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Meet Carolina von Wickenburg, the Sculptor Turned Jewelry Designer Who Bridges the Worlds of Sculpture with Personalized Jewelry

Updated: Mar 27

We sat down with Carolina von Wickenburg, the founder of her namesake high-end jewelry brand. After many years of working with large bronze sculptures for private clients and public spaces, including prestigious commissions like life-size busts of society figures, Carolina ventured beyond traditional mediums, applying her artistic technique to hand-sculpted jewelry.

Blending artistry and sculpture, Carolina's designs bear the unmistakable touch of the artist's hand, sculpted meticulously with clay or wax and simple tools reminiscent of goldsmiths from a bygone era, echoing the spirit of masters like Benvenuto Cellini.

Drawing inspiration from the timeless allure of ancient coins and employing age-old techniques to preserve the essence of artisanal craftsmanship, Carolina's designs are inspired by universal myths and symbols and serve as talismans. Her most sought after pieces are her exclusive line of bespoke pendants which tell a story about the wearer.

Can you tell us about your background as a sculptor and how it has impacted the way in which you create jewelry?

As a sculptor of large, expressive bronze figures in my New York studio, I worked in clay and then cast my pieces in metal. The commissioned work was mostly life-size and included both work for public buildings and the private commission of busts (portraits).

When I started to focus on jewelry, I carried this approach to the new medium: I sculpt in clay and wax, using simple, centuries-old tools and traditions, then cast in precious metals. They are quite three-dimensional and expressive, and I love the lasting quality and permanence of precious metals. In an age when most jewelry is mass-produced by machines based on computer renderings, I want my work to stand out for its texture, authenticity and handmade feel, and to sit at the intersection of sculpture and jewelry.

My passion is to make meaningful, lasting pieces, like a sculpture you can carry with you. All my pieces have a story, I use the rich language of mythology, legend and timeless symbolism to convey personal meaning.

What is the backstory behind your inaugural creation, the Hippo pendant? How has the brand grown since then?

The hand-sculpted hippo pendant was the first piece of jewelry I made. The idea came when I wanted to give a gift to a few lifelong friends at a high-school reunion. I had always loved hippos with their strangely endearing and iconic shape and their rounded contours, and then I found out the hippopotamus was revered as a protective deity for women and children in several ancient cultures, due to its fiercely maternal nature. It just seemed like the perfect little talisman and companion. Once people saw it, I received requests for more, and so started my jewelry design business…

Since that first pendant, our brand has grown considerably. It now includes numerous hand-sculpted pendants, a collection of Limited Edition pendants, Zodiac pendants, chains, earrings, rings, and a line of bespoke pendants. I like to think that all my pieces embody the same values and hand-crafted qualities.

Can you walk us through your artistic process when customizing pieces and how it reflects your artisanal craftsmanship?

First, the client lets me know their thoughts or inspiration. This is often connected to people in their life, events in the past or just certain values. I then do my research, resulting in proposed designs, hand-sculpted by me in clay and wax. I make these sculptures using simple tools and age-old methods, and I do this intentionally to preserve the hand-crafted quality and artistic integrity of the piece. The sculpted design is then photographed, presented to the client, modified if required and, when approval is given, a mold is made and the piece is then cast in metal. I then hand-finish each piece in my signature buttery semi-matte. There are different options for bespoke pieces, with different price points.

Tell us about your exclusive line of bespoke pendants. Can you share some examples of memorable bespoke commissions you've undertaken and the stories behind them?

One of my clients, a poet, frequently incorporates the image of a hare in her poems as a symbol of vulnerability and survival. She wanted to honor this symbol as a talisman for her creative journey. Upon researching, I discovered that the hare represents fortune, fertility and creativity in many cultures. In Buddhism it represents kindness, humility and compassion, In Japanese folktales, it teaches self-sacrifice and sharing with those less fortunate. I created a pendant with the figure of a hare, together with the word “poetry” in Arabic.

Another client chose the figure of a wolf for a few reasons. She wrote: As you know, I live in the Pacific Northwest and wolf symbolism is very important to many of the first nations here. Wolves represent loyalty, strong family ties, good communication, education, understanding, and intelligence. Wolves also possess very strong supernatural powers and are fierce, loyal, independent and can offer support and guidance on challenging journeys. Additionally, my son (who is now 6) has imagined an entire story world around a figure he has created, who he calls “King Wolf”. My son tells me the most fantastical stories about King Wolf and his land and people and I always look forward to hearing about King Wolf’s adventures! Childhood is such a special time, so I felt that the wolf would help me remember these wonderful moments, and I also felt my son would be really honored and excited to see his “King Wolf” memorialized and brought to life with such beauty and artistry, as only you could do!” The final design depicts a wolf howling at the moon.

What's next for Carolina von Wickenburg?

I am brainstorming concepts for a gold cuff: the larger surface area offers ample room for creative exploration. I envision this piece as a visual narrative of one's life journey, encompassing significant events, influential people, and cherished values. This gives me more possibilities to relate the whole unique story and fabric of their lives rather than just isolated events. I also plan to do one on specific instances from the Odyssey, since it is such an amazing tale symbolizing life’s journey, its challenges and the indomitable spirit to overcome them.

I also have some ideas for pendants I would like to do, such as the ‘Three Graces”, since they are such a powerful image of beauty, grace and happiness. Recently, I've delved into Greek Mythology and engaged my son in discussions about Dante, drawing inspiration from these timeless sources for other symbolic motifs and imagery.

Carolina von Wickenburg

Follow Carolina von Wickenburg on Instagram here.

By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Carolina von Wickenburg

1 Comment

Carolina”s jewelry is unique and mythical. The perfect combination for a timeless object d’art.

Ninoska Perez Castellon

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