In The Beginning, There Was A Bottle Full Of Gold

One day six decades ago, a lady with a liquor bottle full of gold nuggets panned in Lapland stepped into the gallery of a young goldsmith on Fredrikinkatu in Helsinki. She wanted to have jewelry made for her daughters-in-law out of the gold nuggets. The goldsmith, Björn Weckström, had been recommended to her by the Design Museum. Björn Weckström had just visited the Lemmenjoki River in Lapland, panned a few small gold nuggets and seen some much bigger nuggets, whose matte glow had made a deep impression on him – it was gold as nature intended, not something polished to a soulless and lifeless shine. The young Weckström was excited, as he now had plenty of material to experiment with. He designed bracelets, rings and necklaces out of the gold nuggets while retaining the natural structure and soft matte glow of the gold nuggets.

Around the same time, in 1960, goldsmith Pekka Anttila established Kruunukoru Oy. Kruunukoru was a small goldsmith’s workshop that made smooth bracelets, which were very fashionable at the time, and Bismarck chains. The pieces of jewelry were of very good quality, but Pekka Anttila didn’t feel that making them contributed to the future of Finland. Something entirely new had to be created. He happened to see Björn Weckström’s jewelry made out of the gold from Lapland in the display window of the gallery on Fredrikinkatu and became interested in it. Together, Anttila and Weckström started developing techniques that would allow them to replicate the jewelry’s shapes and structures in serial production. However, the new style received a lukewarm reception at first. One jewelry store they approached to sell the new jewelry told them to come back in a hundred years.

Kruunukoru's exhibition stand at a fair in Helsinki. From left to right: Commerce council Ole Herold, President Urho Kekkonen, Pekka Anttila and Björn Weckström

Björn Weckström's first creations made of genuine Lappish gold were unique pieces.

Their international breakthrough came in 1965, when the golden Flowering Wall necklace, designed by Björn Weckström, won the international jewelry design competition held to mark the 400th anniversary of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to the prestigious award, Kruunukoru received worldwide recognition and the company’s international success story could begin. The growing, strongly export-oriented company and its brand needed a new name. Lapponia, which was suggested by Björn Weckström, ended up being selected as the new name.

The award-winning Flowering Wall necklace.

In the late 1960s, Björn Weckström designed a collection of striking silver jewelry. The expansive silver surfaces and sculptural shapes of the jewelry were inspired by the winter landscapes of the North: Weckström used silver to capture the pure snow shining in the winter sun, which the wind pushes around to form constantly changing sculptural shapes. Many pieces in the collection also featured tiny human figures traversing the landscape. These were the heady years of space exploration and optimism about the future, and the collection of silver jewelry was named Space Silver. The Space Silver collection also included the Planetoid Valleys necklace from 1969. The necklace became world-famous after it was worn by Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film in 1977.

Princess Leia wearing the Planetoid Valleys necklace in the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

Photo: © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.& TM. All Rights Reserved.

Due to a tight filming schedule there was not enough time to make the "Star Wars necklace" Björn Weckström had in mind. The impressive Poema necklace was finally made in the 1990s.

Björn Weckström continued his bold experimentation in the 1970s. In the early 1970s, he designed the first pieces of jewelry combining silver with clear acrylic. The acrylic part could contain color highlights, and the acrylic parts often also contained air bubbles that made each piece of jewelry unique. Pairing a precious metal with cheap plastic confused many at first, and some even frowned upon the idea, but the jewelry quickly became popular, and today the pieces of silver and acrylic jewelry designed by Weckström are considered one of the landmarks of modern jewelry art. The Petrified Lake ring, which combines silver and acrylic, has been worn by Yoko Ono. The ring was given to her by John Lennon, who bought it from a jewelry shop in Gothenburg. The massive Flame Bronze jewelry, designed by Björn Weckström, was also added to Lapponia’s collection in the 1970s.

The Petrified Lake ring.

International Team Of Designers

Starting from the 1970s, Lapponia’s team of designers began to grow as the team was first joined by the Danish jewelry designer Poul Havgaard (1936–2011) and the Finnish painter Juhani Linnovaara, and later by the Hungarian-born sculptor and ceramic artist Zoltan Popovits. In 1989, French designer Christophe Burger joined the team, and, at the turn of the millennium, the team was joined by Pekka Hirvonen, who originally worked at Lapponia as a goldsmith creating models for jewelry pieces. In 2006, the team’s first female designer, the Taiwanese-born goldsmith Chao-Hsien Kuo, was added to the team. In the 2010s, designers who designed jewelry for Lapponia included Mari Isopahkala, Taru Harmaala Chaloff, Liesbeth Busman from the Netherlands, Martin Bergström from Sweden, and most recently the American designer Karim Rashid, one of the most famous designers today, whose Sielu jewelry collection was released in spring 2019. Jewelry pieces designed by Chao-Hsien Kuo, Taru Harmaala Chaloff, and Liesbeth Busman are now part of the Kalevala Modern collection. Every one of our designers has their own distinctive style that has helped Lapponia move forward. What all of our designers have in common is curiosity, love of art, passion of jewelry design and the sensitivity to interpret Northern nature and mental landscape.

The unique Spirit of the Machine necklace designed by Zoltan Popovits celebrated Lapponia's 50th anniversary in 2010.

The Winter Pearl necklace designed by Mari Isopahkala photographed by Arno Rafael Minkkinen in 2011.

Lapponia Is Now Kalevala

For decades, Lapponia was the flagship of Finnish jewelry exports and the most famous Finnish jewelry brand internationally. People have learned to recognize Lapponia’s jewelry pieces by their expressive and sculptural design, bold and often dramatic combinations of shapes and materials, and very high quality. The jewelry brand has received much recognition as well as many awards, and many museums have acquired its pieces for their collections.

In August 2005, Lapponia was acquired by Kalevala, and next winter Lapponia’s jewelry production and personnel were transferred to Kalevala’s premises in Helsinki. Thanks to the acquisition, a top Finnish jewelry design company was born, bringing two unique brands and over 100 years of jewelry-making history under the same roof. In fall 2020, a new era will begin as the Kalevala and Lapponia brands merge and form the new Kalevala. Lapponia’s unique design heritage lives on in the Art by Kalevala collection, and the production of the jewelry will continue – as it has until now – as highly skilled Finnish handcrafting in Helsinki. The story continues.

Golden Chasm, Björn Weckström's first collection for the new Kalevala.