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Master of hard materials

Interview with Petri Pulliainen

Today we experience a whole new range of materials in jewellery. Hard materials like steel, zirconium and titanium have emerged on the market. Mostly quite simple designs and mass production. Goldsmith Petri Pullianen, based in Helsinki Finland, has taken the challenge one step further and his pieces demonstrate how you can combine modern technology and the traditional techniques of fine jewellery into creating something new and powerful in jewellery design.

Petri Pulliainen(1969) grew up and spent his childhood in Leppävirta, close to Sorsakoski Steel factory where the famous Hackman cutlery was manufactured. Being able to closely follow what the skilled craftsmen could accomplish with steel planted a seed. Subconsciously he knew that he also wanted to master this tough material someday. He always had an eye for all beautiful things in nature and as a young boy, he was a keen collector of beautiful stones, butterflies and other colourful things you can find if you keep your eyes open. This passion for beauty led him to his future career as a goldsmith and jewellery designer.

A good education gives a strong base

  • I started my studies at Kuopio Institute of Handicraft and Applied Art where I learned the necessary craft skills. Coached by good teachers I also established my theses for design. The user determines the form and the purpose of the object. Jewellery has to be comfortably wearable.

After the basic artisan exam in jewellery, it was time for higher education and Petri entered the Department for Jewellery Design at the famous Lahti Institute of Design. During the studies, it was possible to experiment with both materials and the new technology that, at that time, was available at the school. After four years of intensive studies, he graduated with an exam piece that was a pair of earrings in Damascus steel. This was the start of a long journey toward mastering steel and other hard materials.

Curiosity and never giving up is the key to learning

  • I have always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to techniques and materials. I want to know and understand exactly how they work and behave under different circumstances. This enables me to develop my own techniques and innovations so that I can create something new and spectacular. I started using laser welding and 3-D design already in the 90’s when all of this was still very new in goldsmithing.

After graduating I spent eleven years as a part of Union Design. An award-winning goldsmithing community consisting of a group of Finland’s most talented upcoming jewellers at the time. That was a good time to develop one’s skills and design in close interaction with other young talented colleagues. However, the community came to an end and since 2008 I have been on my own building up my concept as a master of exciting new hard materials with a strong line of masculine jewellery for the customers that appreciate something special and personal out of the mainstream jewellery.

Steel has always been my main material, says Petri. The fascination for it from my childhood has always been there. Surgical steel, 316 L, is safe to wear as jewellery and it possesses a beautiful white shine that combines great with diamonds and coloured gemstones. Setting stones in material as hard as steel demands a lot of skill and technique that I have learned by hard work, trial and error. Learning to master this skill has enabled me to create a different kind of jewellery design. As a jeweller, I always strive for perfection. It is not that difficult to make a basic band of steel but to have it set with precious stones takes it to a whole new level of fine jewellery. Apart from steel I also like to work in other hard materials like zirconium and titanium.

Looking at Petri´s jewellery you will find that they are both traditional and very expressional at the same time. The designs are very technical and masculine. You will find geometrical forms, interesting contrasts in colour and combinations of material and gemstones. The design is tough and strong, but the details reveal the quality work of a master. As a recognition of his fine work Petri was awarded the highly appreciated ‘Goldsmith of the year’ title in 2016.

Different materials express different things

In the pieces made of Damascus steel the layer forged steel parts display an individual and exclusive pattern which often is framed in a strict geometrical form of precious metal for both looks and comfort. Even though masculinity is a dominant factor in the design, many pieces are very much suitable for women who want something expressive and striking.

The deep black colour of zirconium offers a stunning contrast with coloured gemstones and presents a worthy option to the traditional diamond jewellery. Combining it with other metals like titanium, gold or platinum opens up a new palette of colour combinations to be used in a much richer fashion that you are able to create using only the traditional precious metals like silver, gold and platinum.

Titanium is a very versatile light and hard and metal with the ability to achieve different colours by using heat, or electrical current. One of the most recent innovations is a crystallized surface on titanium. It turns out as an opal-like shimmer that brings your mind to the aurora borealis phenomenon you can witness in the sky in Lapland. The surface seems almost three-dimensional and is very hard and durable. Even though titanium became popular in jewellery in the 80´s there is still a lot to explore and learn in order to bring the material to a new contemporary level.

Towards new challenges

Even though my special interest lies in these hard materials I also work with the traditional materials of goldsmithing. Engagement rings and wedding bands are the most individual commissions where I together with the customer design a piece to their liking but with my fingerprint. Mastering many materials makes the range and possibilities quite large and challenging.

  • My devotion to technology and laser skills has also brought me customers from the watch community. Damaged bracelets and watch cases can be restored to original condition when you possess the right knowledge and experience with steel and laser.

To my question about what lies ahead in the future, Petri replies:

  • During the past ten years my skills as a jeweller and designer have developed into my own very markable style. I believe that there is a big market for my kind of masculine jewellery, especially in North America. At the moment I am developing a new concept extending the product range and skill towards other luxury items, not just jewellery. The concept is taking form and partnerships are being formed. I am very excited.

Check Petri Pulliainen jewellery:

Kingdom of Stainless Steel

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