When young art student John Hardy moved to Bali to study ancient Balinese jewellery-making techniques back in 1975, no-one, not even the man himself, could have predicted the impact of the company that would emerge from the coming together of ancient technique and modern design.
“He was under the guidance of master artisans whose ancestors were actually goldsmiths to the island’s former royal courts. These are techniques that were handed down from generation to generation,” says Renee Langevin of Island Companies.
These ancient techniques shaped John Hardy’s early designs, with four techniques in particular capturing his imagination – rantai, which is a woven chain; tenun, which is a woven mesh; jawan, which is granulation; and ukiran, which is cutwork.
“These four techniques are still used in John Hardy pieces today, but then they’ve also incorporated engineered clasps and modern technical solutions that they’ve applied to make the jewellery more wearable, more pliable, more comfortable and more durable,” says Renee.
The attention to detail that is such a feature of a John Hardy piece is especially evident in his use of ukiran, which is most often employed on the back grill of pieces, with the cutwork etched onto the inner surface of the jewellery. This carving technique creates jewellery that tells a secret story, so the inside of the piece is as beautiful as the outside of the piece.
“To this day John Hardy still continues the close relationship between designers and artisans and they do employ local Balinese artisans who employ these techniques. All of the pieces are handmade in Bali – it takes three hours per inch to weave a piece of John Hardy jewellery, so there are many, many hours that go into a finished piece of jewellery,” says Renee.
Part of the timeless appearance of the jewellery is created through the oxidation of the silver, which turns the metal black. Of course, as with all things John Hardy, the oxidation is also done by hand.
“Silver is the whitest of all the metals, so using this black colouration creates a unique design element and it contrasts the colour and the texture,” says Renee.
Nature plays a big role in the company’s work, from their work to become carbon neutral through bamboo planting initiatives to the inspiration for many of their collections.
“They take design influences from their natural surroundings in Bali, so for example with the Kali collection that takes its name from a Balinese word for river, all the designs reflects smooth river stones that are found nearby to where the pieces are actually made and designed,” says Renee.
The natural inspiration for their pieces also helps maintain continuity between different collections, meaning that pieces from one collection can be worn with another collection without clashing.
“If you do have a piece from five or ten years ago, you can mix and match with the new collection.
With the new collections launching in fall we saw different design elements but incorporating the Kali motif, incorporating the dots, so even though it is a brand new collection based on Morocco, you can wear it with your dot pieces,” says Renee.
The timelessness of the jewellery design and the craftsmanship inherent in each John Hardy piece means that these pieces tend to become staples of any jewellery collection.
“Pieces that were purchased 15 years ago are still as fresh today as they were back then. In the scheme of silver and gold jewellery, you may as a first time purchaser say ‘Oh, that is a lot of money’ but the value is there because you will still be wearing it 10 to 15 years from now and I believe that you will grow to love it even more with each passing year,” says Marsha Bryant of Island Companies.
“It is a piece that you won’t only be wearing for your lifetime but it will become an heirloom piece.”
John Hardy jewellery is available from Island Jewellers in the Island Plaza and Flagship building in George Town, and from The Mansion in Camana Bay.