GUÐBJÖRG KRISTÍN INGVARSDÓTTIR
Jewellery inspired by Icelandic nature
I spoke to Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir, founder of Aurum, a leading Icelandic jewellery brand, about her career beginnings, finding inspiration for creating jewellery in nature and working on Aurum's latest Asterias collection.
After studying goldsmithing at Copenhagen Technical College and jewellery design at the Institute for Precious Metals, Guðbjörg had stayed in Copenhagen where she ran the jewellery workshop Au-Art for three years. In 1999, she returned to Iceland and founded Aurum with her husband, Karl Jóhann Jóhannsson. They run the Aurum store and workshop in the heart of Reykjavík’s city centre together.
Aurum stands for Ambition, Understanding, Responsibility, Unity and Mindfulness. The jewellery is inspired by nature with rich details and a sense of movement, finesse and balance. Each and every piece is expertly handcrafted from sterling silver in the company‘s workshop in Reykjavík, Iceland.
Guðbjörg was awarded first prize in the jewellery competition Spirit of the North in St. Petersburg in 2000, the DV Cultural Award in Reykjavík for art design in 2002 and the Icelandic Visual Arts.
Guðbjörg, tell us how it all began. What made you interested in jewellery and what was life like starting as a designer?
When I was younger I went to America as an exchange student and spent a year in Bainbridge Island where I was introduced to several art classes and jewellery making. Very soon I found my passion for jewellery making and working with metals, so once I got back to Iceland I signed up to study goldsmithing.
After finishing my studies in Iceland and then in Denmark, I came back to Iceland and founded Aurum. Starting as a jewellery designer is a lot of hard work but I was ready for it and confident I was bringing something new to the Icelandic market.
You and your husband, Karl, opened a small shop in a back street of Reykjavik in 1999. Today, Aurum is one of the leading brands in Iceland based in a prime city centre location. What did it take to get to this stage?
Dedication and a lot of hard work! When you start a business you put all your energy and effort into making it work. I believe in what I do so I knew that I just had to build up the client base. After a few years of doing everything on our own, we were able to move into our current location and hire expert goldsmiths to work alongside myself in the workshop so I could produce more for the growing market.
"I gave myself a year to work on my latest collection Asterias. I worked in a secluded seaside cabin without electricity in the West Fjords and let myself be inspired by nature - where ocean meets land.
It is easy to get distracted in your every day environment so I like to find my own space and let the organic process of being inspired happen naturally."
Creating innovative designs
Was there a demand for jewellery in Iceland at the time or did you create it by offering a unique product?
Icelandic people have always appreciated good design but at the time when I opened my store the jewellery industry needed something new and fresh. I have always prided myself in innovative design and Aurum definitely played a part in the changes that came in the jewellery trends in Iceland.
Your designs break away from the norm, Aurum ranges are beautiful, handcrafted pieces with a sophisticated touch. How do you achieve this uniqueness?
I take time working with my ideas and concepts. For example, I gave myself a year to work on my latest collection Asterias. I worked in a secluded seaside cabin without electricity in the West Fjords and let myself be inspired by nature - where ocean meets land. It is easy to get distracted in your every day environment so I like to find my own space and let the organic process of being inspired happen naturally.
How long does it take to make a piece of jewellery and what materials do you use? Apropos, what is your favourite jewellery that you own?
The time it takes to make a piece of jewellery depends on the item, if it has lots of details, texture and complicated work then it takes a while to perfect. My favourite piece of jewellery has to be a special one off bracelet I made from my Ísold collection.
I received the Spirit of the North award for it in St. Petersburg in 2000, just a year after I founded Aurum.
New collection - Asterias
You came to London in September to launch a new collection called Asterias. What theme have you chosen for this unique product range?
I was very excited to showcase Asterias, the collection has been evolving throughout the year and we have some exciting new pieces. Asterias combines elegant and sophisticated forms with interesting texture and gems telling the story of the ocean and the gentle waves breaking on a forgotten dark beach in the West Fjords.
With over 30 resellers in Europe, China and Alaska, Aurum’s jewellery is available to customers worldwide through its online shop. What do you hope to achieve with the brand in the future?
We will continue to grow Aurum by Guðbjörg aiming our focus on specific markets abroad. We are pleased with how organically we have grown year on year and what great support we receive from our customers and resellers. We are excited about the future thanks to a lot of interest in our jewellery and so we are carefully stepping into new directions.