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Meet John Hardy - Jewelry Designer
If you go to the best stores in America in search of a necklace, or a ring, or bracelet, you would hardly miss displays carrying the name of John Hardy - a designer known worldwide for his luxury lines of intricate handmade jewelry. He was born in 1949 in Canada, but after visiting Bali (an Indonesian island and one of the country's 33 provinces) in 1975 and falling in love with its nature, arts and crafts he created there a design studio that gradually grown to a large enterprise of hundreds of local artisans and goldsmiths.
John Hardy's creations are based on traditional techniques developed throughout centuries by Balinese craftsmen and equally inspired by local arts and ornaments offering a unique combination of ancient mystique with timeless and at the same time modern design. Every piece of jewelry that carries his signature is made by hand: at times it's difficult to believe in this so refined and well finished his handwork is. But you immediately realize that one of the sources of the beauty of this metal work comes from balance and harmony that only human hands can instill - perhaps, it relates to tiny imperfections, or, should we say, human touch that fills these pieces with energy, harmony and perfection that machine-made correctness is never capable of.
John Hardy's name today is known worldwide and his business is still expanding gaining new markets and wider popularity. His designs are found on the covers of the top fashion magazines, and the growing business required offices (and showroom) in New York. However, after many years John Hardy remains loyal to Bali where his whole family lives now.
It seems that John Hardy success has many sources where his gift as a designer plays very important role. But the support and inspiration (and people say business administration and entrepreneurial skills) his wife Cynthia has provided also have proven to be very important. Perhaps another source of this success is the idea of "sustainable luxury" that both John and Cynthia believe and actively promote - the idea that well-being of the artisan who makes a piece of jewelry is not less important than the quality of its materials and skills. This idea is actually quite complex and even if on the surface it has something in common with "employee participation" programs practiced by many companies it goes much deeper.
What can illustrate the idea of "sustainable luxury" is the image of balance, coexistence and preservation. It's in everything - in how factories and shops are organized - almost invisible and blended with nature. And this blending is not just a skillful trick of disguising a polluting metallurgical process as an environmentally friendly one. It's a philosophy and practice of building a community and business in a way that does not interfere at all with nature and, if necessary, can be removed without leaving any trace. There is no concrete, no asphalt; in fact, the jewelry workshop is also an organic farm, and the food is grown to feed the people who work there. There are cows, goats, poultry, rabbits and fish ponds; buildings are made of mud, one of the favorite construction materials in Bali, and wood. Workshops are full of light and air and the production process is organized to make sure that there is enough time to make the product as perfect as possible, and that individuals who make it are respected as human beings.
The company is a member of the local village association and thus has an obligation to participate in its communal rituals. The goal is to be sincerely engaged with the community which is very important and very much appreciated by locals. But if at this moment you have an image of a sleepy hollow lost somewhere very far away from civilization, that image is not what the reality is. It's a modern, sophisticated and a dynamic company - from managerial practices to state-of-the-art computers hooked to broadband networks.
Although John Hardy lives tropical paradise of Bali where he finds his inspiration, the realities of doing business on a global scale in the twenty-first century cannot be ignored, and this includes raw materials, use of energy and labor. However, environmental preservation plays a special role in the philosophy and practice of "sustainable luxury." The company is actively pursuing a variety of programs aimed at improving the environmental and social impact of its business and, first of all, its supply chain. The goal is to realize John Hardy's vision for a sustainable environmental in the most efficient way.
The scope of these programs is very broad - from certain management practices such as internal audits to recycling and energy saving initiatives, for example, more efficient lightening and cooling systems. But maybe the most impressive effort is an attempt to find a sustainable alternative to timber. For example, the John's workshop itself can be viewed as an experiment in bamboo architecture with entire structures built with bamboo using alang-alang grass as a roofing material. Another example is the Nusa Penida island project funded by the John Hardy Company of Bali to offset hundreds of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions resulting annually from company's business and, in particular, its advertising. Offset requirements are expressed in hectares of bamboo needed in Nusa Penida per year.
John Hardy vision, creativity and talent are driving forces behind this remarkable and unusual company. He refined the traditional Balinese jewelry technique called granulation (which involves the one-by-one application of tiny beads of metal) by flattening by hand traditional beads. This modified technique has become his signature "dot" pattern reminiscent of reflections of tropical gardens. He is offering a wide variety of designs that can be classified in several collections (see some examples on the right):
- Jaisalmer collection is inspired by ornaments of palaces in India. With John Hardy's signature gold and silver dot technique items in this collection have become new classic. The first (from the top) wide strap cuff bracelet ($1,795 - see the photo on the right) is a typical example from this collection. Often, the romantic Jaisalmer collection is enhanced by large cultured freshwater pearls adding refinement and sophistication.
- Ayu Collection - "ayu" means beautiful woman in Indonesian. Items in this collection are inspired by flowers and leaves and indeed are as beautiful as a woman can be.
- Palu collection - "palu" means a hammer in Balinese. Carved chain and hammered metal are two traditional techniques in Bali, and both are used often in John Hardy work. This creates a rich and at the same time casual look like in the bracelet ($1,895) on the photo (the second from the top) where yellow gold is hammered, centered and framed like a gemstone.
- Kali collection - "kali" means a river in Balinese. Kali Jewelry is inspired by the smooth river rocks that form the beds of Bali’s rushing rivers. Jewelry from this collection is often created with a variation of the "dot" technique where dots become stylized golden rocks.
- Dayak collection - it epitomizes the patterns found in the tattoo art and ritual objects of tribes in the jungles of Bomeo.
- Batu collection - in Balinese, "batu" means a stone. Not surprisingly pieces in this collection incorporate various gemstones. They may include amethyst, white and blue topaz, chalcedony and other precious and semi-precious stones cut in a variety of forms where bigger stones are set in bezels of sparkling diamond. Radiant and sparkling stones are often balanced by layering of chains or other settings, for example, typical for the Kali collection. For an example, see the bracelet ($3,195) with black chalcedony at the bottom of the photo on the right.
Dot technique mentioned above with silver or with both, silver and gold, is used often across different collections and serves as the basis for some most sophisticated and beautiful pieces ever created by John Hardy such as his large pendant of circular discs of 18K gold with a distinctive rhythmic design found in the temple art of Cambodia (see the picture at the top of the page). Set on a matching hand-carved silver chain with smaller medallions crafted with the same pattern and technique (with total price of $1,195 pendant + $850 chain = $2,045) it becomes a perfection suitable for many occasions. The rich and yet casual look of this masterpiece is difficult to overlook. Like magic it adds elegance to the informal dress of the daytime - by same magic, it can intensify the glamour of an evening outfit.
If you want to buy John Hardy jewelry, the best way to do this is to visit stores like Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue where you can take a close look at his creations, touch and try them on. You can also find them at Nordstrom; however, the selection, at least at this moment, may be somewhat limited. You can also buy his jewelry on the Web at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue Web sites. Another Web site where you can find an extensive collection of John Hardy creations is Florida based retailer J.R. Dunn Jewelers. Finally, we recommend visiting John Hardy's Web site: you will not find jewelry for sale there, but if you want to find more information about the designer and his multi-sided activities this is certainly the place to do this.