Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Perfect balance

Starting as straight strips of gold that bend around a single diamond, Dutch jeweler Leen Heyne’s rings are all about the curves.

By Sonia Esther Soltani

Images: Leen Heyne

For Dutch goldsmith Leen Heyne, it all starts with the material. While the handcrafted works that spring to life in his studio in Tilburg can be described as organic, nature is not what inspires the jewelry artist, whose name is becoming increasingly popular among collectors.

“I really draw my inspiration from the material,” he says. His fascinating process involves folding and bending single gold strips into elegant, textured rings. Heyne works from a straight piece, pre-sanding it before bending it, as he doesn’t make any further alterations once the circle is formed.

This feat of craftsmanship requires expertise and confidence. The goldsmith cites his “hasty” nature as the reason he prefers making rings out of single strips that don’t require different elements. But while the pieces look effortless, they are the result of a thorough trial-and-error stage.

“Figuring out the proportions and when and how to apply the strength and the pressure can take, like, 20 tests,” he relates. He conducts these experiments on non-precious metals before entering into a creative dialogue with the gold. “It’s a forceful, bold step that needs to grow organically. I’m looking at the curve, and the curve needs to make sense, because the gold shows the way it likes to move.”

Taking shape

Similarly, Heyne’s spectacular tension-set diamond creations display his appreciation for the potential of each stone. The rings only feature a single diamond — reflecting the designer’s minimalist streak — but these gems are showstoppers. Diamonds are a natural partner due to their heat resistance, hardness and resistance to pressure. When he started his independent practice 10 years ago, Heyne used mostly small stones. He has since moved on to antique cuts and fancy shapes.

“I am looking a lot at the different shapes and trying to figure out how to capture them, how to work the gold around it, how the gold should form around it. And then it’s trying to find a balance so that all the curves should be flowing and the proportions should be correct,” he explains.

He shows a predilection for long shapes — ovals and pears — and says he’s “drawn to antique rose cuts, because they are gorgeous. They have a magical vibe, especially when they are built up a little higher; it’s such a beautiful ray of light.”

In his workshop, he mostly produces rings, which he sees as amulets for the hands because they are both powerful and private. He also makes cuffs with a similar craftsmanship to the rings, but he doesn’t make earrings; to do that, he explains, he’d have to forsake his love of curves and volume to make them wearable.

His rings are not designed as bridal items, although it’s easy to imagine some of them as perfect statement or artistic engagement rings. Believing it’s not necessary to wear a diamond ring to show one’s marital status these days, Heyne is more interested in the balance between the stone and the gold in his creations than in the purposes for which people might wear them.

Focus on color

Most of his custom work comes from clients who discovered him on the internet and fell in love with his style on Instagram. He handles the commissions remotely, and very few clients have entered the Tilburg studio. He opens the discussion with the center stone. “The process usually starts with talking about the stone and what kind of shape would suit this person, and then we talk about colors,” he elaborates. “A lot of people would like to supply their own stones, but that’s very difficult for me because I’m super particular about my selection and the shapes of the stone. Also, I’m looking at everything else: the girdle, the depth of the stone, the corners. [All of this is] important to making the design in perfect harmony. That’s why I prefer to search [for] the stones myself.”

The jeweler declares himself undecided about lab-grown diamonds. He can see how they might help designers get their hands on long and flat shapes, which he believes will be difficult to obtain from natural rough in the future. But that’s the only scenario that would justify using synthetics, in his view.

For the time being, he is adding colored gemstones to his palette, employing vibrant spinels and garnets in his twisted settings. This new stage follows his collaboration with Cate Claus, the founder of Thesis, who hosted exhibitions of his work in San Francisco, California, in December 2021 and in New York in May. The designer says he cherishes his work with Claus, who is a strong advocate for ethical jewelry. Their shared passion for special stones and the creative freedom she gives him allow this goldsmith from the south of The Netherlands to enter the US market while retaining his finely tuned signature style.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2022. To subscribe click here.

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