alja & friends

We don’t sketch–not even for customers.
How jewelry lovers enjoy being surprised by alja&friends.

It is time to take another walk to Viennese artisans–this time I pick a trio of ladies from the Wien Products city map, whom I visit in their workshop on Kärntner Durchgang near St. Stephen’s Cathedral. alja & friends–Alja Neuner, Angelina Kafka, and Elisabeth Habig–have known each other for a long time. Kafka and Habig apprenticed with Neuner and became business partners almost two years ago.

Because both of them are amazing jewelry designers and they get along well, explains Alja Neuner.

When talking to the three goldsmiths in their bright studio above the shop on Kärntner Durchgang, it quickly becomes clear that each has her own design style–three individuals with a high standard of design and artisanship.

Destiny played a role here, leading Angelina Kafka to do her goldsmith apprenticeship here and not go to Germany afterward to become a master, when Elisabeth Habig began her journeymanship here as her planned replacement after finishing fashion school on Herbststraße.

The jewelry that is displayed is different from the conventional jewelry pieces seen throughout the city. The women often find their inspiration in nature, where they gather ideas and cherish unusual materials. Where do you find them, I would like to know.

It varies, says Angelina Kafka. Elisabeth Habig adds that she is a collector, always looking for treasures on beaches and in nature, collecting them in little boxes.
Alja Neuner, on the other hand, has spent years researching materials–right now she is concentrating on porcelain. She recently completed an additional degree at the University of Applied Art and her main focus is art. A number of fascinating displays in the studio testify to this.

Four unusual jewelry pieces are in front of me–very different but still somehow homogenous–organic shapes, nature, and artisanship in perfection. Each one has its own signature; each piece is entirely unique.

Who wears jewelry like this?
Mostly self-confident women, because jewelry from alja & friends makes a statement. It is not for the masses–you stand out with a broach, necklace, or ring, they explain. Yes, naturally they also have engagement and wedding rings. Usually the men are more daring with these. For them the craftsmanship and unique character play a greater role in the decision–women tend to follow the fashion mandate from the media…

The three women are choosy when it comes to gemstones–they buy with class, not en masse. Each stone is carefully examined and selected. The stones aren’t necessarily conventionally set; instead they could be molded in a cuttlefish cast–a very old technique. Surfaces don’t have to be polished smooth–here the designers literally play with fire, cooling slowly to achieve the desired effects. Modern techniques and older crafts are not mutually exclusive. Jewelry is created through 3D printing that also fits perfectly in the collection.
Customer requests are gladly fulfilled–but we don’t sketch–says Alja Neuner. When she sees the questioning look on my face, she laughs–most customers enjoy being surprised and trust us. We agree on a certain direction, material, and size and then we get to work. A sign of trust in the artisans.

Do the three strong-minded women sometimes disagree? Of course–they all laugh, we all have our opinions… Some things seem impossible, they almost place bets on whether it will work. And then they prove it to themselves and the others–like Angelina Kafka’s extraordinary ring with two protruding rock crystals, which was celebrated as suitable for daily wear after being tested.

I look over the women’s shoulders while they work and they explain the tools and machines used to pull wire to the desired gauge or roll metal thinner and thinner like dough through a pasta maker and how balls are shaped with an old stencil…
The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed in the jewelry studio. You hear Angelina Kafka’s saw working on a ring, next to her sits Elisabeth Habig heating pieces of silver for a necklace, and Alja Neuner is making the final changes to her new casting molds.

Daily life in a Viennese jewelry studio. I decend the stairs into the shop and look around–the selection is large and truly exceptional. Stop by, openings and exhibits are held several times a year. The jewelry created by alja & friends is certainly worth the walk.