RING­MAS­TER

In small-town Nel­son, New Zealand, Sal­vador Dali-looka­like Half­dan Hansen and his brother Thor kild make rings that shine all the way to the movie screen. The Dan­ish Hansen fam­ily had the almighty mis­sion of cre­at­ing per­haps the world’s most sought after

Plaza Watch International - - Contents - WORDS LARS COLLIN PHOTO MAURO RON­GIONE

Plaza Watch jour­neys to New Zealand to visit the cre­ators of The One Ring from the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy.

Jens Hansen was brought up in the lit­tle Dan­ish town of Odense, home of Hans Christian An­der­sen. Like the great fairy tale writer, Mr Hansen and his fam­ily chose to leave their poor home dis­trict in Den­mark. But Jens Hensen went much fur­ther. Life was hard in post war Den­mark so in 1952 the fam­ily, in­clud­ing the 12-year-old Jens, sailed over the oceans to fi­nally reach the vast is­lands of New Zealand.

Years later, back in Den­mark dur­ing the swing­ing six­ties, the now 22-year-old learnt from great Scan­di­na­vian masters how to make jew­els glitter and shine. Hansen then re­turned to New Zealand where his new­found knowl­edge and skills were much ap­pre­ci­ated, and he opened his first lit­tle work­shop in 1968. The Jens Hansen Gold and Sil­ver­smith Work­shop was a haven for the arts and craft peo­ple and all kinds of bo­hemian per­son­al­i­ties. There they gath­ered around him in the front room of the Jens Hansen fam­ily home at Al­ton Road in the har­bour and craft town of Nel­son.

Since those days hand­made jew­ellery de­signed in New Zealand is a sure sign of qual­ity. It was no sur­prise that the fa­mous di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son first went to his own home coun­try to look for the best gold and sil­ver­smith to cre­ate one of the most im­por­tant items for his forth­com­ing block­buster, The Lord of the Rings.

The as­sign­ment went of course to the house of Hansen. Sadly, Jens Hansen died of can­cer in 1999, but even if he was not able to wit­ness the global suc­cess of the films, he made all im­por­tant sketches prior to the film’s re­lease, to­gether with his youngest son Thork­ild.

The work was then ful­filled by his sons Half­dan and Thork­ild Hansen who run the business, a com­bined shop and work­shop, based in a rather bru­tal build­ing from the early 70s, close to Port Nel­son at the north­ern tip of New Zealand’s south is­land.

“My fa­ther’s de­sign was in­flu­enced by his Dan­ish roots and early years, but his train­ing was in Den­mark and New Zealand and his later work re­flected his time in both coun­tries.

As well as com­plet­ing his tra­di­tional jew­eller’s ap­pren­tice­ship, Jens took a va­ri­ety of art and de­sign re­lated classes in New Zealand and Den­mark dur­ing the six­ties. Later in the mid70s he won a pres­ti­gious Com­mon­wealth travel and study schol­ar­ship to Den­mark and stud­ied for a for­mal year at the Gold­smiths High School in Copen­hagen,” says Half­dan Hansen while fid­dling his Dali mous­tasche.

This com­bi­na­tion of her­itage and in­flu­ence from the great Dan­ish and Scan­di­na­vian sil­ver and gold­smiths, to­gether with a cer­tain ‘Down Un­der’ twist, re­sulted in a unique style. Even when Jens fin­ished his jew­ellery train­ing and started mak­ing his own business, he con­cen­trated more on a sort of mod­ern craft style.

“My fa­ther quickly be­came one of the founders of craft jew­ellery here in New Zealand. So ba­si­cally, to keep a long story short, by the time Peter Jack­son looked for some­one to make ‘ The Ring’, they came straight to my fa­ther. Be­cause he was the supreme mod­ern ring­maker in New Zealand.”

Since the great suc­cess of the Peter Jack­son movies, and the com­plete ob­ses­sion re­gard­ing the “prrreeecious” ring, Jens Hansen Con­tem­po­rary Gold & Sil­ver­smith find them­selves on the tourist trail on things-to-do in Nel­son.

“Now, more than ten years later, with the Hob­bit movie com­ing out, we have a new gen­er­a­tion ar­riv­ing who were almost too young for the first films. To­day, the reg­u­lar jew­ellery busi-

ness is re­ally hav­ing a hard time. What is dif­fer­ent for us, is that we have quite a dis­tinc­tive style. It may look fa­mil­iar for Scan­di­na­vians but is still quite un­usual for the Americans and Bri­tish. A lot of other jew­ellers in New Zealand have gone out of business be­cause a lot of work went to fac­to­ries in China and the rest of Asia. We’ve been lucky to keep the tra­di­tional skills go­ing strong. Prob­a­bly over half of our vis­i­tors are from out­side Nel­son,” Hal­fan says.

Un­like tra­di­tional jew­ellers, Jens Hansen Con­tem­po­rary Gold & Sil­ver­smith is for­tu­nate enough to have three main ar­eas of work. First their clas­sic Jens Hansen de­sign pieces. Then the ‘Movie Ring’ and all re­lated con­cepts from The Lord of the Rings, and fi­nally cus­tom de­signed wed­ding and en­gage­ment rings – both tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary. “And of course it’s great for us to say that we made the world’s most fa­mous ring,” Half­dan says, be­fore show­ing us some sketches that his fa­ther Jens and brother Thork­ild made in the late 90s.

All to­gether they made 15 dif­fer­ent bands. But fi­nally they ended up with one that en­cap­su­lates the simplicity, el­e­gance and power of the ring de­scribed in JRR Tolkien's clas­sic books.

“For a long time we were only mak­ing non branded repli­cas of the ring, be­cause we had no of­fi­cial rights from the movie. But about two years ago we made a joint ven­ture and now we have an of­fi­cial Jens Hansen ring with magic writ­ing on it. In the movie there was no writ­ing on it, and in the books it is de­scribed as a “smooth” ring. But a lot of peo­ple want their ring with the writ­ing,” Half­dan ex­plains.

The ba­sic en­try level for the of­fi­cial sou­venir ring starts at € 100. At the other end is the 8-karat gold ring at about € 2000.

“We prob­a­bly sell one or two a day of the sou­venirs. Peo­ple find us at the home­page so we have cus­tomers from all over the world – ac­tu­ally all the way to Green­land. The fact that we cre­ated this ring makes us a lot more cred­i­ble, which is good for our rep­u­ta­tion”, Half­dan says with a con­tented smile.

“And of course it’s great for us to say that we made the world’s most fa­mous ring.”

H A LV DA N H A N S EN TA L KS A BO U T T H E SUC­CESS STORY THAT'S AL MOST LIKE A FA I RY TA L E.

THE COM­BINED SHOP AND S T UD IO NEAR THE HAR­BOUR OF N E L S O N , N EW Z E A L A N D .

A t d eris­tem er v ir­mis c ononsi

me maion v iris q u eme

u t u m te

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