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Van Gelder: Indian At Heart

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Van Gelder: Indian At Heart

Sometimes the reasons for the ties that bind are inexplicable. Cultures that are not even remotely connected with your roots suddenly have a strong pull on you. An accidental encounter with a person from a foreign land, a small gift from a particular country, an invigorating talk or an inspiring quote can be reasons enough to act as a catalyst or a turning point in life, and help you chart your future.

 In the case of Bernadette van Gelder–van der Ven from the Netherlands, it was a Chinese jewellery suite gifted by her brother, Clemens van der Ven, a dealer in oriental art. The gift came with a clause – that Bernadette should learn more about the crafts from the region to appreciate the gift. The dutiful sister did just that, but providence had other plans. Her research sidetracked her to Indian jewellery – and the beauty and intricacy of the work hooked her for life. Her love affair with Indian jewellery and the country started from then on. In 1980, she established Van Gelder Indian Jewellery, a firm that would go on to specialise in traditional jewellery from India and grow into one of the leading international dealers today.

 This fascination and love for the country’s unique aesthetics rubbed off on her two daughters Fleur Damman–van Gelder and Noëlle Viguurs–van Gelder, who joined the company in 2000. The sisters took over the business in 2012, and carried forward the legacy of their mother with equal determination and dedication to quality and originality.

 In an email interview, NOËLLE VIGUURS–VAN GELDER talks about their past, present and future to Shanoo Bijlani.

 

Your mother, Bernadette van Gelder–van der Ven, founded Van Gelder Indian Jewellery (VGIJ) in 1980. Was she a jewellery artist or an art historian?

In the late ’70s, Bernadette was gifted a suite of Chinese jewellery by her brother, a dealer in fine antique oriental art. He said to her: ‘To really appreciate these pieces you have to research and study the history behind it.’ The set was not only very beautiful, but also held an entire story linked to culture. Bernadette was familiar with the history of the Dutch East India Company, and their original focus on the East led her from China to India.

Other than that, Bernadette’s late husband was very familiar with India since he used to have textile production plants there in the ’60s and ’70s. Together they made the first of countless trips to India. She started to research the treasures, collected their stories and, in 1980, VGIJ came to be. In the beginning, Bernadette started out with small exhibitions comprising just a few items, but she always made sure each piece was thoroughly researched and documented, and of the highest quality. Gradually, together with her expertise, the company grew.

What fascinated her about India and Indian jewellery craft?

She was fascinated by India’s culture, craftsmanship, rituals and symbolisms … all these different aspects come together in a single piece of jewellery.

Other than that, the people of India! Growing up in a family business, to us, India always felt very close. Even as small children we remember our mother would return from her trips with wonderful tales about this exotic, fairy-tale country far away, with girls draped in colourful saris and little boys in kurta pyjamas. She shared with us her stories about the families she would visit, the palaces she would see, colourful painted and decked out elephants and camels … it sounded exciting and adventurous to us!

When pieces of jewellery that she collected would come in, she would always show everything to us, letting us touch and try it, teach us to treat pretty, delicate things with care and attention.

When we visited India for the first time, it all fell into place. Of course, it is a huge country, and not all of it is fairy tale-like, but we could still recognise the enchantment related to some of the stories that we had heard in our youth. And that has to do with the people of India. Some of the families we do business with we have known for over thirty years. We have all grown up together, been at each other’s weddings, celebrated the arrival of babies, mourned each other’s losses of beloved elders. We are very aware of the cultural and regional differences but we also recognise and treasure the things we have in common, such as family life, being respectful and true in relations to others, appreciation of tradition, ritual and craftsmanship, and to never compromise on quality.

It truly feels like an extended family and we know this feeling is mutual.

The design aesthetics of the Western world is different from Asian regions. How did Bernadette develop a love for Indian jewellery crafts?

She learned that traditional Indian jewellery is not just about mere decoration. There is an extra layer to each piece – it could be part of a religious, cultural or astrological ritual, or to mark a certain occasion. Further, there is the social and or geographical aspect. Jewellery style from the South is different from the jewellery in the North… there is always more than meets the eye… Other than that, she saw how the traditional Indian jewellery, placed in a ‘Western’ context, created a beautiful, unusual look! Very different from what she was used to seeing in Western jewellery design. She felt immediately attracted to that too, because it was so different!

So did she start sourcing jewellery from India and sell it globally?

Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has grown to be one of the leading international dealers in this field today. We have always been focusing on an international clientele, mainly because we love to keep a wide horizon, and have been exhibiting at international events, such as TEFAF Maastricht where we have been present every year from 1985 to 2017.

As the second generation, we sisters feel it is the right time to spread our wings, and we are developing new initiatives and looking at exciting collaborations. Just like Bernadette’s unconventional choice to specialise in traditional Indian jewellery, keeping in mind that it was the late seventies, the world was very different then, we continue to run our company today with an open mind and are always looking for new and fresh perspectives! With the world getting smaller through Internet and social media, the international aspect of our daily work comes naturally!

Did both you and your sister, Fleur Damman, specialise in arts?

We both have an art/art history background and have spent years studying in Italy and France, and I also studied in Amsterdam. From 2000 onwards, we joined the company, and gradually took over the business which today is run by us, together with our dedicated team, from our offices in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

For more than 30 years, Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has been on a quest to collect the most extraordinary quality of traditional jewellery from India. Developing and perfecting this collection, targeted at an international clientele, is a continuous process. Based on the unprecedented contribution and perseverance of founder Bernadette, and successfully and carefully developed and expanded by us, Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has, over the years, built an impressive international network of influential relationships in India and beyond.

Could you tell us what advice your mother imparted to you during your starting years?

Bernadette always taught us to not only look at these treasures, but to also touch them. Touch it, wear it and more importantly, feel and learn to recognise quality! We cannot quite remember how many pieces have passed through our hands, but 20 years of working in the wonderful world of traditional Indian jewellery has given us the confidence to rely on our experience.

Has the fan following abroad for Indian jewellery grown over the years?

Demand for Indian jewellery is growing rapidly. Our clients are museums, art collectors, and private people who are mesmerised by Indian jewellery aesthetics, reflected in high quality original pieces, thoroughly researched and checked by The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory, Leiden. All this gives clients a solid foundation when considering a purchase. Even Indian collectors have found their way to us. More than once, we have been commissioned to put together a bridal suite.

How often do you visit India? How did you build your sources / vendors?

We visit India several times a year, depending on our programme. We have certain fixed trips in our year, but are flexible and can plan a trip within days. To us, it is not only the country as it is the people that we find there!

Do you only source from individual collectors, royalty and the like?

We only buy from private families, both in India and abroad. It is certainly not a matter of instant ordering. We have to wait for the right moment, first have drinks, dinner, enquire about each other’s family, and only after the exchange of pleasantries, we hope the situation arises in which we can obtain information about a possible viewing.

Does Van Gelder specialise in heirloom pieces only? Or do you also pick contemporary pieces?

In terms of period, we strive to collect the best examples of the late 19th, early 20th century. It is always challenging, especially if you keep in mind that in the earlier days, items of jewellery were taken apart and reworked into new settings in accordance with changing styles. It is safe to state that jewellery from the northern regions, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, is well represented in our collection. But we also have lovely examples from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

What are the qualities in a piece of jewellery that make it rare?

During our travels, as we collected extraordinary pieces of traditional Indian jewellery, we have learned to listen to the heart and to never compromise on quality. We only buy what we truly love. Our heart has to be in it! The combination of quality, origin, period, material use and condition makes a piece rare. If all those boxes are crossed and it also is a wearable piece, it will certainly catch our eye!

You have roped in research partner Dr. J.C. Zwaan of The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory Leiden. What is his role in selecting the pieces?

As the company is owned by my sister Fleur and me, we are 100% involved in the research process. Every item acquired by us is fully researched, photographed and documented. In 2012, we have decided to extend our research methods with complete and factual scientific review by commissioning an independent precious metal and gemmological research report. We found in Dr. J.C. Zwaan of The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory Leiden, a dedicated, highly experienced and qualified partner.

Today, we aim that every item in our collection is accompanied by a full art history and independent gemmological scientific report. We take our responsibility and reputation with regard to our company, collection and clients very seriously.

Tell us more about the CSR activities of Van Gelder – you support women’s education as well.

To mark the occasion of our mother and founder Bernadette van Gelder transferring over the company, we sisters Marie Claire, Fleur and I presented Bernadette with the Bernadette van Gelder Foundation. This foundation is committed to female empowerment in India. The foundation believes that empowerment starts with knowledge. A good and solid education allows girls and women to break the vicious circle of poverty and allows them to have a role in the Indian society. The foundation works together with local grass-roots organisations, who have female empowerment and education at their core. By supporting the foundation, they can continue to work together with local organisations in India, to advance girls and women, making them see their potential and helping them and their families towards a better future (visit: www.bvgfoundation.com).

Other than that, in 2015, I became a board member of DON Foundation, which is dedicated to cure diabetes type1. In addition to my personal motives, India bears the dubious honour of ‘Diabetes Capital of the World’. Partly for this reason I feel the need to contribute to stemming the epidemic of diabetes (visit: www.stichtingdon.nl) As a family, of strong and independent women, it only feels right to give back to a country that has given us so much!

Anything else you may wish to add.

Our family business and the Van Gelder brand has been around for almost 40 years now. We are proud of the fact that our name, Van Gelder, has always maintained its reputation of high level quality and service. This is a constant endeavour and a legacy that we always want to continue to maintain! Our aim for perfection can be considered as a true life’s work, something that perfectly fits our business and family culture.

Further, my sister and I always try to maintain a loving but critical approach towards each other and the company. The sensitivities within a family business are obvious, and we are proud that we have always managed to keep the right perspective regardless of certain challenges we had to face.

Last but certainly not least, we are proud of always taking on new initiatives and projects. Currently we are working towards the next exciting project ‘Birds of Paradise’. We are once again spreading our wings and aiming higher! Although we cannot elaborate too much on it now, we will let everyone know about it shortly.

For more information, contact:

Nachtegaalslaantje 1, 5211 LE ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

info@vangelderjewellery.com

www.vangelderjewellery.com

 

Sometimes the reasons for the ties that bind are inexplicable. Cultures that are not even remotely connected with your roots suddenly have a strong pull on you. An accidental encounter with a person from a foreign land, a small gift from a particular country, an invigorating talk or an inspiring quote can be reasons enough to act as a catalyst or a turning point in life, and help you chart your future.

 

In the case of Bernadette van Gelder–van der Ven from the Netherlands, it was a Chinese jewellery suite gifted by her brother, Clemens van der Ven, a dealer in oriental art. The gift came with a clause – that Bernadette should learn more about the crafts from the region to appreciate the gift. The dutiful sister did just that, but providence had other plans. Her research sidetracked her to Indian jewellery – and the beauty and intricacy of the work hooked her for life. Her love affair with Indian jewellery and the country started from then on. In 1980, she established Van Gelder Indian Jewellery, a firm that would go on to specialise in traditional jewellery from India and grow into one of the leading international dealers today.

 

This fascination and love for the country’s unique aesthetics rubbed off on her two daughters Fleur Damman–van Gelder and Noëlle Viguurs–van Gelder, who joined the company in 2000. The sisters took over the business in 2012, and carried forward the legacy of their mother with equal determination and dedication to quality and originality.

 

In an email interview, NOËLLE VIGUURS–VAN GELDER talks about their past, present and future to Shanoo Bijlani.

 

 

Your mother, Bernadette van Gelder–van der Ven, founded Van Gelder Indian Jewellery (VGIJ) in 1980. Was she a jewellery artist or an art historian?

In the late ’70s, Bernadette was gifted a suite of Chinese jewellery by her brother, a dealer in fine antique oriental art. He said to her: ‘To really appreciate these pieces you have to research and study the history behind it.’ The set was not only very beautiful, but also held an entire story linked to culture. Bernadette was familiar with the history of the Dutch East India Company, and their original focus on the East led her from China to India.

 

Other than that, Bernadette’s late husband was very familiar with India since he used to have textile production plants there in the ’60s and ’70s. Together they made the first of countless trips to India. She started to research the treasures, collected their stories and, in 1980, VGIJ came to be. In the beginning, Bernadette started out with small exhibitions comprising just a few items, but she always made sure each piece was thoroughly researched and documented, and of the highest quality. Gradually, together with her expertise, the company grew.

 

What fascinated her about India and Indian jewellery craft?

She was fascinated by India’s culture, craftsmanship, rituals and symbolisms … all these different aspects come together in a single piece of jewellery.

 

Other than that, the people of India! Growing up in a family business, to us, India always felt very close. Even as small children we remember our mother would return from her trips with wonderful tales about this exotic, fairy-tale country far away, with girls draped in colourful saris and little boys in kurta pyjamas. She shared with us her stories about the families she would visit, the palaces she would see, colourful painted and decked out elephants and camels … it sounded exciting and adventurous to us!

 

When pieces of jewellery that she collected would come in, she would always show everything to us, letting us touch and try it, teach us to treat pretty, delicate things with care and attention.

 

When we visited India for the first time, it all fell into place. Of course, it is a huge country, and not all of it is fairy tale-like, but we could still recognise the enchantment related to some of the stories that we had heard in our youth. And that has to do with the people of India. Some of the families we do business with we have known for over thirty years. We have all grown up together, been at each other’s weddings, celebrated the arrival of babies, mourned each other’s losses of beloved elders. We are very aware of the cultural and regional differences but we also recognise and treasure the things we have in common, such as family life, being respectful and true in relations to others, appreciation of tradition, ritual and craftsmanship, and to never compromise on quality.

 

It truly feels like an extended family and we know this feeling is mutual.

 

The design aesthetics of the Western world is different from Asian regions. How did Bernadette develop a love for Indian jewellery crafts?

She learned that traditional Indian jewellery is not just about mere decoration. There is an extra layer to each piece – it could be part of a religious, cultural or astrological ritual, or to mark a certain occasion. Further, there is the social and or geographical aspect. Jewellery style from the South is different from the jewellery in the North… there is always more than meets the eye… Other than that, she saw how the traditional Indian jewellery, placed in a ‘Western’ context, created a beautiful, unusual look! Very different from what she was used to seeing in Western jewellery design. She felt immediately attracted to that too, because it was so different!

 

So did she start sourcing jewellery from India and sell it globally?

Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has grown to be one of the leading international dealers in this field today. We have always been focusing on an international clientele, mainly because we love to keep a wide horizon, and have been exhibiting at international events, such as TEFAF Maastricht where we have been present every year from 1985 to 2017.

 

As the second generation, we sisters feel it is the right time to spread our wings, and we are developing new initiatives and looking at exciting collaborations. Just like Bernadette’s unconventional choice to specialise in traditional Indian jewellery, keeping in mind that it was the late seventies, the world was very different then, we continue to run our company today with an open mind and are always looking for new and fresh perspectives! With the world getting smaller through Internet and social media, the international aspect of our daily work comes naturally!

 

Did both you and your sister, Fleur Damman, specialise in arts?

We both have an art/art history background and have spent years studying in Italy and France, and I also studied in Amsterdam. From 2000 onwards, we joined the company, and gradually took over the business which today is run by us, together with our dedicated team, from our offices in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

 

For more than 30 years, Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has been on a quest to collect the most extraordinary quality of traditional jewellery from India. Developing and perfecting this collection, targeted at an international clientele, is a continuous process. Based on the unprecedented contribution and perseverance of founder Bernadette, and successfully and carefully developed and expanded by us, Van Gelder Indian Jewellery has, over the years, built an impressive international network of influential relationships in India and beyond.

 

Could you tell us what advice your mother imparted to you during your starting years?

Bernadette always taught us to not only look at these treasures, but to also touch them. Touch it, wear it and more importantly, feel and learn to recognise quality! We cannot quite remember how many pieces have passed through our hands, but 20 years of working in the wonderful world of traditional Indian jewellery has given us the confidence to rely on our experience.

 

Has the fan following abroad for Indian jewellery grown over the years?

Demand for Indian jewellery is growing rapidly. Our clients are museums, art collectors, and private people who are mesmerised by Indian jewellery aesthetics, reflected in high quality original pieces, thoroughly researched and checked by The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory, Leiden. All this gives clients a solid foundation when considering a purchase. Even Indian collectors have found their way to us. More than once, we have been commissioned to put together a bridal suite.

 

How often do you visit India? How did you build your sources / vendors?

We visit India several times a year, depending on our programme. We have certain fixed trips in our year, but are flexible and can plan a trip within days. To us, it is not only the country as it is the people that we find there!

 

Do you only source from individual collectors, royalty and the like?

We only buy from private families, both in India and abroad. It is certainly not a matter of instant ordering. We have to wait for the right moment, first have drinks, dinner, enquire about each other’s family, and only after the exchange of pleasantries, we hope the situation arises in which we can obtain information about a possible viewing.

 

Does Van Gelder specialise in heirloom pieces only? Or do you also pick contemporary pieces?

In terms of period, we strive to collect the best examples of the late 19th, early 20th century. It is always challenging, especially if you keep in mind that in the earlier days, items of jewellery were taken apart and reworked into new settings in accordance with changing styles. It is safe to state that jewellery from the northern regions, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, is well represented in our collection. But we also have lovely examples from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

 

What are the qualities in a piece of jewellery that make it rare?

During our travels, as we collected extraordinary pieces of traditional Indian jewellery, we have learned to listen to the heart and to never compromise on quality. We only buy what we truly love. Our heart has to be in it! The combination of quality, origin, period, material use and condition makes a piece rare. If all those boxes are crossed and it also is a wearable piece, it will certainly catch our eye!

 

You have roped in research partner Dr. J.C. Zwaan of The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory Leiden. What is his role in selecting the pieces?

As the company is owned by my sister Fleur and me, we are 100% involved in the research process. Every item acquired by us is fully researched, photographed and documented. In 2012, we have decided to extend our research methods with complete and factual scientific review by commissioning an independent precious metal and gemmological research report. We found in Dr. J.C. Zwaan of The Netherlands Gemological Laboratory Leiden, a dedicated, highly experienced and qualified partner.

 

Today, we aim that every item in our collection is accompanied by a full art history and independent gemmological scientific report. We take our responsibility and reputation with regard to our company, collection and clients very seriously.

 

Tell us more about the CSR activities of Van Gelder – you support women’s education as well.

To mark the occasion of our mother and founder Bernadette van Gelder transferring over the company, we sisters Marie Claire, Fleur and I presented Bernadette with the Bernadette van Gelder Foundation. This foundation is committed to female empowerment in India. The foundation believes that empowerment starts with knowledge. A good and solid education allows girls and women to break the vicious circle of poverty and allows them to have a role in the Indian society. The foundation works together with local grass-roots organisations, who have female empowerment and education at their core. By supporting the foundation, they can continue to work together with local organisations in India, to advance girls and women, making them see their potential and helping them and their families towards a better future (visit: www.bvgfoundation.com).

 

Other than that, in 2015, I became a board member of DON Foundation, which is dedicated to cure diabetes type1. In addition to my personal motives, India bears the dubious honour of ‘Diabetes Capital of the World’. Partly for this reason I feel the need to contribute to stemming the epidemic of diabetes (visit: www.stichtingdon.nl) As a family, of strong and independent women, it only feels right to give back to a country that has given us so much!

 

Anything else you may wish to add.

Our family business and the Van Gelder brand has been around for almost 40 years now. We are proud of the fact that our name, Van Gelder, has always maintained its reputation of high level quality and service. This is a constant endeavour and a legacy that we always want to continue to maintain! Our aim for perfection can be considered as a true life’s work, something that perfectly fits our business and family culture.

 

Further, my sister and I always try to maintain a loving but critical approach towards each other and the company. The sensitivities within a family business are obvious, and we are proud that we have always managed to keep the right perspective regardless of certain challenges we had to face.

 

Last but certainly not least, we are proud of always taking on new initiatives and projects. Currently we are working towards the next exciting project ‘Birds of Paradise’. We are once again spreading our wings and aiming higher! Although we cannot elaborate too much on it now, we will let everyone know about it shortly.

For more information, contact:

Nachtegaalslaantje 1, 5211 LE ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

info@vangelderjewellery.com

www.vangelderjewellery.com

1976_Necklace,-front-HR

 NECKLACE

India, Jaipur/Nathdwara,

19th century

The necklace consists of a fine cord with three gold enamelled, fan-shaped pendants, two gold enamelled, rectangular pendants and four gold enamelled, drop-shaped pendants. The second fine cord with four gold enamelled beads is attached to the cord with the pendants, ending on either side with a green glass, pear-shaped drop.

All gold pendants depict the red enamelled footprints of Lord Vishnu, Vishnupada, and also show powder blue enamel, representing the primordial waters. Both drops-haped pendants on either side of the centre pendant are enamelled in vegetable green ‘sabz zamin’ enamel.

models-wearing-Indian-jewellery-(1)

ON THE MODEL (Top to bottom)

GOLD EAR PENDANTS I Phul Vedhla, India, Gujarat, Junagadh/Jamnagar, mid 20th century

NECKLACE I Kasu Malai India, West Bengal, Murshidabad, Coins 18th century, chain and round gold

spacers 20th century

NECKLACE I Central India, Agath 20th century, gold beads early 20th century

BAZUBAND I India, Punjab, Lahore, 19th century

Suresh-and-Arun-Dhaddha-with-Bernadette-van-Gelder-and-Diya-kumari

 Suresh and Arun Dhaddha, founders of Gyan Museum, Jaipur, with Bernadette van Gelder and guest of honour princess Diya Kumari on the occasion of the presentation of the book The Golden Smile of India.

2057_pair-bangles-HR

 A PAIR OF BANGLES

India, Rajasthan,

19th century

A pair of gold bangles kundan-set with turquoise and cabochon-cut natural rubies.

PASSWORD RESET

twenty − six =

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