Copenhagen might be known as a hub for fashion labels with an international profile, but it is now also home to many independent fine jewellery brands.

One of them, Elhanati, landed in luxury US department store Bergdorf Goodman in April. Elhanati was able to widen its audience when it collaborated with New York ready-to-wear label Khaite, in 2022, on accessories such as hair jewellery and earrings. At Bergdorf Goodman, some of its women’s fine jewellery collection, which includes pieces that incorporate black spinel, is sold out.

“We’re finding incredible talent out of Denmark, with many vendors focusing largely on sustainability,” says Bridget Mitchell, Bergdorf Goodman’s jewellery buyer. “Elhanati, specifically, uses recycled 18-carat gold. Not only do we love the clean lines influenced by Nordic cultures, but the artisans we’re finding have merged this aesthetic with details that make each piece feel like wearable art.”

Andreas Murkudis’s clothing store in Berlin has also allocated space to Copenhagen-based brands such as Elhanati and Corali, and will launch the Lettre de Lumière collection by Sophie Bille Brahe in September. Another Danish brand, Kinraden, launched during the Berlin-wide Gallery Weekend art event in April with a selection ranging in price from €175 to €1,350. Murkudis says he was “smitten with the minimal silhouettes so clearly inspired by [Kinraden founder] Sarah Müllertz’s passion for architecture, the Danish design tradition, and with the sustainability aspect a big selling point”.

Elhanati 18ct gold and diamond choker
Elhanati 18ct gold and diamond choker
Elhanati gold and diamond ring
Elhanati gold and diamond ring

At Müllertz’s atelier (pictured top), a short walk from Nyhaven harbour in central Copenhagen, synergies between her unisex fine jewellery collection and art are plain to see. Black paper sculptures by Charlotte Søeborg Ohlsen, resembling oversized insects, appear to scuttle across the wall. “At my first Danish fair in Copenhagen, we collaborated: I wanted to show jewellery in a different way on one of her creatures,” Müllertz says. “We mounted rings on the spine of a black paper scarab that she created. It was incredible.”

Kinraden’s latest Two Worlds collection, launched in May, sits in waist-high glass vitrines and comprises striped pieces that combine precious metal and wood. Inspired by Bauhaus luminary Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet costumes, she describes the five-strong collection, including an 18k gold bangle (£6,863), as “a dance between the width of wood and metal”.

Müllertz is a masters graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, the alma mater of silversmith Georg Jensen and furniture designer Arne Jacobsen. She lives and breathes Danish design, and not just with Kinraden, which she has worked on full-time since 2019. She also collects art and sits on the advisory board that selects young artists, designers and architects for cultural prizes awarded by the Danish royal family.

However, it is the experience of working as a world-class architect that informs her work the most. As global head of design at international architects Henning Larsen, she was responsible for projects in Hong Kong, Munich and New York, as well as Denmark. “There, we had several PhD students researching upcycling materials,” she says. “This was happening in the architectural community for years but, when I first launched jewellery in 2014, I couldn’t see the same happening. No one was talking about circular strategies or how to upcycle.”

Kinraden’s Copenhagen boutique,: blue stools sit against a shelf displaying jewellery pieces
Kinraden’s Copenhagen boutique © Kinraden
A model wears a recycled gold and wood Isadora ring (right hand) and silver Breeze ring (left hand)
A model wears pieces from Kinraden’s latest Two Worlds collection, including a recycled gold and wood Isadora ring (right hand) and silver Breeze rings (left hand) © Kinraden

Today, sustainability informs every aspect of Müllertz’s process, including the three materials she uses: recycled gold, silver, and mpingo wood, also known as African blackwood, reputedly the hardest and most expensive wood on earth. Müllertz sources offcuts of the wood — which comes from the trunks of these slow-growing trees in Tanzania, and is used in the manufacturing of clarinets, oboes and bagpipes — via a London-based non-governmental organisation.

Specialist workshops that she partners with in Denmark and Thailand then turn the wood into faceted cushion or brilliant cuts — which she describes as “black diamonds”, created by the same cutting machines used for gemstones. These are combined with recycled gold and silver from the technology and health industries, with finished pieces accompanied by a certificate detailing origin.

“Chinese customers have a strong preference for wooden accessories, making these [Kinraden] products highly popular in the market,” says

Sabrina Zhuang, head buyer at Belongs, which has a boutique in Beijing and an online store selling fashion, fine and high jewellery. It launched Kinraden in May 2021. Zhuang says she was captivated by the brand’s architectural designs, commitment to sustainability and use of wood.

Sophie Bille Brahe’s Lettres de Lumiere collection in white gold

Increasingly, Copenhagen’s status as a fashion and design capital committed to sustainability has drawn buyers from international luxury retailers searching for new names and a spare, essential aesthetic redolent of Danish design. Highlights are the twice-yearly Copenhagen Fashion Week, Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF), and 3daysofdesign.

The point where fashion and fine jewellery meet is a world that Christina Neustrup — previously CIFF’s director and, since July 2022, Kinraden’s chief executive — knows well. “One of the reasons I wanted her was her network — her contacts are huge,” says Müllertz. “She has a very good reputation for building brands and has been involved with By Malene Birger and Stine Goya. She is good at sensing what’s coming.

“She was on my board of directors for two years before she joined me as CEO and business partner and believes in longevity and the circular strategies that I have drawn up for Kinraden.”

Sarah Müllertz says her former career as an architect informs her jewellery practice

Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s fashion director Bruce Pask says he is one of those who first saw Kinraden at CIFF. “What I liked immediately was that it seemed completely appropriate for anybody,” he says. “It was masculine, feminine, everything in between.” Pask launched the collection in Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s store in late 2022.

“I loved the kind of open-for-interpretation aesthetic. I thought the design was very clean but distinctive. I like that sustainability is just a part of the production. It’s not what’s driving the message, because design, the look and feel of the product, is still a focus.

“When I talked to Sarah Müllertz, I was able to really delve into her design philosophy and discover its precision. Her background in architecture absolutely informs the precise, sleek line and the economy of design.”

In conversation, Müllertz’s explanation of how she has taken her insights from architecture and applied it to her current venture begins with the fundamentals. “You try to create the perfect place, but you still need to leave room for the people. If you don’t, they’ll be living in the architect’s space, and it will never be theirs,” she says.

“With jewellery, you need to put it on and feel like it belongs to you. You need to use these beautiful things. If it [is] so refined and non-functioning, then it won’t be used or worn,” she concludes.

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