The Royal Jewellers S03 ep6 : Van Gelder Jewellery [Amsterdam]
Interview with Bernadette Van Gelder
The prime specialisation of Van Gelder is traditional Indian jewellery. The collection consists of jewellery set with a large variety of fine gems, pearls and decorated with different enamel techniques. A second field well represented by Van Gelder are South Sea Baroque Pearls of exceptional size and quality. The pearls are drilled at our own workshop where they are fitted at the client´s individual requirements.
I am Bernadette Van Gelder. We are specialised in traditional Indian jewellery. We draw the line
until partition. That is approximately 1950, let’s say independence with India.
I started in 1980 and since then we travel in India approximately four times during the year, it
depends a little bit on the business.
For me traditional Indian jewellery is the most beautiful jewellery that women can wear. Not only
the taste but what I learned through the years and travelling in India is it has everything to with a
way of life, with religion, the Hindu philosophy, which I think is a fantastic philosophy because
they say every living creature they have their own God living inside of them and what do you do,
then you build the temple around that God and your body is his or your own temple and you would
like to adorn these Gods inside of you so you start to put the nicest jewellery you can afford for
yourself on your body to please the God inside of you. What you wear on the left side you also
should wear on the right side of you body to keep the balance.
Even the poorest of the poor, they make out of clay or grass or a little shell, sort of little stones
exactly the same form of jewellery that you can see physically so it has nothing to do with being
very wealthy, the only difference is that you can afford expensive pure gold material or stones.
In our family were 13 children, I’m number 12 and I grew up like in a fairy tale. About an hour
north from M… in S.. that is a fantastic medieval city like a sister city of Ma… one of my brothers
who is also exhibiting that the T… he said Bernadette I want to show something to you and he
showed me a beautiful jewellery a P… as we used to call it, so the necklace the earrings, bracelets,
pendants, the set, and I totally fell in love with the set.
He was my reason to start really do research because the form of the set was completely Victorian,
the design of the mount of the ivory was completely Castellani, Juliani but it was made in China,
the core of him was Chinese, okay to make a very long story short, I was so thrilled by this piece
that I started to do research on Chinese export jewellery but then you start to travel, you grow and I
wind up at the end in India and what I saw there and I had no clue of Indian jewellery. There was
not an antique jewellery dealer I could turn to.
If you start to visit the temples especially in the south of India and you see the temple sculptures
and you look at that jewellery, that form, that is the form I am talking about, you can see in my
collection, that is a traditional form and it goes beyond too far to explain why because it has
everything to do with lifestyle, religion, philosophy but it’s still the same and what I thought was
so fascinating it had nothing to do with fashion.
The brooch I am wearing that is 22 carat gold and of course it is a nice brooch but what for me was
the attraction it is the Goddess Lakshmi she is sitting on a lotus she has four hands in her two upper
hands she wears like this a lotus flower and she is the Goddess of wealth of fortune of prosperity,
you can buy a gold brooch set with cabochon all these or diamonds all over the world, you don’t
need me for that, but to find Lakshmi in such a setting therefore you have to find me.
In India it is always 20 carat gold those days. Here maybe in France or maybe sometimes in Spain
or Italy it might be if you’re lucky 18 carat, England 9 carat, 14 carat.
In the beginning I even did in my house an exhibition for a few clients with only seven pieces and
my jeweller friends, the person I have worked for, for one year, he more or less begged me on his
knees Bernadette forget this, who in the world is going to buy Indian jewellery, what are you
doing, and I said watch me, I build my own market. And that’s what I’ve done step by step by step
by step. In my house through the years I have built a library of almost 1,000 books on only Indian
jewellery and I love to do research I love to publish, I love to write articles.
I love to look beautiful, I love to wear jewellery, I love jewellery, even if I buy for the collection I
refuse I simply cannot buy a piece that is only commercial value, that I think well mmmm, it’s not
me, it’s not us, but it’s a commercial piece, forget it.
Many pieces I hold back minimum for a year or two years and the girls and I we wear it ourselves
they feel how it is, is it not too heavy, is it comfortable, is it you know and don’t forget every
single piece is a unique piece, it’s not a factory behind.
Second daughter, her name if Fleur and I took Fleur for the very first time to India to you know to
show her around and everything of course the big cities that is not a problem because the girls are
used to travel but we more or less travel much more really in rural India in the countryside to sort
of absorb the colours, the smell, everything. We were visiting a family with important, this was in
B… and we had a wonderful time and then let’s say it was between 9 and 10 o’clock in the
evening, the eldest son of the family say listen let me take you to your car, our chauffer was there
as well and it was really, really, really dark and Fleur sort of hold me by the arm and she says
mama what are you doing again, this is against …and adventure we don’t see anything and where
are we and I don’t hear anything and then it was a very, very, very narrow street I was first then
Fleur then the eldest son and the driver, there came this cow as wide as the street that the alley was
and they are so filthy and with the tail and I though oh, no, no, no so I try to make myself very,
very, very slim you say towards the wall but there in the wall was a hole, Fleur felt because she
was with her hands against the wall, felt the in, go, whatever you call it, she lets loose of me, she
jumped into that so called hole but there was an enormous mother pig with lets say 15 piglets you
know feeding, she jumped on the pig and the piglets you know through the air, the cow started to
get nervous anyway it was one, one, one big mess and I never forget it but I have so many of these
stories, you know travelling in rural India, that that is I mean I can write a book about it.
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