Björn Weckström (b. 1935)
'FAIRY CASTLE' RING (centre above)
18ct gold, set with set with 4 smoky quartz
A restrained geometric ring made in 1961 in gold and locally sourced smoky quartz by the Finnish maker, Björn Weckström. He went on to make work in a completely different style, including an acrylic ring, ‘Petrified Lake’, which was identified with Yoko Ono after she wore it in a 1975 TV interview and the silver necklace ‘Planetoid Valleys’ worn by Princess Leia in the 1977 film Star Wars. The ring is however a rare example of his early work, giving it special significance: “very clean, architectonic, Scandinavian…before I broke all the rules”.
Weckström (b. 1935) was born in Helsinki and started as a jazz trombonist before graduating at the Helsinki Goldsmith’s school in 1956. In 1959 he opened his own shop, selling his own jewellery and that of his friends before showing three of his rings at the 1961 International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery at Goldsmiths’ Hall. Weckström comments: “Graham Hughes liked this ring and put it in a showcase in the 1961 exhibition together with the jewellery of Picasso, Braque, Diego Rivera and Arp. I was of course very taken by the idea of being in such exclusive company… I think the exhibition had an enormous impact on jewellery design, giving it its first big exposure. It was a turning point. I was so impressed by the whole thing.”
Graham Hughes acquired the ring after the exhibition for the foundation Collection of the Goldsmiths’ Company which was intended to promote the best in contemporary art jewellery.
Sigurd Persson (1914–2003)
Ring, 1962, 18ct white gold, set with 40 diamonds
The daring design of a single loop of white gold set with 40 diamonds exemplifies the strong, clean forms of the best Scandinavian work after the Second World War. Persson initially trained in his father’s goldsmith’s workshop in Helsingborg, Sweden, before becoming an industrial designer of international standing. Designing jewellery was a liberation from his involvement in furniture, steel cookware and airline cutlery for mass production, though he brought the same aesthetic discipline to all his work. The 77 rings he displayed at Stockholm’s leading department store, Nordiska Kompaniet, in 1960 demonstrate the experimental freedom of his designs. His son, Jesper Persson, has kindly told us more about the history of this particular ring which was designed for the 1960 display after experimenting with a scrap of silver left over from making other pieces. Producing the 77 rings for the Nordiska Kompaniet display was beyond the capacity of Persson’s own workshop and he turned to other Stockholm firms, such as Ateljé Stigbert and Furnia AB. The ring is marked with the signature stamp of a chestnut leaf for Sigurd Persson as designer and ABF for Furnia AB as maker. The design must have met with some success as three examples were made, of which this may be the second. Another was bought by the distinguished Swedish textile artist, Astrid Sampe (1909–2002) who was linked with Nordiska Kompaniet and who was one of the small number of Swedish makers, along with Persson himself, to be awarded the title of Honorary Royal Designer of Industry by the Royal Society of Arts in London. It was the success of the Nordiska Kompaniet display as a whole which led to the invitation from Graham Hughes for Persson to take part in the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery at Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1961. The Curator, Graham Hughes, showed this ring in the exhibition and then acquired it as one of the four founding pieces in the Company’s new Collection. The aim was “the development of taste in new jewellery, rather than an awkward pursuit of novelty”.
Kerstin Öhlin Lejonklou (b. 1937)
White gold, with a diamond palisade, 1965. Inscribed inside the hoop with signature, hallmarked
Given by De Beers 1965.
Öhlin comments that “gold always felt right to me”. Early in her career, she says, she fell in love with geometric shapes such as the circle and the cube which reminded her of playing with building blocks as a child in Sweden. She studied at Konstfack, which since 1844 has been Sweden’s largest university for arts, crafts and design. For her graduation show in 1956 she created a whole jewellery collection based on the cube which led to the chance to display her jewellery at the Stockholm department store, Nordiska Kompaniet. She was then selected to represent Sweden in the 1963 De Beers international diamond jewellery design competition. She won a scholarship award and was invited to London by De Beers. She was welcomed by the Chairman, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, who bought this ring and gave it to the Company Collection. She was the only woman scholarship holder among those invited to lunch at Goldsmiths’ Hall, where she sat opposite Andrew Grima. Graham Hughes signed a copy of his book on Modern Jewellery for her. She remembers it as an exciting time: “The scholarship included also a trip to Paris and the jewellery shops at Place Vendôme. A comment on my ring, which I very proudly showed them, was: `It is a very nice setting, but did you lose the stone in the middle?’ A remark which shows that the pure Scandinavian geometry of her ring represented something completely new. The ring compares well with Sigurd Persson’s diamond ring in that respect.
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