July 01 2011
Lucia van der Post
If you’re a fleeing oligarch, an embattled despot, a refugee on the run, the point of jewellery is its material worth. You need to be able to exchange for cash – fast. For most of us, though, jewellery’s chief charm has more to do with the emotional charge it carries. None of us forgets the 21st-birthday string of pearls, the earrings chosen as a wedding present. It’s the way we signal our love to each other.
And this is where Wellendorff, a long-established (since 1893) German company, comes in. For the two brothers who run it today, Georg and Christoph, jewellery is a deeply emotional matter. Wellendorff isn’t a name that’s well known in the UK but in Germany it is distinguished, distinctive, the stuff of heirlooms. Its most recognisable pieces all have a special emotional resonance.
Take the ropes of 18ct gold (pictured), so soft they almost feel like silk. These were designed to please Georg and Christoph’s mother. She asked her husband for a silken, golden rope that she could wear around her neck; at first he said it couldn’t be done, but she insisted. It took two years working with a goldsmith to devise a method of weaving the gold to achieve the soft and sinuous effect but ever since it has been one of Wellendorff’s signature pieces. It comes in white gold or yellow gold with prices starting at £4,000 for the simplest, going up to £56,000 for the chunkier ropes.
Then there are the Wellendorff rings – beautifully crafted and distinctive because of the special way the separate parts of the ring rotate independently. In the widest, most elaborate ring of all, there are five sections and each one rotates quite beautifully all on its own. They, too, were devised for a personal reason – for Christoph to give something special to the woman he was about to marry. Again, it took a lot of experimentation, but now enamelled rings, ranging in price from £6,220 for the simplest one to £21,000, are always in the range.
And finally, the reason for writing about it now, a new collection – the Golden Angel range (rings pictured) – is just coming into Boodles, its UK stockist. Behind the Golden Angel collection is an even more poignant story. It came from one of Wellendorff’s Latvian customers who wrote saying that she had lost most of her possessions in a house fire but had managed to retrieve her Wellendorff necklace after the furnace died down. The event made her realise not only that miracles do happen (her jewellery survived) but also how much she admired her husband’s strength during the crisis. The brothers were moved by the letter and decided to create a collection of jewellery that captured this feeling of love and protection.
So every piece in the Golden Angel collection has a guardian angel engraved somewhere on it. The most striking piece is probably the Angel of the Night ring (pictured), which has five bands, three of black enamel, two of diamonds, each of which rotates separately; it sells for £17,720.