Through the fire – a visit to FREYWILLE

Everyone is familiar with it – the colorful jewelry from FREYWILLE. Since I am interested in learning how enameled jewelry is made, I look for the address on the WIEN PRODUCTS website and make my way to Gumpendorfer Straße in Vienna’s sixth district, where the company FREYWILLE has been located since it was founded.

I walk through a wildly beautiful courtyard and take the elevator up to reception on the second floor. Laura Pietsch-Habersohn from Marketing greets me there and accompanies me to the fourth floor. The Creative Department and Marketing have their workspace on the top floor – with a breathtaking view over the roofs of the nearby buildings. The team is in the midst of discussing the planned window decorations for Valentine’s Day in front of a model. Love letters are the theme this year – hearts and artistically addressed envelopes draw attention to the jewelry that will be given as gifts on this special day.

A consistent and neat appearance is important in the company; they operate roughly 80 stores in 30 countries and supply select jewelry partners. Good window decorations make the brand easy to recognize.

What makes their jewelry special? I would like to know from the women in Marketing… “We produce our jewelry ourselves in house – the fire enamel technique is very special and a well kept secret. It begins with the subsurface and the colors, then comes the application technique, and on to the firing process…” They are proud of the now unusual craft and regularly explore new ideas and possibilities.

In order to help me understand how the jewelry collections are designed, we watch the 6 designers at work. They are working on new creations that are, of course, still top secret.

In the artists’ studio – because these designers must be described as such – there are shelves of art literature, mood boards on certain artists and themes, samples of colors and various materials.
It takes almost 2 years until a jewelry collection is created from an idea, they explain. Ideas are discussed with the owner, suggestions are made – in the end, the decision is up to Dr. Wille. And then the ideas are refined – museums are visited, literature pored over, possibilities explored, many ideas are sketched and then tossed out…until the ideal design has been found.

This is not easy; one collection includes many different pieces of jewelry like rings in different widths, bracelets, pendants, earrings, and more. All of this has to then be imagined in different sizes and widths and then set in 18k gold or the latest – rose gold or rhodium palladium. Each individual piece of jewelry requires precise planning when designed; on one hand it should be able to stand alone, and on the other it should not lose the connection to the collection – the basic idea and signature has to be recognizable in every piece. Not an easy task. I ask the group which jewelry is bought the most.

“Our artist renditions have a fan base, as do the classic collections – the men’s collections are popular and the accessories as well – every country has its preferences. This is influenced by culture.”

A lot of products are manufactured here and they need to maintain an overview. The women laugh – they are experts, some of them have been working for the company for 20-30 years and are still passionate about their work.

There is a lot going on up here, especially in the Design Department – the colors have to be coordinated with production, all eventualities have to be considered and stumbling blocks removed before production.

When a collection is completely planned it goes into production, which is located in the same building. At least one hundred steps are necessary before a piece of jewelry is finished – the different layers of color are applied individually and fired at 800 degrees. By now there are special features like relief details, color gradients, and other sophisticated touches. To think that basically it is colored glass being conjured up here, the result is even more amazing.

No one is chasing short-lived trends here – instead, they are dedicated to the art form, but not averse to the influence of fashion – recently they introduced the narrow monochrome bangles that can be worn alone or combined. It is always about style and design – tradition and passion for the craft.

I leave the enamel workshop; as I look around and admire the logo – the Sphinx against a dark blue background, I am certain – the quality is definitely worth the walk to one of the FREYWILLE boutiques.