Jessica Beresford visits the Copenhagen headquarters of Ole Lynggaard, as its founding family marks the brand’s 60th anniversary.
Designer Charlotte Lynggaard, dressed in a flowing red tunic, is weaving between a cluster of tall glass cabinets, explaining the meaning and significance of the jewels housed within them. A series of
We’re in the headquarters of her family’s jewellery brand, Ole Lynggaard, in the leafy district of Hellerup, in the north of Copenhagen. The grounds encompass a showroom, studio, offices and workshops, spread throughout a series of airy heritage buildings that sprawl and climb to overlook the quaint streets of the Danish city.
The house is this year marking 60 years of business, a milestone that places it as one of Denmark’s pre-eminent jewellers, with six stand-alone stores in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Munich, Paris and Sydney, and 200 retailers globally. Although impressive in scale, Ole Lynggaard is still owned and operated as a family business: the founder and patriarch, who is in his 80s, designs alongside Charlotte, while her brother Soren Lynggaard is the chief executive. Charlotte’s daughter Sofia has recently started designing for the house.
On the same street, a mere 150 metres away, lies the workshop where Ole first started his business in 1963. He trained as a jeweller in Denmark before working as an apprentice in Paris on the Place Vendome, then went to work for jewellers in New York and San Francisco. With a lust for more travel, he got a job working on a Norwegian freight ship, which took him to Japan, before he travelled around India, China, the Philippines, Thailand and Egypt; locations that would all later fire his designs.
“For the first 25 years, he was the designer, but also a production manager, CEO and salesman,” says Soren. “He drove his little green Fiat 500 around with us when we were kids, and took long trips around Sweden and Norway. He did sell into the US and Japan but quickly decided that he wanted to focus and build his brand in Scandinavia.”
Over the next few decades, Ole built a name for himself locally, establishing a design signature that was bold and sculptural while subtly reflecting the prevailing aesthetic of the times. One collection, from the 60s, featured collars, bracelets and rings with opals dangling from elongated drips of gold. Another, from the 80s, included a cuff and ring made with contrasting gold and silver that chimed with the chunky jewellery that defined the era. Ole also made a splash in the news after making a pair of cufflinks that the Prime Minister of Denmark, Jens Otto Krag, presented to British Prime Minister Edward Heath in the 70s, as well as establishing the brand as a purveyor to the Royal Danish Court.
When Charlotte joined the business in 1987 as a goldsmith’s apprentice, she introduced a softer sensibility to the brand. Her first collection, which launched in 1994, was called Bees & Flowers and featured naturalistic, intricate designs. “Our father would have never designed flowers,” says Charlotte. “Going through our archive, it’s been interesting to see his designs, which were quite square and more sculptural. It was easy for me to come in, because I brought a more feminine view to the design.”
One of Charlotte’s signatures is the Leaves collection, designed to look like dried foliage that wrap around the fingers or curl to form hoop earrings. The motifs were inspired by a co-ordinating set that Charlotte made for Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary — including a tiara, earrings and a brooch, of silver and gold with diamonds and moonstones — in 2009, which she has worn on several occasions since. “I never tire of the Leaves collection, especially the ring — it’s very comfortable on, because it’s not too wide. A lot of our jewellery is very easy to wear; I don’t like it if you have to use too much effort.”
Soren joined in 1994 as a production manager and became chief executive in 2003, helping to grow the company from 20 employees in the early 90s to more than 160 today. That includes 45 goldsmiths and production staff, who work from the Copenhagen headquarters to shape the brand’s jewels. One room is for quality control, where trays of gemstones collected from around the world are vetted and grouped together by colour and size before going into production.
“We have one diamond supplier that we use, they are one of the biggest diamond-cutters in the world, in the north of Mumbai,” says Soren. “We use around 350,000 diamonds per year.”
Each Ole Lynggaard design is cast and assembled in the Copenhagen workshops, where master goldsmiths brush, hammer and polish to achieve Charlotte and Ole’s creative visions. Recently, the jewellers have been working on the Funky Stars collection, which was designed and released for the brand’s anniversary year and incorporates innovative techniques. The earrings and pendants are made of 18 carat gold and set with brilliant-cut pave diamonds that taper to the very tip of the stars’ points.
Each of Ole Lynggaard’s designs takes time to achieve; one jewel can take up to 18 months to perfect and hand-make. But the family has never been in a rush. “We are always building this luxury brand — that’s our dream,” adds Soren. “And it doesn’t matter that it takes time, because then we can keep the quality in the raw materials and the craftsmanship. If we doubled next year, it would just be impossible to produce, to find the hands that make the quality that we need.”
Ole Lynggaard is available to buy in New Zealand at Partridge Jewellers and at Jens Hansen in Nelson.