Jelena Behrend is a jeweler with the soul of an artist. Working with her hands and specializing in custom work, she holds true to the purest idea of an artisan. In the contemporary fashion world, where punk has become mass-produced and watered down, Jelena makes her edgy work with rawness unparalleled by any other designer.
Gallerists, notable celebrities, and individuals seeking hand made custom jewelry with quality have frequented her studio since its opening in 1998. Her razor necklace stole the show in the recent American incarnation of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, worn quite prominently by actress Rooney Mara. With her impressive list of high-end clients and editorial appearances, Jelena has opened up her shop and taken it global with a new online store. She spoke with me about her techniques, finding a perfect piece, and how to make an impact:
LF: Everything you make is by hand, and often custom. What is the importance of something being one of a kind?
JB: It’s so important that the right piece find the right person. It’s very extravagant what I do, very elite in a way. People shopping in my studio are made to feel like Queen Elizabeth, very special. This really makes the pieces what they are, connects them to the person who is wearing them.
LF: Your style is very signature; it’s easy to see your hand in the work, similar to a painter. Tell us about it.
JB: My style is very earnest. My style is a free style. I don’t ever measure; I just go with what I feel and what I know. Knowing when to stop is when I feel that I have reached success. Creating is bringing life and when you feel you are starting to take the life; that is when to stop. Every piece is only a step towards the next. They are all one thing. I am still making the same piece I have been working on my whole life.
LF: A lot of your pieces are featured in editorials and films, like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. What about your pieces makes them translate so well on screen?
JB: They are just like me; they will always stand out in a crowd. I think it’s important to make an impact.
LF: You recently created an online store, which is an opportunity for a lot of people to get familiar with your work. Which pieces are in the store? What it is like to branch out in this way!
JB: Many people are intimated to approach designers; it is just easier to have something pre-made. They worry about time and money etc. They often buy my work for presents, the pieces in the shop are works that can help people get introduced without too heavy of a commitment. The shop allows people to look around and see what we are really about.
LF: What kind of jewelry is the sexiest?
JB: People that have a signature piece and wear it every day, that is sexy! You don’t need too much you just need the right things. Then you are set.
LF: What makes a piece of jewelry unisex?
JB: Everything that I make always has two sides, like a person. A tough guy can cry or very feminine woman can be so strong. No one is just one thing.
LF: What is the future of jewelry?
JB: It’s all in the eye of the beholder; a man may find a bracelet of mine one hundred years from now and think of it as scrap, wonder what it is worth. Another man might look at it and think of it as a lost treasure, something that has stood the test of time. I feel sad that everything has become so mass-produced. Things need to come back to why and how they were made in the very beginning. People need to start playing with fire and forging metal. This is what it was about, true talismans, and no more cheap thrills. It is about feeling pretty; jewelry implies so much more meaning. Jewelry has to start finding its meaning again, good luck jewelry!