By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
Fine jewellers from Belgium are making solid headways in the global jewellery world with designs that underpin creativity, innovation and a subtle but endearing dose of sophistication.
For centuries, Belgium has enjoyed an invaluable reputation as home to the coveted Antwerp diamonds. On the other side of the spectrum, its army of prolific fine jewellery manufacturers are also making strides, breathing new meaning to unassuming elegance. JNA talked to two Belgian jewellers whose craftsmanship and design prowess are as delicate as they are striking.
Luxury brand Bigli’s creativity and technical expertise make it one of Belgium’s most innovative jewellery manufacturers. Founded in 1997, the company is known for its precision and a unique technique of applying several layers of coloured gemstones on top of each other, resulting in more intense, one-of-a-kind colours.
According to Bigli co-founder and designer Laurence Aerens, the layered gems are set in 18-karat gold and further accentuated with diamonds in micro-settings.
Among the gems that figure a lot in Bigli’s designs are London blue topaz, tiger’s eye, mother-of-pearl, citrine, aventurine and amazonite. The stones are shaped into cabochons – the company’s signature cut.
With a colour range of 50, the jeweller offers a rich repository of coloured gems with varying shades of ocean blues to lagoon greens and soft purples to intense pinks. Capricious shades of red, orange and brown are likewise available.
“Our jewellery pieces can be worn every day but they are also meant for special events,” noted Aerens. “The bottom line is, every piece is associated with positive feelings. Our jewellery collections are constant keepsakes of a beautiful wedding, the birth of a child or a happy graduation.”
Bigli’s product lines include stackable pieces, with emphasis on rings that can be mixed and matched. The company also offers an eclectic selection of earrings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces.
Aerens said the jewellery pieces stand out because they are dainty and beguiling, with the layered stones injecting extra vivacity into the colours.
“By setting the gemstones on top of one another, we are able to play with the colours and control the effect – for example, adding a layer of milky quartz makes for a softer appearance. If we want to make the colours more intense, we can use other stones,” revealed Aerens.
At the moment, very few jewellers are using this meticulous manufacturing technique, which requires a high level of expertise, she added.
“We are sometimes aggressive in combining colours. There are countless combinations to be made; it’s a never-ending story. It makes the pieces even more personal,” added the company official. “In nature, no two stones are ever the same and if we use three different stones in layers, this adds another level of uniqueness and individuality to the piece.”
Its collections – Mini Sweety, Chloe, Nicky and Waves – to name a few, have captured the hearts of buyers from Belgium and the Netherlands, some of whom the company has worked with for 20 years.
Bigli earlier this year met potential clients from Ukraine, Malta, Dubai and Brazil.
Speaking of exceptionality, Aerens said Belgian designers are known for their distinct style, which is evident in a Belgian-made jewellery piece. The overall look is easily discernible and brimming with a subdued yet luxurious character.
“We are what we are; we stick to our personality. That’s our thing. For instance, in the face of an economic crisis, people started shifting to silver or using lower-quality diamonds, or lesser amount of gold. But we continued doing what we have been doing. We are lucky because we’ve had success with that; without having to change anything,” explained Aerens.
While Bigli rarely comes out with new collections, it does guarantee a consistent supply of top-quality jewellery pieces from its classic lines, which are reinvented from time to time to include fresh product variations.
It also offers value-added services such as marketing catalogues to help its clients promote and sell their products more effectively.
Diamonds, interpreted in countless, innovative ways, are the crux of every Hulchi Belluni piece. Established in 2001, the company takes pride in its inimitable style and creative use of diamonds in 18-karat gold.
Axelle Knapen of Hulchi Belluni said the brand’s design DNA is palpable in every collection, from the classic, time-honoured pieces to the more contemporary lines.
Its latest collections, Dentelle and Cubini, perfectly showcase how the company combines traditional and modern styles.
Lace-inspired Dentelle pays homage to the art of lace-making, which originated in Belgium, according to Knapen. Laces are a fundamental design element in the luxury and fashion industries and this penchant for lace as a creative inspiration has spilled over to the fine jewellery sector.
“Laces, which have an enduring appeal to women of every age, are fashionable and very feminine; they are sensual and comfortable. This inspired us to create the Dentelle Collection,” revealed the company official. “The pieces leave a unique impression on your skin as if you’re wearing lace. Everything is set in 18-karat white gold, which gives the diamonds extra brilliance.”
The Cubini Collection meanwhile is more attuned to the times as it represents women empowerment, with younger and edgier designs that allude to the rock culture. The pieces are set in pink gold, which melds flawlessly with white diamonds.
Other highly sought-after Hulchi Belluni designs are stretchable bracelets as well as diamond-studded jewellery pieces from the Illusion line.
Hulchi Belluni keeps its product portfolio fresh and intriguing by adding new items to existing collections based on client requests. Knapen said the company considers itself a progressive brand, adding that it has always given weight to its customers’ insights and suggestions when conceptualising new business strategies.
Its major markets are Europe, Middle East and the US. Over the years, the company has successfully expanded its customer base to Asia, Japan in particular.
According to Knapen, the Belgian manufacturer has prided itself on staying true to what women want in a jewellery piece, thanks to the company’s vision of disrupting trends and celebrating individuality. She credits this creative philosophy to having a female designer “who designs for women” and whose designs are at times “fierce or romantic; whimsical or defiant.”
“A Hulchi Belluni piece has a very distinct character; it is comfortable to wear and stands out because of great attention to details. Ten years from now, a Hulchi Belluni jewellery will still look the same albeit a few deviations – we want our pieces to be distinguishable and unique,” she added. “We design for women who know what type of jewellery fits them. They are straightforward about their intentions but are also passionate and sentimental.”