The natural beauty abounding on the Indonesian island of Bali inspires the work of Guy Bedarida, creative director and head designer of the John Hardy jewellery brand.
On a whirlwind visit to Barbados recently, the French-Italian designer was introduced to some of the people living here who are devotees of his work, and he told Easy magazine what a pleasure it was to see how much his designs were appreciated by the local customers.
Bedarida left Van Cleef &Arpels in New York, another prestigious international house of jewellery design, to join the Bali-based John Hardy in 1999.
“Everybody told me that I was crazy, but it is now almost fifteen years and I am still in Bali”, he said.
With his aesthetic proficiency in design he was able to transform the “very primitive, very ethnic” jewellery he found at the John Hardy house when he first arrived there, once given the opportunity to demonstrate his creativity.
“I brought two very important elements – a fashion element because jewellery goes also with fashion and the preciousness, the quality, the element that you get when you are coming from the fine jewellery world, which was Van Cleef, and before Van Cleef I worked with Boucheron in Paris for many years.”
Showing off a few of his fine pieces, he remarked “this is an incredible brand started by Mr Hardy in the 1970s.” He recounted the early days when the founder of the jewellery line moved to Bali at that time and started making jewellery for sale to partly support the more carefree lifestyle he had chosen.
According to Bedarida, when the brand started to gain in popularity and Hardy was looking around for a designer, he found him in New York City, where he was head designer for Van Cleef & Arpels.
Bedarida travelled extensively in search of the precious metals and gem stones he thought would satisfy a request from Hardy for “something different and unique” as presents for Mrs Hardy on special occasions.
“Mr Hardy came to me and said, ‘Now that you are here, I want you to design something different and unique for my wife for every occasion of the year.”
So well did Bedarida fulfil the request, Mrs Hardy’s pieces soon became the envy of one buyer, who complained, “Why is she the only one?”
Then began Bedarida’s design of a very limited quantity of unique pieces which never number more than about 200 per year, fashioned with unique stones, 14-karat gold, diamonds and all kinds of precious gems selected from around the world.
On the day he spoke to Easy magazine, he was wearing John Hardy bracelets, among them the silver dragon which has become a winner with his American clientele. When he first sketched the design, it received a ‘thumbs down’ from the Hardys.
The Naga or dragon design is now the number two most popular in the John Hardy collection in America and the most successful for the company, he said.
For the Balinese, the dragon is the symbol of eternal love, prosperity and protection, and Bedarida is counting his good fortune of being able to return to this design idea when he became one of three shareholders in John Hardy, following the retirement of the owners of the business.
“I have really developed a different feeling for our brand” said the designer who was raised between Rome, Florence and Paris – “cities where the beauty and the art is everywhere”.
“France and Italy are two countries where jewellery has a strong influence, so I grew up in this atmosphere where I could see beautiful jewellery and I decided that was what
I liked the most – designing jewellery.”
He studied jewellery and fashion design at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Rome and Milan and today oversees a workshop with about 650 skilled Balinese craftsmen and women, situated in the middle of a Balinese rice field.
He stands out as a designer who tries to be completely authentic, not doing things because it is the trend or fashion. “I don’t want to be a slave of what’s happening in trends. I like to make trends,” he said.
From Bedarida’s experience, women love jewellery “with a soul” and possess “a sense of refinement that very often men do not have.”
“A woman has a much more accurate eye and sense of detail to jewellery from men” said the man who continues to satisfy women’s jewellery fancies around the world.