Growing up in diplomatic circles across South America and the Caribbean, Nicole Van Der Wolf was surrounded by interesting people wearing beautiful things from a very young age.
She took the opportunity to study Gemmology at the Gem-A in London and trained as a goldsmith in Dublin.
Nicole's designs are crafted with love and passion. The breathtaking gems and precious metals she incorporates evoke memories and feelings from spectacular places.
We got a chance to sit down with the wonderfully talented and welcoming Nicole to learn more about her, her design process and her inspirations.
- Why did you choose to become a jewellery designer?
I always admired jewellery. Initially I was mesmerised by spectacular pieces worn by interesting people in the diplomatic circles I grew up in. In my early 20’s was really interested in antique jewellery for its technical intricacy and fine detail. Later I discovered jewellery as an art form and I realised that I could take an active part in this fascinating world.
- Describe the design DNA of your jewellery?
In my designs I use gems and precious metals that remind me of spectacular places I have visited. My one-off designs centre on unique gems which add to the individual character of the pieces.
- Where is your jewellery bench?
My bench is set up on the shop floor at DesignYard in Donnybrook. It is a wide open space with lovely indirect light and I am surrounded by inspiring jewellery and artwork. I am always happy to chat about jewellery, gems and gold-smithing. It is fun to lift the veil on the magic of making jewellery and people really like to see what all is involved in making a special piece.
- What do you dream about?
Between setting out as a goldsmith and looking after my three kids I’m too busy to be anything other than practical, so for now it is simply a good nights’ sleep I dream of. I have a notepad on my bedside table for those middle of the night “aha” moments. Once they’re recorded I can sleep on blissfully and follow them up when I am fresh.
- Describe a perfect day for you?
Any day at the bench is a good one. If I can pack in some exercise and meet up with friends or family I am very happy.
- Do you have a crazy habit?
Losing keys - I swear the things have legs and like to hide in the strangest places.
- What is your guilty pleasure?
I love a deep tissue massage and a hot bath followed by a glass of cava and some strawberries on the sofa with my husband. Bliss!
- What is your must-have jewellery?
Something personally meaningful, in my case my “dandelion” pendant which was inspired by my daughter discovering her first dandelion puff.
-Do you have something you can’t live without?
My photo-albums. They’re my memories quantified. If I haven’t captured something on film it didn’t happen.
- What would your occupation be if you weren’t a jewellery designer?
A tax collector - just kidding. If I wasn’t involved in designing and making jewellery, I’d still be involved with jewellery as a gemologist or jewellery historian, maybe working with an auction house or museum.
- How do you decide what to create?
In certain cases it is the gem that decides it for me - some are better suited as rings, others simply call out to be a pendant or earrings. In other cases a piece develops from experimenting with a particular concept or technique, for example ShipShape and Hidden Treasures are inspired by the motion of the sea and the concept of kinetics.
- What kind of materials do you like working with?
I love working with fantasy cut gems and yellow gold. The unusual shapes demand excellent design skills to realise a wearable piece of jewellery. Their colours and optical effects often elicit an emotional response in me. Yellow gold is simply a pleasure to work with. Silver on the other hand affords me the opportunity to play with new ideas or larger scale pieces.
- What is your biggest achievement in your jewellery career?
Setting out on my own - I finally got over my fears and went for it - it was a big step. Now I can’t imagine life any different.
- Why do you like working with Designyard?
I find it stimulating to see such a variety of designers under one roof and the staff at DesignYard are an absolute pleasure to deal with. I love the dynamic energy of the team, they are always looking for new ways to bring the collection under the attention of the public.
- What do you find rewarding about jewellery making?
I love the process: the technical challenge of making something you haven’t done before, the emotional challenge of overcoming my own doubts and finally seeing my designs come to life. I am always amazed at the end result. On a personal note I really enjoy the conversation with my customers – whether talking about gems and my pieces or designing something special that makes someone happy.
- Do you play favourites - what is your favourite piece at the moment?
I am mad about my latest piece “Meadow Thistle”. I love how the overall piece is very simple, but the purple heart is forever changing, drawing the viewer in. I love the curiosity it elicits and then the surprise as people figure out what they are looking at – a spectacular fantasy cut amethyst reflecting its colour around the high polished white gold dome. It’s pure magic.
- Do you have a favourite gemstone?
I have yet to learn about a gemstone I do not like, however I am partial to Peridot – I wear lots of greens and to me it has a very happy colour. When well cut is simply spectacular with diamonds.
- What kind of person wears your jewellery?
My designs are for a confident person who wears their quality jewellery casually - taking comfort in wearing something well made and unusual.
- What's on your bucket list this year?
Still undecided but kitesurfing in Tanzania or Sri-Lanka is top of the list. I’m saving up and have started getting my vaccinations in order. I can’t wait!
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
Probably the ability to fly, so I could go see faraway places at my leisure.
- When you were a child, what did you want to be when grew up?
As a kid I had my heart set on travelling. I was going to be glamorous and see the world.
- Where is your favourite place to go in Dublin/Ireland?
I adore Sandymount strand. I love the vast wide open space and the ever changing waterfront. I love going for walks down the beach or - weather permitting - a good session kitesurfing at the Shelley banks. On dark winter mornings I love watching the ferry moving along the bull wall with the long row of orange street lighting stretching from Clontarf to Howth behind it.
- What's your favourite country in the world to visit?
My favourite country is any one I haven’t been to before. I love being exposed to new languages, scenery, food, culture, and learning how other people see the world. There is so much to take in and every new experience informs my design ideas and enriches my life.
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