment on a daily basis – in real life or online on Pinterest. Her creations are spontaneous while taking on the personality of the customer. All you need to do is talk to her and she will make something stunning and memorable. When asked about mass production, Luci said that her jewelry will always be handmade. She is committed to the trade.
ElClay gives offers a vision of the future: how students, pursuing a traditional educational path can realize their creative talent in a pragmatic way. Today's universities, while offering traditional curriculums, now offer facilities for students to explore other avenues. Those who demonstrate talent can "incubate" their ideas inside the safety of the university, receiving mentorship and guidance that guides them towards success. When you feel like your stagnating or bored, ask yourself what you liked to do when you were seven years old.
In 2013, searching for a unique gold coin, I came across an ad on Finn.no (Norwegian Craigslist) and called the seller. Two days later I met Christian at Oslo S, buying the coin and finding out that we not only shared an interest in coins but also worked in the IT sector. Over time, I learned about his fascination with photography. Following him on Instagram, I watched him progress from amateur to part-time professional, seeing the quality and expression improve.
After starting Norwegian.Jewelry, I encouraged him to consider jewelry photography. It would challenge him with something new while building on his current skills. Christian accepted the challenge, and we would like to introduce him jewelry designers and goldsmiths at home and abroad.
Born in 1986, Christian grew up in the Western Suburbs of Oslo (Bærum). Although he was a serious student, he developed an interest in photography early on. At age 12, Christian received his first camera: a Nikon like his father’s. He took pictures of everything, only limited by the price of film, which was very costly in Norway back then. Photography remained the background while he focused on his studies, attending Buskerud University College in Hønefoss (2005-2008). Graduating with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in law and psychology, he quickly found himself in the IT Sector. After establishing his career at Accenture (a leading global consulting firm) as a software and test engineer, he revisited his childhood passion.
Investing in equipment, reading books, and getting out there, he managed to build a portfolio, photographing models and landscapes. Eventually, his hobby became a part-time profession, working with agencies in Norway and Spain, i.e. Heartbreak, Team and EB models, and Berta models in Spain. He has also done product photography: kitchen interior.
Over the Christmas holidays (2018), working with Tanya at Sophia Rose Jewellery in Oslo and using state of the art close-up photography Software (Adobe, Capture One and Helicon focus), he created a sample jewelry portfolio:
Christian uses the following equipment:
Fujifilm GFX50s Canon 6d
2 x Tri8c Aperture LED 3 x Profoto B1 500
Canon TS-E90mm macro Canon 100mm macro
Christian can also work with models and use various backgrounds and props to get the desired effect. If you are a jewelry designer or someone in need of close up photography (food, art, sculptures), please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see more of his work on Instagram at:
An Interview with Jill Herlands – Jewelry Artist in Hell's Kitchen
Anyone who has visited or lived in New York unequivocally agrees that the city radiates an aura that's all its own. Walking between the buildings and through Central Park, crossing from the East to the West Side, you feel like you can do anything. The city wakes you up, supercharging your senses. Drive, determination, and ambition: it is all within reach to become part of the story that is New York, no matter the profession. There is nothing like it. It is hard to pinpoint where this special type of kinetic energy originates. Does it come from riding the tide with likeminded people, the physical surroundings or both? How do you capture that essence so that you can take it with you?
Browsing Instagram, I could not help but notice Jill Herlands' charismatic yet edgy designs, reminding me of concrete and glass, screaming chaos but expressing elegance, characteristic of New York. Delving into her profile, I saw that she worked in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. The West Side Manhattan neighborhood, situated southwest of Central Park and walking distance to Broadway, runs along the Hudson River. Hell’s Kitchen was once infamous for Irish mobsters, who inhabited the once primarily industrial neighborhood over fifty years go. The now vibrant residential neighborhood attracts creative talents in theater, music, and television. Yet, I wanted to know more about what was driving her designs. Her website and brochures barely touch on the life before jewelry (2014). It was obvious that there was a backstory waiting to be told and it would be 100% New York. I reached out and we agreed to an interview on Friday, November 30, 2018.
When we started talking, I noticed right away that Jill is remarkable on so many dimensions and yet very personable. She is confident, decisive, outspoken and articulate. Despite spending her whole life in New York, having met tens of thousands of people during her lifetime, Jill connects with people on a singular and intimate level. She takes a genuine interest in what people have to say, engaging in the conversation and asking questions to learn more. As an active listener, she not only understands people but also remembers them. I would never have expected that from someone in a city where you must process information and meet people at a high-rate to remain afloat.
Raw Emerald set in Blackened Sterling Silver ring. David from South Africa commissioned this as a birthday gift for his daughter Maxine, who was born in May. Emerald is May’s birthstone. The ring size was slightly off, so Jill took it back to New York via FedEx, made the necessary adjustments, and returned it at no additional cost.
Born in 1961 and growing up in New York during the '70s and '80s, Jill Herlands' journey into jewelry was not a linear one. During her childhood years, she drove her mother crazy, taking apart her jewelry and reassembling it in new and interesting ways. She did the same with her own clothes as well, creating new and original designs. Yet it would it be some time before she realized her calling. Although her parents noticed the inborn passion for creating, they were corporate types working in finance and hoped that she would take a professional path.
She attended the American Dramatic Academy in New York. After graduating, she attended the University of Miami, majoring in theater, hoping to find an outlet for her creative energy. Although her parents were supportive, they were somewhat frustrated with her individuality and skeptical on how she would make a living. While in college, she attended an audition to be an extra in Love Child (1982). Instead, she (Jill-Rene Weissman) landed a featured role in the Beau Bridges, Mackenzie Philips, and Amy Madigan film. She decided to leave school to pursue a full-time acting career.
She soon realized that her “New Yorker” personality, characterized as impatient, wasn’t a good fit for the process; too much waiting around for auditions and on set. Instead, she opted to work on the “inside," taking a position at Bert Padell and Company (entertainment industry management firm), where the client list included such names as Madonna and Cindy Lauper. From there, she was hired by The William Morris Agency, assigned to their music department. The agency represented Billy Joel and Meatloaf, along with a long roster of established and new talent. Jill’s responsibilities included spending evenings at the clubs listening to great music and searching for new talent. Some of the noteworthy talent Jill had a hand in finding were Terence Trent Darby and Fishbone.
Electronics are quickly becoming fashion. An Apple Watch on a Sterling Silver cuff. The inspiration for this piece came about when Jill’s husband gave her his Apple Watch. Jill is not particularly a ‘watch’ person, so she decided to make the watch into a piece of jewelry she would wear instead. The underside of the cuff has been cut out to ensure it is compatible with recharging cables and stands.
Reaching her early 30's she married an unlikely suitor: a cyber-security expert – seven years her junior who had been courting her for several months. A polar opposite, he was a technology executive, focused on his career. During those years she managed lesser known bands part-time but eventually left the business, devoting all of her time to raising her daughter. In 2014, after her daughter left for college, Jill decided to look into jewelry and picked up a torch. At that moment, she realized that was her calling all along, coming full circle with her childhood creativity.
From that point, Jill began experimenting with metals, tools, and raw gemstones. Through trial and error, Jill developed her own techniques, style, and even metal alloys. Although her works and techniques are studied by jewelry students who spend time in her studio, she is completely self-taught, remaining true to her rebellious and non-conformist persona. For her, school would have set boundaries and confined her to a set of rules. She does not consider herself a jewelry designer but rather an artist. Each miniature sculpture is a first-edition, one-of-kind piece that allows the wearer to tell a story without saying a word.
My personal favorite: Blackened Sterling silver ring, set with rough blue Fluorite and silver leaf. This reminds me of broken glass on a New York City sidewalk adjacent to a chaotic construction site.
Sterling silver and concrete ring, set with Celestite. The Concrete and Celeste Ring encapsulates New York's landscape and optimism.
During our interview, before I understood her perspective, I pointed out that the ring above reminded me of concrete and broken glass. She confirmed that her inspiration came from New York's cityscape, primarily construction sites.
Those themes and interests were reinforced when she renovated her Manhattan loft. During that time, she developed a fascination for the way raw materials twisted, turned, and interconnected.
The ductwork and piping piqued her interest, which she expressed in her jewelry. She even incorporates concrete, alloyed with gold or silver in her works – one of the proprietary methods that she holds close. Her approach is often experimental and spontaneous, "seeing where things" go.
Starting with a flat piece of silver or gold, she hammers, grinds, folds, torches, or solders them into shape. She does not cast or produce pieces in quantity; each piece is truly handmade and can't (and won’t) ever be exactly reproduced. Her technique is hand-fabrication, and she consciously disregards the tradition. Instead, she uses unorthodox combinations of precious metals, rough gemstones, and non-traditional materials to create tension and expose the unexpected.
Jill thrives in an atmosphere of controlled chaos while allowing the materials to dictate the final outcome of her work. Her philosophy is “Imperfection is perfection”. Each jewelry sculpture is one-of-a-kind with a story all its own. When I asked her about specific pieces, she did not answer technically, but rather focused on the names, locations and client's story, giving each of her works a special provenance. Jill gets to know each of her clients by ‘interviewing’ them before beginning work on a bespoke piece. It’s the personality and story behind the client that influences the final design; a piece that truly speaks to the wearer.
Her business was an accidental one, starting as an interest. However, the work, which not only reflected New York but also years in the music industry, did not go unnoticed. At the urging of friends, she started posting her works on Instagram, and her online presence took off. The social following led to significant orders, and in 2015, the studio was incorporated. Jill Herlands' story is one of confidence, passion, and stubbornness, remaining true to her heart, imagination, and vision. Yet, she takes a pause to listen and understand the individual. During our interview, she asked me many questions about my daytime job as an IT Manager for a financial company in Oslo, Norway. I never thought anyone would find that interesting.
Taking energy from the city, she works from 6 am to 9-10 pm, taking long walks throughout the day to find inspiration. Jill's pieces take on the wearer's personality and outlook. They can either fade away or become a part of who they are, depending on the person and purpose. She stands behind all of her work and no one is allowed to alter or resize the pieces except her. Beside her bespoke and ready-to-wear work, Jill also repurposes clients’ existing jewelry. She incorporates the metal and gemstones from the original piece and creates something completely different and new. Although you can find her pieces in upscale boutiques and galleries worldwide, she receives visitors to her Hell's Kitchen studio by appointment from all over the world. She also responds to every single comment or question on her Instagram feed! Jill forges friendships with her clients by treating each project as if it’s the most important one, which at the time of fabrication, it is!
Visiting Jill In Hell's Kitchen
Between the first draft and final revision of this story, I made an impromptu visit to Jill's home studio in Hell's Kitchen while visiting family and friends In the area over the holidays. In person, she is radiant and full of energy. I managed to meet her husband and see her studio, getting perspective from her vantage point.
Jill Herlands with Tattoo Artist Dex of Bang Bang Tattoos in NYC - Dreams on Air exhibition in Soho, NYC on December 13, 2018.
From the window behind her workbench, I could see a TV over a Scandinavian credenza with two modern sculptures. The bright and lofty surroundings situated on glazed concrete floors and supported by modern and exposed elements correlate with her spontaneous designs.
Dreams on Air Display
We furthered our discussion on her journey to becoming a jewelry artist, primarily on going against the grain at times: guided by your passion and heart to the final destination. Willpower and determination, connected with a strong vision of what you want to achieve will compensate for the lack of formal education and specific experience. Jill emphasized that she is not afraid to fail, persisting and reiterating until she achieves her and the client's design goal. Coming into a trade from the outside leads to outcomes never seen before but highly sought after. I shared with her our desire to make our blog the "Audubon book" for noteworthy and renowned artisan jewelry designers from around the world. She encouraged my wife and I to continue our course, writing in-depth stories that help the reader see the world through the designer's eyes, connecting their life experiences and soul to the design outcomes.
The Hollow Forms Ring Is completely handmade from Sterling silver. The contemporary and geometric with worn surfaces reminds me of both Oslo and New York.
Seeing Jill's work up close, I wanted to get my wife something unique from New York. I sent my wife a picture of the Hollow Forms Ring to which she replied was too big for her fingers but would make an excellent pendant: 80% of the original size, made from 18K gold and supported by a handmade gold chain.
We will continue this story in the spring when we start the project.
Vogue Magazine UK Edition, December 2018 - "Party Edit."
Quietly working in Sømmeroy, an island near Tromsø Norway, Sjur Hassel hammers away, creating his unique brand of slightly deviant and edgy jewelry. Sjur finds inspiration in mechanisms and movement. He believes that people follow trends, either in the conscious or subconscious. His interests are drawn together in a myriad of music, industrial objects, and nature’s mathematical symphony.
Giving little attention to publicity and the spotlight, he devotes his energy and thoughts to each piece and what it will mean to those wearing it. Each one is handmade, expressing individuality for those who cannot or will not comply. Although far away and removed from London's Fashion District, his work did not go unnoticed. Chloe Bargery, Senior Advertising Sales Executive for British Vogue, first contacted Sjur Hassel late last September. She discovered Metallstudio online. Contacting Sjur, she told him that it would be perfect to feature in an upcoming feature, which she was creating for the magazine. Within that campaign, Vogue aims to showcase a selection of exceptional jewelry designers from around the world, yet to be discovered by their 1.2 million readers.
Chloe selected the Veronica Lake Statement Ring, stating that it would make a unique addition to the page and appeal to Vogue's readership. This substantial and prominent silver ring is for those desiring to be themselves in a society that demands ever-increasing conformity. Note that you can customize this ring, specifying a quote of your own choosing that fits your persona or life situation.
The Veronica Lake Statement Ring made from Sterling silver reads,” I've reached a point in my life where it's the little things that matter... I was always a rebel and probably could have got much farther had I changed my attitude. But when you think about it, I got pretty far without changing attitudes. I'm happier with that.” (Veronica Lake was an American Actress, 1922-1973, known for her role in the 1941 film: Sullivan’s Travels and her iconic peek-a-boo hairstyle)
The Vogue Magazine December 2018 UK edition, featuring the ring in their "Party Edit," is a four-cover special edition, marking the one-year anniversary of Edward Enninful as editor-in-chief. Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine covering an assortment of topics, including fashion, beauty, culture, living, and runway. Vogue began as a weekly newspaper in 1892 in the United States, before becoming a monthly publication several years later. The British Edition was the first international edition launched in 1916, while the Italian version is considered the leading fashion magazine in the world.
Norway Today is one of the largest English language news publications in Norway. Our feature, "Norwegian Jewelry’s Digital Transformation" discusses both the challenges and benefits of digitalization while offering another approach. Please read the article on their site at:
An Interview with Chao-Hsien Kuo and Eero Hintsanen
This story started out with a little evening humor, commenting on "The Ceremony," posted on Instagram. The provocative yet profound black and white picture of unclothed lady entering a lake, wearing a prominent and heavy silver necklace, in reverse, running down her back, was not something that you see every day. When the designer answered back with a humorous response, I had to find out who he was.
As it turned out, he and his wife, known as Chao & Eero, are both renowned jewelers in Finland, recognized at home and abroad. They work together on a jewelry line as well as separately, managing their own individual brands. The contrast in styles opposes each other. Yet the distance from the “center” is equal and the contrast symmetric, balancing each other out. Understanding them as individuals makes the dissonance understandable.
Chao the Light
Born in Southern Taiwan in 1973, her, journey into the jewelry world was not exactly linear. Although inclined towards handicrafts and knitting from an early age, she did not realize that she wanted to be a jewelry designer and goldsmith until later in life. Chao’s father, an engineer, operated a metals business. Typical of many Asian families, Chao's parents encouraged her to study and pursue a profession, offering good income and stability. Enrolled in the best girl's school in Southern Taiwan, she spent six years studying for the national university entrance exam.
Although passing the, she did not receive the high score, require to enroll in the National University. At that point, she was utterly exhausted and had no idea what she wanted to do. Most in this situation study for another year and retake the exams, hoping to improve their results. However, she went against the grain and decided to enroll in the Ming Chuan College for Commercial Design, a private college in Taipei (1991). The "failure" of attending a private college to study design was a turning point in her life. The school exposed her to another world, completely different than what she experienced before. Encouraging creative thinking, drawing, and working with her hands, she started to enjoy school and learn new things. During that year in Taipei, she attended many exhibitions, one of which was a gold jewelry exhibition, which planted a seed in her mind.
After a year, she went to Ontario, Canada ('92-93) to study English. Her father asked a friend over there to help Chao find a business school, which she could study and later return home, helping internationalize the family business. He directed her to the city library where she spent hours browsing college catalogs. However, instead of searching for business programs, she started looking into ones offering metal, jewelry, and art studies.
This time, her academic discipline, ingrained since childhood, paid off. Having excellent grades and a strong portfolio from Ming Chuan college, she applied to and received acceptance from several top American schools. Her father asked, “jewelry needs to be designed?” Nevertheless, he was supportive when they discovered that there was no jewelry school in Taiwan. Because her father had a friend in New Jersey, she chose to enroll at Hofstra University (1993), located in in Long Island, New York, majoring in fine arts and sculpture.
One of her professors had unusual expertise with metals, opening up Chao’s interest in keum-boo and anticlastic techniques. Keum-boo is a laborious technique, dating back to ancient Korea. The artisan depletes the silver with several applications of acid, until the silver has a white finish, and then gilds it with 24-karat gold foil. Anticlastic is a technique to create 3D “saddle-shaped” designs, which oppose each other in a symmetrical manner. She analogized a Pringles potato chip as being anticlastic with its long edges opposing each other. Through the years, Chao developed her own anticlastic techniques and applied keum-boo to three-dimensional works that are very different from others, creating her own signature style.
The Nordic Wind Bracelet illustrates both anticlastic forming and keum-boo techniques.
Looking to build upon those skills, her professor encouraged her to look at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences – Institute of Design. The Goldsmith and jewelry design program, offered in English, was especially well-known for metal forming techniques: manipulating materials to make them look different and draw attention. There was an excellent facility with many teachers, considered masters in their profession. They offered courses in goldsmithing, stone setting, silversmithing, engraving, enameling, and gemology. After graduating from Hofstra University (1996) with High Honors in Fine Arts (Jewelry/Metal), she enrolled in the post-graduate Goldsmithing and Jewelry Design program (1997) at Lahti University. Shortly after arriving in Finland, she met Eero who shared the same passion for the metals and design, challenging yet embracing convention at the same time.
After graduation in 1999 and earning her Master Goldsmith Certification (Mestarinkirja), she returned to Taiwan, taking an apprenticeship at the Saga Co as a watch designer. There, she learned how to operate within the corporate environment, managing interdepartmental relations and finding the intersection between art and commerce.
The Sparkling Forest Earrings take inspiration from the fresh snow.
Returning to Finland in 2000, taking up a Master of Arts (MA) in Industrial Design at Aalto University. As an immigrant to Norway, I assumed that Finland must have been a shock for her. Typical of northern countries, the long dark winters, inclement weather, and the people's general silence makes adjustment difficult. However, for Chao, Finland offered new stimuli and matched her generally introverted persona, characteristic of artists and designers focused on their work. Over the course of her studies and career, she defined her style, taking inspiration from nature. Plant life and sometimes the snow, which was new for her, offered not only inspiration but something to study. Taking a close look, she captures how the intricate structures and assemblies aid movements that we take for granted.
On Valentine's day 2005, she and her husband started Chao & Eero. Shortly thereafter (2006), Lapponia discovered her work and offered her a freelance designer position. Renowned as Finland's most well-known jewelry brand, Lapponia supplied Princess Leia's (Carrie Fisher) necklace in the first Star Wars movie (1977). They wished to lighten the heavy and sculpture-like forms, characteristic of their designs. Selecting Chao, the first woman, they sought originality that still embraced the brand, especially with regards to the sculptural qualities.
Based on disciplined creativity and a desire to learn, Chao makes a statement. However, it is in a calm and soothing manner, blending in with the person wearing her pieces. Conforming and grounded, she expresses something unique, absorbed from not only her current surroundings but also the journey across three continents. During her career, she has received numerous awards and grants as well as international recognition. Even the New York Times covered her work with Lapponia. You can learn more about her and her creations on her website.
Eero the Darkness
Born in Eastern Finland (1972), Eero grew up on a farm, surrounded by a vast and dark forest. During the pre-digital age, he escaped into other worlds through comics and novels like John Carter and the Lord of the Rings. Like many children during that time, playing in the countryside without parental supervision, he used his imagination to visualize those stories and whatever else he could conjure up. They fashioned branches and sticks into swords and other weapons, taking on invisible forms in the darkness. From those early years, he also enjoyed drawing with pen and pencil, conveying these images to others.
His parents were supportive and free, suggesting that he look beyond farming. Finland's entry into the EU (1990's) meant inevitable changes to the agricultural sector. After doing his mandatory army service, he applied to the Lahti University of Applied Sciences – Institute of Design. Passing the demanding four-day entrance exam, he entered a school in flux (1993). The university wanted to break from traditional teaching methods and curriculums, coming up with a completely different approach while upholding high standards. Experimenting with the curriculum and admissions, they sought a diverse class that would not only compliment each other but also clash as well, engaging in healthy conflict.
The Tri Necklace | Eero Hintsanen
During his Goldsmith studies in Lahti, Eero spent a year in Germany (1995-1996). He worked at a Munich jewelry store and studied at the Staatliche Zeichenakademie in Hanau, Germany. Founded in 1772, the State Drawing Academy is one of Germany's oldest schools for creative crafts and recognized internationally. Returning to Finland, he completed his Bachelors of Arts in Goldsmithing in 1998.
After graduation, he co-founded Group X8 with several others, participated in international jewelry shows, taught part-time at several different institutions, and cofounded Chao & Eero in 2005. He also continued his studies: taking a post-graduate degree in entrepreneurship (2002-2004) and specializing in Jewelry Art in Lahti (2004). In 2010, Eero earned his Master Goldsmith certificate (Mestarinkirja). After certification, he taught at the Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Finland (2010-2011). In 2015, Eero earned his Master in Arts (MA) in International Design Business Management (IDBM), which broadened his knowledge and further qualified him to teach at the university level.
Eero built a reputation as an exceptional jeweler and craftsman, specializing in statement jewelry. Known as restless and unbound, he is amicable and pragmatic, taking time to understand the customer and visualize their ideas. In addition to folklore and mythology, Eero draws inspiration from Finland's "Dark Aesthetics," influenced by the long and dark winters. The culture draws strength from the darkness. It is quite prevalent in the Nordic countries and part of people's lives. It is most visible in the black metal music scene and the tattoo art that goes along with it.
The Spine Necklace, featured in the 2018 Eurovision song contest brought him front and center. In 2017, through a common acquaintance, in the fashion industry, he met Saara Aalto – the Finnish Eurovision contestant for 2018. He was given a budget, complete trust, and creative freedom to make something never seen before.
The necklace, as Eero sees it, is "a skeleton removed from a skeleton" but with more prominent roots. There was no single thought, idea or point of inspiration that led to the design concept. Rather, it was a culmination of inputs over the years, going back to his childhood years; moving through the forest at night, where he deliberately sought "long and snappy" shapes. Once he had a picture in his mind, he fashioned something that resembled a combination of bones and thickets while considering Saara's unique situation: on stage in front of almost a 200 million people, seen from all angles, using microphones, and performing energetic movements. The piece had to be prominent but not take attention from the singer herself. It had to be a natural part of her outfit and onstage persona.
The necklace not only had to stand out but also fit perfectly and in a flexible manner. Eero visited the YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) studio around seven times to make adjustments as part of a team, which made this big and complex project happen. Saara and Eero, both down to earth, worked well together, pulling it off over a three week period.
Chao & Eero
In their studio, they do their own casting and limit the use of 3D printing, keeping production limited. Linking the design process to the design itself, they can spontaneously alter pieces during the making process instead of waiting for vendors and dealing with the associated formality and potential delays. Casting in-house also allows them to test small pieces, scaling them up into magnificent ones in short order. They often refer to each other to get outside and professional perspective if they get "tunnel vision" from working on the same thing for too long.
At the end of the interview, they both emphasized that school was the defining factor in their professions. The expert mentorship and high standards, which demanded attention to detail while challenging their creativity, laid the foundation for an illustrious career. The students at School of Goldsmithing – Institute of Design in Lahti Finland spent well over 80 hours per week in and out of the classroom. Night or day, there was a teacher present who wanted them to learn and succeed. They told me that the student to teacher ratio was around 10:1 - something almost unheard of today. The heated discussions among peers got them to think differently, emphasizing not to get stuck: instead, reinvent and reinterpret. Hence, the school gave the students both reasoning and context, helping each of them find their own direction.
Their collective and individual designs are for those searching for something different in a world of mass production and general uniformity. You can find them online and on social media.
Since we started our Instagram feed, just over a year ago, we made some friends both in Norway and abroad. Early on, we befriended Simone Vera Bath (SVB). Originally from Berlin Germany, she produces jewelry in and runs her business from Rome. Simone asked us if she could join Norwegian jewelry. Although we found her jewelry and personal story extremely interesting, our scope is to focus on artisan Norwegian jewelry designers and goldsmiths. Nevertheless, we kept in touch and after some time, came up with the idea to do an interview for our blog. She inspired us to look beyond our horizons. Although focused on Norway, we find stories about creativity, uniqueness, and character to be something that cannot be bounded or limited. Like us, she also believes that customers not only purchase the jewelry but also the personal story behind the pieces, offering a connection to the designer.
In the age of mass production, it is more important than ever that the designer's story comes out through in their works. Hence, starting with Simone, we will start to feature interesting designers from around the world, befriended on Instagram.
Video SVB-Jewellery - YouTube
"Determination" is the one word that describes Simone Vera Bath. It is the most admirable of personal qualities and the one that makes anything possible. Like many artisans, she makes handmade pieces in limited quantities. There is no mass production, and the average piece takes 12-14 days to produce. (She doesn’t stock items. Therefore, SVB jewelry is not available on Amazon or other wide-reaching marketplaces.). Believing in what's old and historic, she transmits her values, energy, and beliefs through her hands and into her jewelry, achieving a worn and inexact look. Simone Vera Bath finds inspiration in signs and symbols, derived from a personal iconography. Moreover, mythology is ever-present in her work, relating to the topos of the Amazon woman: strong, independent and in a free relationship with nature. Her iconic creation is undoubtedly the ``Fedone`` ring, (pictured below), which can be a gift either to oneself or to others. The ‘Fedone’ represents a way of being: it embodies a soul that changes through time, an eternal and faithful soul that binds us to something deep and permanent.
SVB's iconic Fedone ring.
Known as the "Lady of the Rings," she strives to achieve an archaic appearance, working with a mix of materials: gold, silver, bronze, and diamonds. Most of her work mixes silver and bronze, which she often matches with leather, wood, and semi-precious stones. However, unlike most jewelers, Simone strives for imperfection, "The world is full of symmetrical and perfect jewelry." Utilizing special smearing techniques, which intentionally leaves the work unfinished, she accomplishes her design motif. The imperfections make the object unique, never exactly replicable. SVB also crafts metal with lost wax castings, making it look scarred. The marks unevenly reflect light and feel conspicuous to the touch. The result is an object that has a lived-in appearance but also a contemporary, edgy design.
The Big Ring: Perfecting Imperfection.
You can wear her jewelry every day, complimenting a wide range of fashions, or on special occasions to invigorate conversation. With so many variants and options, she finds it challenging to present all the possibilities in a practical way. Her new website allows customers to personalize rings on multiple dimensions: stones, colors, techniques, etc. When you learn about Simone Vera Bath, it becomes quite evident that her current work reflects a wide variety of education, interests, and life experience, going back to her early years.
The environment, in which she was raised, together with her strong and determined spirit has a profound impact on all of her creations. Born in Cold War Berlin, her father was a pharmacist and her mother a housewife. They were strict, emphasizing academics and encouraged her to pursue a traditional career path, leading to a stable profession. Nevertheless, she defied them by first studying art and sculpture in Berlin and then moving to Florence (Italy), completing her studies in goldsmithing, art history, and interior design.
It was a natural decision. Since age four, she had a strong creative inclination, taking apart the family electronics and reassembling them into art forms. Starting with sculpture, she quickly moved into jewelry. It not only offered a greater means of expression but also a wider variety of materials to work with. Learning from her mistakes, she quickly realized that you have to make what people are willing to buy. With a lot of determination, drive, and hard work, she built her business and brand from scratch, achieving global recognition:
2018: Invitation to Tranoi - Sustainable Fashion Show.
2016: Wins the TIME AWARD (second edition) at the White Show Milan (June/Summer) for best accessories designer,
2016: Participates in White Show Milan, January Edition,
2015: Launched her own brand: SVB Jewelry – Simone Vera Bath,
1998: Solo shows at Cap d'antibes in New York, Berlin, and Italy,
1995: Solo show in the "Because I Love Art Gallery" b Guido Novi (her mentor until his death in 1997).
During the course of our discussion, I sensed her high-energy, positivity and enthusiasm. Figuring her as a 24/7 person who never takes a day off, I asked her if she ever took time off to rest. She answered that she is highly spiritual, linking herself to the positive forces that rule over the universe. Believing in balance, she gets away regularly to relax, reflect and recharge. As a practicing Buddhist, she strives to complement rather than compete: thus, maintaining a sustainable and bright future as a true artisan jewelry designer.
Her clientele include Valentina Cervi and Gwen Stefani, among many others. You can find her jewelry in select boutiques and concept stores in Berlin, Rome, Milan, Turn, Trieste, and Tokyo or online at https://www.simoneverabath.com. If you would like more information, please contact her via her website.