Towe Norlen has worked for some of the highest regarded jewellers across the world, including the likes of Harry Winston and Piaget. So, it was no real surprise that when she decided to launch her own brand, Towe went down the route of premium ’haute joaillerie’.
In addition to flawless craftmanship, her innovative designs merge modern jewelry with insights from structural biology. We chat with Towe about inventing her own jewelry production technique, why design and manufacturing are inseparable, and supporting charities that stop sexual abuse of children all over the world.
How did your brand begin?
“After finishing my MFA in Stockholm, I moved to Geneva in 1999, to specialise in high-end jewelry ('Haute Joaillerie'). After 5 years, I moved back to Stockholm to create a contemporary Haute Joaillerie brand, combining modern Scandinavian design with Swiss top-quality craftsmanship.”
When did you first fall in love with jewelry?
“I studied French at the Sorbonne in 1992, when Le Louvre showed a magnificent exhibition by René Lalique. I fell in love with the art of jewelry. It was so sculptural and architectural, and at the same time intimate and personal.”
Are there any brands/designer who particularly inspire you?
“The early works of the great masters: Cartier, Bulgari, Van Cleef and Arpels, were fantastic, as well as the colorful playfulness of Verdura.”
What are your core brand values?
“I work in close collaboration with the craftsmen, who are often small, family owned companies. I want to guarantee as far as possible the best solutions for environmental choices and the craftsmen’s working situation.”
What inspires your designs?
“My designs are the result of merging contemporary design with insights from structural biology, i.e. how nature has designed the living world. With my husband, a professor in dermatology, we study the underlying principles behind nature’s own design.”
How is your jewelry made?
“My gem-set jewelry is handcrafted in one of the world's finest haute joaillerie workshops in Geneva. I focus on innovating and pushing forward jewelry manufacturing techniques, as design and manufacturing are inseparable parts of fine jewelry.”
Do you use any innovative crafting techniques?
“In 2001, I invented, and patented the new jewelry production technique ‘gold laser-sintering’, which is increasingly used in top-end jewelry manufacturing. For example, the TOWE ”Corail bracelet chain” is partly produced with this technique.”
How do you ensure your jewelry is ethical?
“I work directly in close personal contact with our gem and diamond dealers in Geneva and Antwerp, as well as with the jewelry manufacturing craftsmen to ensure sustainability. It is a work that needs revision and personal supervision incessantly.”
What celebrities would you like to see wearing your designs?
“We have some Swedish stars I would love to wear my jewels: Noomi Rapace (she wore my jewelry in Cannes), Alicia Wikander, Bea Åkerlund, Malin Åkerlund, Mini Andrén, are some of them.”
Can you recall a moment with a client that will stay with you forever?
“I was at a fair when a man came towards me with a happy smile: he thought it so great to see me again, after more than 10 yrs. I had made a ring to his wife, she still wore it every day and the ring reminded them so often, of me. I was very touched.”
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your jewelry?
“Towe Jewels are meant to be modern classics, so I want them to last. Since my jewels often have an interesting story to tell, I also wish that the wearer enjoys talking about the jewel; using it as a conversation topic, as you do around art.”
If you could only wear one piece of jewelry from your collection, what would it be?
“I would wear Dune Silk Ring, because its voluminous shape and the gold surface is such a great reflector. But also, because the ring’s skin structure is interesting to tell people about: this is actually the perfect human skin…”
If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you be doing?
“I did plan to be an architect, and had already applied for the school, when I saw that exhibition at the Louvre…”