OCTOBER 22, 2019






Jewelry designer Bibi van der Velden is currently loving the spotlight at the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam. She has created a unique one-off piece inspired by the rich history of Russian jewelry and artifacts that are currently part of the Hermitage Amsterdam exhibition “Jewels! The Glitter of the Russian Court.” 

Van der Velden’s Memento Mori ring is a symbol of the perpetual cycle of life and death, with the designer infusing this piece with the regal flamboyance that characterized the Russian court and its jewels. The ring is designed as a parrot tulip in 18K yellow and gold and sterling silver, whose petals glisten with Gemfields’ responsibly sourced Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds, alongside pave tsavorites, dark pink sapphires, and white diamonds. The ring is fashioned with oxidized sterling silver leaves that bloom across the hand, accented with 18K yellow gold, while its shanks is created as a tulip stem in 18K yellow, which winds around two fingers. The cut end of the stem is a moonstone designed to resemble a dew drop. The leaves are set with all manner of insects, such as a crystal rock maggot, a gold spider, gold ants, seed pearl eggs, and a gold slug and caterpillar, the latter of which are both embellished with gemstones. 

Van der Velden was inspired by Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth who reigned during the 18th century at the very height of Russian baroque style when colored minerals came to be used extensively. At the time, Jérémie Pauzié was one of the leading jewelers of the time who was known for placing small insects like dragonflies or butterflies on pieces. Both Russian jewelry and the 18th century have long had van der Velden’s heart.

Bibi van der Velden

“The most fascinating thing to me about the history of Russian jewelry was the opulence and luxury in dress exceeded all bounds for both sexes,” she said. “My royal inspiration, Empress Elizabeth, set the trend and even issued decrees encouraging luxury at court. The jewels and precious gold or silver threads of the courtiers danced and glittered in the natural light and at night by candlelight. The Empress’ dresses were awash with gems that were paired with a diadem to match or compliment and men’s court attire embroidered, along with diamond buttons, star, medals and epaulettes. The sheer magic of imagining the sheer brilliance and splendor by candlelight and the love and passion for jewelry at that time fascinates me. The wealth of jewelers from all over Europe and of course Russia; some whom now are household names Fabergé, Cartier, Tiffany, Lalique and others now remembered for their talent at this time of history, like the great Jérémie Pauzié, will continue to inspire and fascinate me about the history of Russian jewelry at this time.”

Van der Velden is also an ambassador of “good gold” for Solidaridad, an international civil society organization focused on responsible supply chains, and she’s long had an interest in sustainability and the human rights welfare behind the materials she chooses for her designs. She now uses a lot of recycled gold, and when she decided to design the Memento Mori Hermitage ring she felt it was a natural fit to work with Gemfields, who is committed to ethical gem sourcing. The main colors running throughout the ring are all Gemfields stones.

Bibi van der Velden Memento Mori Ring