Introducing Hajime Ando, ex- Bulgari designer
By Isabella Yan
BANGKOK, June 2019 – The level of detailed work that goes into making Hajime Ando’s visually stunning creations is astonishing. His designs instantly recall the bold, opulent and timeless glamour of Bulgari’s high-end jewels. The city of Rome has been the main muse for his jewellery design. With a natural fondness for the ancient city, it is no wonder that Ando’s creativity, passion and sensibility integrate so gracefully with the Bulgari brand. We caught up with him at the Jewelry Trade Center in Bangkok and discussed his work and inspiration.
1. Please tell me a bit about your background. What first led you in the direction of designing jewellery? How did you get into the industry?
Hajime Ando: My professional path began more than 30 years ago in Tokyo, my home town. At university, I majored in metal craft which is a traditional Japanese handicraft. After graduation I started my career as a jewellery designer in Japan. After my first trip to Italy, my love for Italian art and language led me to move to Valenza in 2001. Valenza is a major jewellery district in the region of Piedmont with a high number of high quality gold artisans and jewellery businesses. Here I cultivated my passion for jewellery craftsmanship and became a designer for an Italian jewellery brand called LUCA CARATI. Afterwards, I was a designer for Crova s.p.a, an Italian manufacturer of handmade jewellery founded in 1845. From 2005 onwards, I became one of the 7 jewelry designers for Bulgari in Rome.
Figure 1. Hajime Ando, Designer ©Hajime Ando
2. Why were you attracted to Italy?
Hajime Ando: I studied the Italian language for five years in Japan before moving to Italy. I was fascinated by Italy’s rich heritage long before my travels. I had a huge fondness for Italian fashion, modern design, automobiles, cuisine, cinematography and culture. It was so different to the dainty, minimalist Japanese aesthetic I was used to. Italian design was dramatic, opulent and daring. I believe my work is an interplay of Roman history and modern design working closely in synergy.
3. As a designer, what inspires your work? Did Italian art and design have an influence?
Hajime Ando: I lived in Rome for 5 years. Rome, with its architectural and artistic heritage, has ultimately influenced my creative designs and mode of expression. The city of Rome is like a historical art museum. From beautiful pebbled piazzas filled with world heritage sites, monumental public sculptures, and Roman coins, to the glorious pink sunset against the classical Borghese gardens. Rome was truly a special experience for me.
4. What is the favourite piece that you created – and what made it so special?
Hajime Ando: The scope of influence in Italian design certainly echoes throughout my jewellery. While expressing Bulgari’s values and heritage played an integral part in my own design style, recently I’ve been harking back to my own heritage and identity, using traditional Japanese metal craft techniques. Last year, in collaboration with Gyokusendou workshop, a new copper jewellery product was launched exclusively by Wako Department Store in Tokyo’s Ginza district. My idea was to create a jewellery collection that contemporized traditional Japanese copper techniques and embodied the Japanese spirit and soul. The Ginza district was a notable site for silver coin minting before it evolved as an upmarket shopping district. Thus, the shape of this pendant was derived from the curved shapes of ancient Japanese coins.
Figure 2. The Ginza-Jouze pendant was inspired by ancient Japanese coins. Designed by Ando Hajime. ©Hajime Ando
5. Are your designs made by hand, CAD or a combination of the two?
Hajime Ando: My design work is mostly made using CAD and a 3D printer. I care about the efficiency of my work, as well as maintaining quality of finish. In design work, I learned that speed is very important.
6. Bulgari’s designs are characterised by their prominent use of multi-coloured gemstones set in rich yellow gold. What are your favourite materials & gemstones to use?
Hajime Ando: My favourite metal is 18k yellow gold – It exudes passion and warmth. I also like using aging metal copper and bronze. Recently, the increase in demand for diamonds meant that my designs feature more diamonds than coloured gemstones. Personally, the exuberance of colour is very important to me – It is colour that allows you to become creative, play with daring colour combinations and bring out the individualism and personality of the wearer.
Figure 3. Serpent Design reminiscent of the Serpenti rings by Bulgari. ©Hajime Ando
7. After 10 years working as a Designer for Bulgari, you now have your own product development and design consultancy firm. Tell me more about your work.
Hajime Ando: As an external Design Consultant, I provide creation planning to design prototypes for start-up brands, primarily for Japanese and European jewelry companies. Jewellery is a reflection of a country’s customs, culture and environment. Thailand has remainedae centre of the jewellery industry retaining high standards of quality and craftsmanship, and therefore becomes an immediate attraction for designers like myself. My next mission is to create innovative designs within this rich environment and eventually launch a global brand in Bangkok.
8. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the jewelry design business?
Hajime Ando: I think there’s a reason for every encounter – it is important to immerse yourself in major jewellery hubs and learn from the many talented people you meet. Opportunities will then arise.