The delicate creations of Parisian jeweler Aurelie Bidermann are informed by symbols, superstitions and an intimate knowledge of art.
Aurelie Bidermann is a jeweler who truly lives the lifestyle she purveys. Based between Paris and New York, the former Sotheby's contemporary art expert's style is worldly and delicate, inspired by travels around the globe. It was during an extended stay in India in 2000 that Bidermann decided to launch her eponymous jewelry label and the first collection of her now-famous lucky-charm and colored-string bracelets.
Since then, Bidermann has drawn on her roots in the art world – she has a Master's in the history of art and comes from a family of collectors – creating intricate and sophisticated pieces, each one unique. Using talents that were honed at Antwerp's HRD School of Gemology and Paris' BJO jewelry school, she decorates raw rocks and stones by infusing them with smaller precious gems. Her latest collection is particularly impressive and includes a remarkable range of gold-plated feathers, leaves and lace cuffs.
Now that her wares are stocked in some of the world's most influential concept stores, including Colette in Paris and Tomas Maier in Miami, Bidermann's status as a cult secret is on the verge of entering another realm. Here, Aurelie Bidermann talks with Luxuryculture.com about her passion for art, the permanence of jewelry, and how superstitions inform her work.
Aurelie Bidermann's definition of luxury?
Luxury is having enough time to do everything I want in one day – all my work and then time for friends, exhibitions, relaxing. Real luxury would be more time.
If luxury were...
My secret box of jewelry.
Swimming off the Amalfi coast.
The Hotel Meurice, Paris.
How did you become a jewelry designer? How did your background in art influence your decision?
I've always loved and been interested in jewelry. From age six onwards, for every birthday I asked for charms and then for jewelry. I come from a family with roots in the art world. My parents are collectors, and from a very early age they would take me to exhibitions and auctions. Art therefore felt like my natural course, and I studied the history of art before working at Sotheby's in New York and Paris for three years. But I wanted to be more creative, and jewelry design was always in my mind. So I studied gemology at HRD and then jewelry drawing at BJO. After that, I spent three months in Jaipur, India, and came back full of ideas for my first collection. Art is still a big influence on my work.
Was there someone in your childhood who influenced you?
My grandmother was very influential in my interest in jewelry. She was very chic and cool, and used to commission these amazing pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier which were real high jewelry. I remember her opening these beautiful boxes to show me them.
How would you describe your signature style?
All of my work is very delicate, poetic and romantic. My signature is charms, either on bracelets or necklaces. And all my jewelry is very personal; each piece has a special meaning behind it. People don't take my jewelry off. Because there is something personal about it - often a piece might have a hidden hand-written message - it is something that people treat with more permanence.
You began designing small, delicate pieces that made use of symbols and charms. Are symbols still important to your work?
Yes, symbols and messages still inform my work. Right now, I am working with feathers, which are very romantic and in India are known for bringing luck. I'm also working with lace, but only old lace, the message being that something old can create something new and beautiful. And the rocks in my current collection, which I fuse with precious stones, symbolize nature and how unique the environment is.
Now you are working with nature, dipping leaves and feathers in gold. What is the message behind these pieces?
With the leaves and flowers, we cover them in what I shall call my secret ingredient, which makes it hard and solid. With the lace, we mold the cuff shapes before covering it in the ingredient that makes it hard. Only then do we dip it into yellow gold, pink gold, black gold or silver. All this is done in Paris by a fantastic team of artisans. My work using nature feels like a logical step. It is still very poetic and romantic, with a lot of symbolism. The overall message is that the beauty of nature can be preserved. I am capturing a piece of nature and preserving its beauty forever.
How do you recommend your jewelry be worn?
With the lace bracelet, I think it is definitely best to wear two of them, one on each arm, and nothing else. The effect is very dramatic. I would suggest the same with the feather earrings – the wearer looks very light and classy when wearing just these. With both of these pieces, they can be worn either casually or to dress up an evening outfit. This collection is very like a collection of art, in that each piece is unique and a lot of work goes into the process.
What inspires your work?
Everything inspires me; there isn't just one thing. The major influences are my art education, my natural curiosity, my friends, fashion, books... But I am a girly girl at heart, and I only make jewelry that I would want to wear myself.
Who is the typical Aurelie Bidermann customer, and why do they come to you?
This is very difficult to answer, as my customers range from 6 months to 60 years of age. Because of the collection that I design for the children's clothing brand Bonpoint, many of my customers are kids. Though all my customers are chic and cool – even the children! And my customers share a desire to wear unique, handcrafted pieces.
Who are your design and style icons?
I have so many! Audrey Hepburn, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Lauren Bacall – so chic. The artist Louise Bourgeois is also inspiring for me. She's in her 90s, yet is still so beautiful. I absolutely love her work. And my grandmother was so cool – she had incredible taste. When it comes to design, I'm a big fan of the 1970s: Jacobsen, Eames, anything from that period. And I love the photography of Guido Mocafico.
Do you consider fashion when you are designing? What fashion do you like?
All designers are inspired by fashion and art, and how these two disciplines mix. But I only consider art when designing. Jewelry, like art, is more permanently relevant than fashion. When it comes to fashion, I have two very different sides to my style. I can be colorful, girly and a little bit bohemian, wearing a mix of Missoni and Marni. Or I can be dark and sophisticated with Alaïa and Comme des Garçons. Usually, my style is very Parisian – a little black dress with black flats and Ray Ban Wayfarers. I love to mix things up with pieces from the Gap and main street. Of course, my style is always complemented by my jewelry!
What are your favorite materials?
Gold! And fabrics. I love the contrast of beautiful rocks and precious gemstones that are hung from delicate pieces of fabric. You see this a lot in my new collection. I also love mother-of-pearl and silver, but only dark silver, not white. And at the moment I love lace, which is also in my new collection.
You are currently stocked in some of the world's most influential concept stores. Is this a strategy?
It hasn't been a strategy to organize my distribution in this way; I have just been very lucky. The Paris concept store Colette was the second store to buy from me, and they have continued to buy each collection since then. I'm a big fan of Colette. Of course, I want to be sold in the right places, and I love the idea of my jewelry being sold alongside fashion. For me, mixing fashion and jewelry with music and technology is very interesting. I love the concept. I'm also stocked in Barneys, New York, which is another of my favorite stores. I am very lucky.
Your studio is now on the iconic Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Was this an ambition of yours?
No. My ambition was always to create beautiful jewelry, which has brought me to the Rue Saint-Honoré.
What jewelry do you wear on a daily basis?
I always wear a number of string bracelets with charms – sometimes I wear so many, they reach halfway up my forearm. And I always wear a star and bat charm on my neck. These pieces I never take off. But then I add other pieces, depending on my mood. I also play with the numbers 5 and 13. I don't consciously count the pieces I wear, but I often find myself wearing 5 or 13 pieces of jewelry or multiples of those numbers. I can be quite superstitious in this way.
Which is your favorite piece of jewelry that you have created?
This is a hard question, and I can't pick just one. From my new collection, I love the lace bracelets that have been dipped in gold and silver. And I adore the feather earrings. In fact, I'm very proud of my new collection as a whole. And, of course, my signature lucky charms, which I never take off, are a particular favorite.