Inspired by life
For Bibi van der Velden, jewellery clearly is much more than just precious metals and gemstones. During her frequent travels, the innovative sculptor and jeweller searches for the unlikely elements that define her imaginative pieces. Take, for instance, the collection that she recently created using the wing cases of scarab beetles. “The natural iridescence and colours of the wings could never be re-created outside of nature," says van der Velden. She cast the delicate sheaths in gold or sterling silver and embellished the pieces – rings, necklaces, earrings – with a sprinkling of colourful gemstones.
Since launching her eponymous brand 11 years ago, van der Velden has been a well-kept secret among the mostly European connoisseurs who collect her designs, but the Amsterdam-based artist is fast becoming more widely known worldwide, with striking pieces as a finely detailed snake-with-pearl bracelet carved out of a 40,000-year-old mammoth-ivory tusk, or sliced-quartz earrings that evoke jellyfish.
“What I find interesting about jewellery," says van der Velden, “is that it doesn’t necessarily need a body, an arm, or a finger to come alive. It is something which exists in and of itself."
Van der Velden was born in 1980 in New York and raised in London and the Netherlands. She studied sculpture at the Florence Academy of Art, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, and in 2005 she opened the BibiMichèle art gallery in Amsterdam with her mother, sculptor Michèle Deiters. Today, in addition to making sculpture and jewellery, van der Velden travels the globe as an ambassador for Solidaridad, an organisation that promotes fair and sustainable business practices. In 2013 she trekked through the Peruvian rain forest to survey mines there. Such trips are not only part of her ethos as a jeweller but also a source of ideas. “It’s amazing," she says, “the things that nature is able to create."