Artistic License With Rudolf Heltzel

Penny McCormick talks to JEWELLERY DESIGNER and MASTER GOLDSMITH, RUDOLF HELTZEL about his designs, inspirations and current work …


Veteran jewellery designer and master goldsmith, Rudolf Heltzel, is well known for his craftsmanship, carefully selecting unique gemstones which are the basis of his sculptural, timeless designs in 18ct gold, sterling silver and platinum. Often collector’s items, Heltzel’s work is the subject of a new exhibition opening this week at the The National Design & Craft Gallery in Kilkenny.

The exhibition features three collections – the Rock Crystal Treasure Cave, Tourmaline Butterfles and Druse. Could you tell us a little about each of these collections?

Over the last 25 years, whenever I saw an exciting, rare gemstone that would fit into imagined single-themed collections I bought the gemstone for its beauty and individuality, virtually ignoring the price asked. So every year, one, sometimes two or three gemstones would be added, some of the gemstones in the Rock Crystal and Druse collections were cut for me by two world famous gem-cutting artists in Germany. About three years ago I started working, first on the butterfly collection, with mostly tourmaline gemstones cut in India, Brazil, France and Germany. With that collection finished, I got to work on the Rock Crystal series. And finally I picked up a theme which I had already explored once about 12 years ago, namely the druse collection. These three collections are the result of this very long gestation period.


Your complex and ambitious designs are highly recognisable. How do you start – are you inspired by the shape of the gem or an image in your mind?

In effect, I start with an idea, which could be influenced by the beauty of a precious gem, the discovery in a museum of a particular painting which appeals to my sense of aesthetic, or even the abstraction of forms in nature.

Looking back on your illustrious career – which designs are you particularly proud of?

As a parent you love all your children. As a jewellery artist, each time I do my best to come up with a satisfying design. In general, if I feel I have not succeeded in putting my personality and my feelings into a piece of jewellery I do not hesitate to put it in the scrap box.

You have done much to keep traditional jewellery making skills current and you have also mentored many young designers. Which master jewellers are you most impressed with?

I really do admire the designs and the skills of the jewellery masters of the Renaissance or the Baroque eras which in many cases are unsurpassed. Today it is quite difficult to find jewellery that over the years is identifiable as bearing one particular goldsmith signature.

What are you currently working on?

Just at the moment I proudly look upon the three collections in the exhibition and I haven’t identified my next challenge yet. There probably will be an upcoming work of my exhibition in China.

Need to know: Coinciding with Rudolf Heltzel’s exhibition at the National Design & Craft Gallery, which opens on February 3, will be Bounded & Unlimited, an exhibition of precious jewellery and goldsmithing by four contemporary jewellery artists from Ireland and China.

Penny McCormick

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