March 08, 2018

Women in the changing world of work: Planet 50-50

An interview with our designer, Guðbjörg

The jewellery industry has often been labelled as a male-dominated industry but more and more women are now running their own jewellery businesses and claiming success.

Born in the isolated town of Ísafjörður in West Iceland, Guðbjörg had a close connection to the Icelandic nature and creativity. Her passion for jewellery design was ignited when she was an exchange student at a young age in the United States. Guðbjörg was intrigued by learning how to use the different metals and explore their abilities. It was clear she had found her passion.

After completing her Journeyman‘s examination in goldsmithing in Denmark, Guðbjörg went on to further studies in Denmark resulting in running a co-operated workshop in Copenhagen. Upon her return to Iceland in 1999, Guðbjörg founded Aurum by Guðbjörg along with her husband Karl J. Johannsson MBA.

Starting as a jewellery designer is not as easy as it sounds, as Guðbjörg reminisces about when she first founded Aurum. "We were in this small shop in a back street of Reykjavík and the workshop was in the basement and as I couldn‘t afford any staff yet I was running upstairs every time I heard we had a customer and then had to run back down when they were gone to keep working on my jewellery," Guðbjörg says as she smiles and her mind wanders to how it all began.

"Before the busy periods, I was working until very late at night, trying to finish as many pieces as I could so that I had enough for the customers to choose from. My main aim has always been to create jewellery that is of high quality yet affordable. A woman should not have to wait for a special occasion to be given a piece of jewellery, she should be able to treat herself when she wants."

Today, Aurum is housed in one of the best locations in Reykjavík and has the workshop and studio in the same building. "Now I have a fantastic team of 3 expert goldsmiths working with me and it is great to be able to have the studio and workshop in the same building as it creates a good flow between the two departments. My team is absolutely brilliant, as everything is handmade you really need to have the best people to make sure everything is done to the highest standards."

Guðbjörg has received recognition for her work both in Iceland and internationally. "It is always nice to receive recognition for your work, I‘ve been working independently now for almost 18 years and I‘ve dedicated myself to this art and I truly put my heart and soul into it."

Statement necklace Salka wedding jewelry from Iceland

Guðbjörg‘s jewellery has been exhibited both in Iceland and internationally, the next upcoming exhibition is at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. „This is a very exciting opportunity for us as the market in the United States is a very big one and we‘ve had many customers from there both in our store in Reykjavík and shopping with us online. This could be a step into a new direction for us and I am excited to be building new relationships and showcasing some of my bigger pieces over there.“

Aurum by Guðbjörg has come a long way from being in the backhouse of the main shopping street in Iceland, now the store has a lifestyle store attached to it which opened in 2010. The lifestyle store sells designer homeware, jewellery and clothing from all over the world with an emphasis on quality and uniqueness. The jewellery store now has over 40 collections available which is the largest number of collections by a single designer in Iceland. For the past 3 years, Aurum by Guðbjörg has also entered the international markets and now has over 30 resellers in Europe, China and Alaska.

Aurum Icelandic Jewelry :: Nanook headpiece statement jewelry
"My jewellery collections are always evolving and my main advice for anyone who is creating their own design is to always do your own thing, believe in what you are doing and do it well. The key is to seek your own inspiration and develop it in your own interpretation." With 2 to 3 new collections every year Guðbjörg‘s ever-creative nature is expressed through her incredible variety of collections. Taking the inspiration largely from the Icelandic nature, the West of Iceland is still visited frequently by Guðbjörg. The place where she was born continues to be her source of inspiration with its ever discoverable nature.


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