Designing unique pieces of jewelry with mesmeric allure which today’s women of grand taste often look for is no easy feat to achieve at all since it requires an absolute degree of finesse. Then, there is no one quite like the New York-born Amsterdam-based fine jewelry designer and sculptor Bibi van der Velden who has carved out a niche of her own when it comes to designing fanciful pieces of jewelry.
Van der Velden discovered at a young age that the process of making sculptures and jewelry is more or less similar. She learnt early on that a jewel doesn’t need a body to take shape because it’s a little sculpture in itself. “I came to learn all of it from my mother who was a sculptor herself and I was always fascinated by her art and the way she worked. I spent every spare moment I had in her atelier, helping her in every possible way and learning how to sculpt along the way,” she said.
As expected, the next logical step that she took toward becoming a jewelry designer was to attend The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague where Van der Velden studied the basics of art. Later, she moved to the Florence Academy of Arts. “That’s how I became a sculptor and found my way to designing jewelry at a later stage when I learnt my goldsmith skills at the Dutch Schoonhoven Institute in the Netherlands,” she said.
Van der Velden’s priority while working on her creations is to always make people smile. Not only that, she says it needs to have an exquisite fun detail that strongly makes them a conversation piece—something unexpected! “You can see this in a ring embedded in my ring pieces. Those are bigger rings with a small ring inside it. Another signature trait of mine is that I always use sustainable and unique materials like the gorgeous design of a 40,000- year-old mammoth tusk or real scarab wings. This is what makes my jewelry pieces stand out,” she said. “I hope my brand inspires people and my designs accompany them in life by celebrating their milestones.”
Van der Velden loves to use unconventional materials in her collection as they’re truly a big inspiration to her. She tries to get her materials from all over the world and each should have a story behind it. “I started to make jewelry by incorporating antique objects and objets trouvés that I was collecting, in my pieces. I just love the idea of reusing material and so follow it meticulously in order to give them a second life in my jewelry. There is always a recurring recycle element in my work,” she said.
She defines herself as someone who loves to travel and almost everything from different cultures seems to influence her and the overall designs crafted by her. “I sketch in my sketchbook whilst I travel and so global influences can be seen in my jewelry and materials used. Most of my pieces come to life because I create them around a specific material that has influenced me during my travels,” Van der Velden said.
Since nature is a big source of inspiration for her and it’s something that never ceases to fascinate her, Van der Velden wants her namesake label to be known as a sustainable jewelry brand of the highest quality well-thought-out through details.
Buying jewelry and wearing it is very much an individual’s choice keeping in mind what occasion they choose to wear it on. So it shouldn’t be dictated by the third parties. And Van der Velden’s take on women or men who purchase her designed jewels is simply that they’re looking for something special; they’re individuals who understand themselves and want something unique and beautiful to emphasize and show their own style.
But she did reiterate one thing clearly: “I design for all kinds of women who appreciate my style and designs and choice of natural materials. My pieces have been bought by all types of women from all types of backgrounds. I could never pinpoint a perfect woman as I consider all my customers perfect.”
Smitten by Arab women’s style
Van der Velden often finds herself intrigued by the culture and history of the Middle East and she feels that women are using jewelry as well as fashion to express their diversity and dynamism in a great way. “Women in the Middle East have a huge knowledge of the materials used in jewelry which makes it inspiring to work with them,” she said.
Moreover, having spent some time in the region, her personal experience implies that the Arab women are a little bit more glamorous. “The Western women mostly keep it shy and simple. The Arab women dare to wear some extravagant pieces and have a high regard for it,” she said. “I find it very interesting.”
Asked whether she would like to have her own showroom in the Middle East, she said, “Yes, I would love to have my pieces more available in the Middle East. A showroom or a nice collaboration with a concept store or department store that shares my values and beliefs on jewelry is definitely on my shortlist to achieve in years to come.”
Participating in high-profile joaillerie exhibitions is highly significant for all jewelry designers as it gives them a wide-open platform to showcase their best work. “Since my jewelry is for a certain type of person, I think high-profile exhibitions are events where that kind of person likes to be. They appreciate the story, the craftsmanship and the materials and understand what I’m trying to express with my pieces,” Van der Velden explained.
Most popular collections
Her Mammoth and Scarab collections have remained popular from the very beginning. And she thinks it’s so because of the stories behind the materials. “The mammoth pieces are made of 40,000-year-old mammoth tusks found in the Siberian Permafrost. And the scarab wings are leftovers from bugs that are eaten as a delicacy in Asia. The colors of the wings are incredible and all natural, which makes them super special,” she said.
The Galaxy Collection by her is quite an extraordinary one. For this collection, Van der Velden has used Tahitian pearls, hand-picked opals and blue sapphires to express the galaxy around us in different pieces of jewelry. “I’ve this fascination with Tahitian pearls and their luster and coloring and hand-pick every pearl myself. The same goes for the opals. I love the fact that they’ve this galaxy vibe and coloring going on,” she said.
Celebs’ obsession with her jewelry
Not long ago, she collaborated with Kanye West who was a big fan of her Mammoth collection. Sienna Miller, Garance Doré and Rihanna are also big fans of her pieces. “I think that there isn’t one particular dream celeb. I simply see it as a compliment when people want to wear my pieces,” she said.
Although celebrity endorsement matters to some extent and is great for exposure according to Velden, she never gives her jewelry away to celebrities in the hope that they will wear it.
There is one more praiseworthy project “Auverture” which Van der Velden launched along with her husband to make the experience of buying jewelry online quite a memorable one. Though she has worked with a lot of great online retailers, she couldn’t find an online retailer where she could freely express the stories behind her pieces. “This was something I really missed in selling pieces online. After all, behind every scintillating piece there is an intriguing tale to tell. We wanted to create a platform where we could share the stories behind the jewelry designers and their jewelry. When somebody buys a piece, they could experience a lot of different emotions with it,” she said. “This way, we try to give the consumers the same experience they would have when buying a piece in a store, and try to exceed this experience with super interesting content.”
In the upcoming years, there are lots of new projects waiting to be unveiled by Van der Velden. “I never sit still, so there will be a lot of inspirational collaborations. Of course I will add new collections to our jewelry line,” she said. “Everything about it gives me energy, inspiration and serenity to live my life in the most meaningful way.”
Alongside the jewelry business, she has also put together an art exhibition called “BIBIMICHELE” with her mother. With her endless energy, she is just unstoppable. “I’m working on bringing in new handmade jackets that I design on my own,” she said.