FAM­ILY Is FOR KEEPS

Wel­len­dorff cel­e­brates its jew­ellery-making tra­di­tions and lat­est col­lec­tion at an en­chant­ing evening of mu­sic and fin­ery. Em­i­lie Yabut-ra­zon re­ports from a cas­tle in Ger­many

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

Wel­len­dorff cel­e­brates its trade and tra­di­tions with a grand af­fair

It’s a night of mag­nif­i­cent rev­elry and daz­zling jewels. A jazz duo per­forms as well-heeled guests, garbed in their el­e­gant best, clink cham­pagne glasses in the grand li­brary of a cas­tle in the Ger­man state of Hesse. A lav­ish ban­quet fol­lows. The VIPS, who in­clude cou­ples from Hong Kong and Main­land China, are guests at the an­nual soiree held tra­di­tion­ally by the Wel­len­dorff fam­ily to re­veal its lat­est jew­ellery col­lec­tion to its most val­ued clients. The venue this year, Schlosshotel Kron­berg, adds a poignant con­nec­tion for the fam­ily. Con­struc­tion of the cas­tle was com­pleted in 1893, the year Ernst Alexan­der Wel­len­dorff founded his jew­ellery com­pany in Pforzheim, just a two-hour drive from Kron­berg.

Pre­vi­ously known as Schloss Friedrichshof, the Kron­berg land­mark is one of the coun­try’s most im­pres­sive and well-pre­served cas­tles. It was owned by the dowa­ger Em­press Vic­to­ria, wife of Kaiser Friedrich III and the mother of the last em­peror of Prus­sia. The em­press was an avid art col­lec­tor, and the cas­tle is lit­tered with paint­ings, or­nate fur­nish­ings, carv­ings and an­tiques. The li­brary, said to be the em­press’s favourite room, has a mag­nif­i­cent col­lec­tion of leather-bound books and prints, and opens onto a ter­race over­look­ing the cas­tle’s ex­pan­sive gar­dens and golf course. The cas­tle was con­verted into a lux­ury ho­tel in 1954 by its cur­rent own­ers, the House of Hesse, one of Europe’s old­est royal dy­nas­ties.

When Ernst Alexan­der Wel­len­dorff founded his jew­ellery com­pany, his phi­los­o­phy was to work with the best of ev­ery­thing, from ma­te­ri­als to tools to gold­smiths, to cre­ate the finest pieces and at­tract the most dis­cern­ing of jew­ellery con­nois­seurs. His creations be­came pop­u­lar among the Euro­pean aris­toc­racy, in­clud­ing the tsars of Rus­sia and the Bri­tish royal fam­ily. The com­pany thrived un­til World War II, when the Wel­len­dorff fac­tory was re­duced to rub­ble. In 1947, Ernst Alexan­der’s son, also named Alexan­der, re­vived the busi­ness with a few of the fam­ily’s loyal gold­smiths, ini­tially cre­at­ing heavy 18K gold signet rings.

In 1960, Alexan­der’s son, Hanspeter, and his wife, Eva, took over, in­tro­duc­ing new de­signs and the hall­mark of Wel­len­dorff qual­ity and crafts­man­ship—the gold-and-di­a­mond W that is still found on all the brand’s pieces to­day. Un­der Hanspeter, the com­pany de­vel­oped in 1977 a tech­nique to cre­ate “silk” out of gold— wo­ven rope neck­laces that feel like silk to the touch. The range now in­cludes mul­ti­strand neck­laces and bracelets with shim­mer­ing

ef­fects, a line aptly named Bril­liance of the Sun. “We’ve al­ways en­deav­oured to im­prove the silk rope, so we cre­ated Bril­liance of the Sun,” Hanspeter’s son Ge­org, who is head of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment for the brand, tells me on the evening of the Kron­berg soiree. “Last year, we wanted to evolve fur­ther and made a chain that is even softer than that one, called Silken De­light.”

Ge­org ex­plains that Wel­len­dorff jew­ellery is the type one has to touch and feel to ap­pre­ci­ate. In 1993, he and his brother Christoph ex­panded the Wel­len­dorff range with a col­lec­tion of colour­ful rings that fea­ture a spe­cial type of enam­elling that has a silky feel. Later they added a play­ful vari­a­tion in which the enam­elled part is able to spin around the shank. Along with the silk rope, th­ese enam­elled rings have be­come sig­na­tures of Wel­len­dorff, and the ring con­cept has been adapted in colour­ful and com­fort­able ear­rings, pen­dants and bracelets. Since 1997, Wel­len­dorff has pro­duced a num­bered, lim­ited edi­tion ring to mark each year. The de­signs have at­tracted quite a fol­low­ing and a long wait­ing list, with the older rings now trad­ing at mul­ti­ples of their orig­i­nal price.

Qual­ity is im­per­a­tive to the brand, says Ge­org, ex­plain­ing that pro­duc­ing in vol­ume was never part of the plan. The fam­ily is happy with the steady growth of the com­pany through the years, he says, es­pe­cially in China, where it now has three stand­alone bou­tiques: two in Hong Kong and one in Beijing.

How­ever, it’s ap­par­ent that the Wel­len­dorff fam­ily is most proud of their suc­cess in forg­ing and main­tain­ing strong ties with their loyal clien­tele. The fam­ily’s per­sonal touch is ev­i­dent at the Schlosshotel gala. Christoph weaves into his wel­com­ing speech the names of all the guests and how they came to be clients of the brand. Says Ge­org, “To us, fam­ily ex­tends to our gold­smiths, our employees and our jew­ellery con­nois­seurs.”

As a com­pany fo­cused on what oth­ers may con­sider a daunt­ing vi­sion of per­fec­tion, Wel­len­dorff takes in­fi­nite care in the cre­ation of a col­lec­tion, of­ten con­duct­ing years of

IN 1977, WEL­LEN­DORFF DE­VEL­OPED A TECH­NIQUE TO CRE­ATE “SILK” OUT OF GOLD —WO­VEN ROPE NECK­LACES THAT FEEL LIKE SILK TO THE TOUCH

re­search be­fore launch­ing a new prod­uct. Its lat­est cre­ation, of­fi­cially launched at the Schlosshotel Kron­berg, is an amulet neck­lace called My Last­ing De­light—a large coloured pre­cious gem­stone (a ruby, sap­phire or emer­ald) as the pen­dant of a silk rope neck­lace. The gleam­ing cen­tral stone is framed by two cir­cles of di­a­monds, and the amulet can be opened and en­graved with a spe­cial mes­sage.

Ge­org says that by name and de­sign, My Last­ing De­light rep­re­sents the kind of pieces the Wel­len­dorff fam­ily has en­deav­oured to pro­duce since the com­pany’s found­ing more than a cen­tury ago: pieces meant to last for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion and many more.

TWO GEN­ER­A­TIONS Christoph, Eva, Hanspeter, Clau­dia and Ge­org Wel­len­dorff

SHAR­ING SE­CRETS Be­low, from left: Bril­liance of the Sun neck­lace; Mo­ments of De­light pen­dant, which can be en­graved with a se­cret mes­sage; Sum­mer Dream rings; Tour de Coup Golden Trel­lis neck band, all by Wel­len­dorff

CROWD PLEASER Above: Wel­len­dorff’s new amulet, My Last­ing De­light Sap­phire. Left: Christoph Wel­len­dorff ad­dresses guests in Schlosshotel Kron­berg’s li­brary

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