John Hardy History: Balinese Jewelry Making That Stands The Test of Time
In 1975, Canadian art student John Hardy moved to Bali, drawn to the vigor and vitality of the pure, simple life on the culturally rich island. He learned local traditional jewelry-making techniques from a master artisan whose ancestors were goldsmiths among the island’s former royal courts, including rantai (woven chain), tenun (woven mesh, jawan (granulation) and ukiran (cut work). The results are exotic and exceptional jewelry that is coveted for its Balinese pedigree, featuring ancient cultural motifs, rich heritage and symbolism, respect for and celebration of a variety of indigenous traditions.
Founded in 1989, the John Hardy brand seamlessly combines luxury and environmentalism, ensuring that the precious metals and gemstones used in all of its earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, rings, tie clips and cufflinks are acquired with minimal impact to the environment, obtained ethically and in compliance with human rights standards.
Every piece of powerful dramatic and inspiring John Hardy jewelry tells a story – inside and out -- starting with the designers and artisans. The unique design sensibility flows directly from the curves of nature, and the forms of flora and fauna. It can take between three and 10 months to complete a piece, as everything is done by hand; by people and never machines. The skills of the artisans have been handed down from generation to generation; they are passionate about their work, their environment, history, tradition and culture.
The creative process includes eight steps:
- Rough sketch
- Precious pencil and watercolor or gouache rendering
- Wax carving
- Master casting
- Wax tree
- Pure 100 percent recycled sterling silver or alluvial-sourced gold
A signature feature of John Hardy jewelry is the rich contrast and texture created by oxidation (sterling silver’s tendency to turn black).
Among the collections of pieces of jewelry designed to stack or wear alone:
Bamboo - A contemporary style with earthy feel mark the jewelry from this iconic collection, named for the versatile, tree-like grass that is known as “nature’s gift to mankind.” Each purchase provides a donation to restoration efforts in Bali, with the number of trees planting from purchases inscribed on the jewelry.
Classic Chain - Weaving reaches new heights with this collection that takes braiding from the delicate to the dramatic. The original piece’s design takes four hours to craft each inch; the reversible piece, fashioned of 18K gold and sterling silver takes 10-12 hours per woven inch.
Dot - Pattern and light interact in this collection that brings the Jazz Age to mind. Flattened, smooth balls are hand-applied, lending an air of controlled glamour.
Heritage - Everything old is new again, in pieces that refresh time-honored designs of the past with a distinctly modern flair.
Legends Cobra - An example of rebirth, the cobra spirals, twist and wraps in jewelry that evokes transformation, renewal and enduring vitality.
Legends Eagle - The John Hardy men’s collection features silver, leather and bronze pieces, many with gemstones, signaling freedom and independence.
Legends Macan - The Balinese word for tiger represents courage, strength and passion. The jewelry has a fierce spirit that will serve as a conversation-starter!
Legends Naga - Ornate dragon heads and spiral, serpentine bodies promote love, prosperity and protection in the figurative pieces that bring the mythological creature to life.
Modern Chain - These powerful, contemporary, sleek and sophisticated pieces of wearable art re-imagine the iconic Classic Chain design.
Additionally, a one-of-a-kind collection – Cinta (the Indonesian word for love) – began in 2002, with a special piece as a gift from John Hardy to his wife, Cynthia.
Conservation efforts are an ongoing process at John Hardy, as the company continually looks to implement energy-efficient programs and evaluates the ways in which they can lower their impact on the environment. They are inspired by and feel a responsibility for the earth, and act accordingly! The collections’ eco-friendly jewelry ships in tarnish-free envelopes made of 100 percent recycled paper with an interior of recycled padding. Printing is done in soy ink.
Visitors are welcome to schedule a tour of the John Hardy compound in Bali, which sets a new standard in sustainability with an organic farm (home to cows, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits). There, they can eat with hundreds of artisans, eat an organic meal of traditional Indonesian specialties and get a glimpse into the design process.