Handcrafted jewellery creator Rudolf Heltzel

Rudolf Heltzel

An icon of Irish craft and design Rudolf Heltzel is one of the finest designers worldwide. Over the past six decades Rudolf Heltzel has gained an international reputation for the originality and quality of his work, each piece having a timeless aesthetic, crafted meticulously by hand using some of the world’s oldest jewellery techniques. His timeless designs and impeccable workmanship have won him international acclaim.

Originally from Berlin, Germany, Rudolf Heltzel was invited to Ireland in 1966 by an Córas Tráchtála, the Irish Export Board. He set up and led the trail-blazing gold and silver studio-workshops at the government sponsored Kilkenny Design Workshops. In 1968 he established his own workshop in Kilkenny where he, his son Christopher and their employees and apprentices still work today. Here platinum, 18 carat gold and precious stones are worked into magnificent pieces of wearable art.

For Rudolf jewellery-making is part of a living cultural heritage and he takes inspiration from the history, mythology and symbolism of precious metals and stones. Rudolf Heltzel has made his passion for creating distinctive jewellery a reality and his pieces are collector’s items with four generations owning and wearing Rudolf Heltzel. His advice, and help with developing new collections of jewellery, has been sought by jewellery manufacturers in the Far East, South East Asia, the Near East and in the Caribbean. Both in Ireland and abroad he has been instrumental in establishing training opportunities for jewellery makers and keeping ancient traditional skills alive.

The Process

Deep within the Earth, millions of years ago, and formed by the greatest coincidence of specific temperature and pressure, precious gemstones were formed. These rare gemstones, impossible to reproduce, were sought out and subsequently shaped by extremely skilled stone cutters and carvers. Rudolf Heltzel travels to meet these specialist stone cutters to discover within their collections the most beautiful and rare specimens. These are the gemstones that form the basis for his wonderful creations, they are his ‘blank canvas’. The designs of the pendants are dictated by the aesthetic of the stones and how they will best compliment a woman, resulting in works of extraordinary beauty. Rudolf generally designs to an abstract theme. He chooses precious gemstones that complement the theme, and these gemstones in turn influence the design, as does every cultural, aesthetic and life event that the septuagenarian has experienced. Talent and decades of ‘elbow grease’ also play their part.

Rudolf’s sensitivity to combining gemstones and precious metal leads to a remarkable fusion of visual beauty and poetic force. His sculptures have stood the tests of time, displaying a subtle yet dynamic beauty rarely seen in this discipline. Remarkably, he has always insisted on an extra dimension of complexity to his creations - they should be functional and comfortable and complement the wearer. Sculpture plus one. Every piece ever made, no matter how diverse in inspiration and look, is distinctly recognisable as a Rudolf Heltzel piece.

His technical virtuosity display an extraordinary degree of workmanship. In the Rudolf Heltzel workshop the pieces are made using the most traditional techniques, with skills passed on from master to master over the last few hundred, even thousands of years. This allows pieces to be made that are different to the ‘market-led’ techniques increasingly employed in the industry.

Rudolf trained both in the more sculptural discipline of the silversmith, as well as a goldsmith. He uses skills from both of these disciplines in his designs. This further lends to their originality. He has insisted on always improving technical skills, pushing the boundaries of design which in turn put pressure on the technical ability. The greater the skills base the more exciting the designs.

Rudolf Heltzel creating handcrafted jewellery in his workshop