The home page of Danish jeweller Bergsoe’s website is quite mesmerising: a video shows jellyfish gently pulsing away as rays of sunlight stream through the surface water. Then shape-shifting pieces of jewellery, although anatomically different from the aquatic animals, join the underwater ballet whilst morphing with the soft-bodied creatures. It is incredibly soothing as the pace is soft and graceful, but it also points to another truth: Bergsoe jewellery is the sort that comes alive. On closer inspection the jewels appear otherworldly and the feat resides in this: the pieces suddenly look almost amoebic, autonomous biological entities with a pleasing beauty.
Could it be the identifiably handmade touch, or the deceptively random compositions? Indeed, nothing is perfectly symmetrical or straight, yet it is all balanced and harmonious. Whenever symmetry is suggested, it becomes a case of perfect imperfection: a pair of earrings are not quite mirrored for instance. Metal and stones co-exist and always support each other. Intriguingly, various gemstones, which are cut in different ways or used as they come – e.g. baroque pearls – are nestled into intertwining strings of gold; or the gold turns out to form the veins that attach the distinct gems together.
“I love setting the gems only when the piece is done, all polished and wonderful. This is when I start adding colourful emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds to complete it. It is so blissful!”, Josephine Bergsoe says.
Most of her creations are indeed like microorganisms, organic jewels that are caught in motion. They are verging on alive as lines carry on and beyond where, in traditional design, they normally would stop.
Beyond their expressive dimension (utterly free-flowing), the spontaneity with which each piece is envisaged and then completed informs us about the designer Josephine Bergsoe’s free-spirited approach: “the way I work draws on a lot of confidence in my clients, and I am fortunate enough that most of them trust me. My sketching is awful compared to my ability to shape directly in metals, so I usually try to meet and explain in person my intent. That said, something often happens along the way, which intrigues me enough that I decide to change the design from the original idea”, Bergsoe explains.
This is not a case of indecisiveness but a proof of the never-ending search for the best outcome, as seen in what she did with a beautiful gem she received from a beloved friend. “It has been with me in the form of an ear cuff, then it became a toe-ring, again an earpiece, and right now, it is a finger ring”, she explains.
The designer always wanted to become a jeweller ever since as a 3 year old, her grandfather showed her a photograph of a bald Masai woman, who was naked except for the colourful glass beads her body was wrapped with. “I immediately knew that I had to become like her (which was of course impossible) or learn to make something to wear that would be as powerful and significant”, she recalls.
She also fondly remembers her grandmother’s silver comb with facetted Danish amber; a piece she would only wear on special occasion such as galas. “It was truly magical. The day following the event, I was always allowed to take the artefact out of its leather-etui, and watch as the sun made the facets sparkle”, she muses.
As a result, Bergsoe has been making jewellery (and small sculptures) ever since. From 7 to 15 years old, she attended a special design school; then in her teens, she apprenticed as a jeweller, only to open her own shop at the young age of 23 while still learning about her calling / career. “I opened my small workshop a week before I received my apprenticeship diploma. For a couple of years nothing much happened until one day, the legendary Meryl Streep came in, and bought most of the jewellery. Things went pretty smoothly from then on”, she ponders.
A self-confessed jewellery aficionado, stylishly stacking on jewels, she says she always tests her creations by wearing them a lot – “And I don’t need a diet to lose weight, I just have to take off some jewels!” she quips.
Through passion, thoroughness and a deep affection for jewellery, Bergsoe has gradually become one of the very few designers, who are the go-to jewellers for highly publicised projects. “During the last twenty-seven years, I have made jewellery for quite a lot of movies, exhibitions and international clients. In particular, last year I made jewellery for actress Elizabeth Debicki who stared in The Night Manager BBC series, and thanks to social media (namely Instagram), I keep getting orders for that jewellery, from all over the world”, Bergsoe excitedly shares.
There is a lot to say about Bergsoe’s ability to create uber-flowing structures that yet look meant-to-be, and so inevitably one returns to the parallel with nature. Moreover beyond what the designs inspire, Bergsoe jewellery is effortlessly cool and chic. It is also quite subtle and refined, slightly bohemian, befitting a casual chic attitude and ultimately understated luxury.
Olivier Dupon is a 21st century tastemaker and author of Fine Jewelry Couture (2016), SHOE (2015), Encore! The New Artisans (2015, Floral Contemporary (2014), The New Pâtissiers (2013), The New Jewelers (2012) and The New Artisans (2011), all published by Thames & Hudson.