Hollie Bonneville Barden’s keen eye for elegant details and boundary-pushing materials have propelled her rise within the jewelry industry; at 29 she was named head designer of legendary diamond house De Beers and is now the creative director of John Hardy. Barden, who trained at Central Saint Martins in London, has seamlessly applied her classically informed aesthetic to John Hardy’s ornate signature pieces, which are all handcrafted by expert artisans at the brand’s workshop in the Balinese countryside. There, multiple generations of craftspeople weave together intricate metalwork and colorful gemstones to make the brand’s signature Cinta, Naga, and Modern Chain collections. References to spirituality and Balinese culture run through every piece. The brand’s latest high jewelry design is an exquisite locket pendant from the Cinta line handcrafted from the South American tagua nut—a cruelty-free, environmentally sustainable ivory alternative.
We spoke with Hollie about her newly debuted collection for the brand, her first impressions of Hardy’s legendary Balinese workshop and her go-to jewels.
Describe your first visit to the John Hardy workshop in Ubud, Bali.
When I first arrived there, I was completely awed. It’s set amongst the rice patty fields and is the most beautiful workshop I’ve ever experienced. Also remarkable is the dynamic and energy that the artisans have and the collaboration that you experience when you’re there. It was a truly transformative experience for me. It’s an amazing, creative community, which was set up by John in the ’70s, when he started collaborating with local artisans and really taking their traditional craft and combining it with his vision. I go there every couple of months; I’m excited to get back.
Did anything about the artisans’ process surprise you?
Completely. I mean, everything is handmade from the beginning of the process to the very end. Many jewelry houses will say, “Everything is handmade,” but normally, at some point, a CAD [computer-aided design] or machinery of some sort is involved. We are really creating pieces from the beginning—and that’s a huge achievement. You almost feel the signature of the jeweler who has carved that piece.
What signature Balinese techniques stood out to you?
The woven chain process. The hand carving and the weaving are very much connected to traditional Balinese artisanal techniques. You’ll see the weaving throughout Bali, that level of carved work appears throughout the temples and architecture. That weaving technique is directly reflective of a tradition, a place, and Balinese culture itself.
Which pieces in the new collection do you feel blend the bohemian John Hardy look with a modern sensibility?
The Modern Chain design is a really great balance between both the tradition and a new vision that elevates John Hardy’s DNA. It is very graphic and pure.
What jewelry do you always have on?
I have a beautiful turquoise ring that was made for my great-grandmother, who was living in Burma. At the time, it was hard for her come across certain stones. She had a friend who was going on a trip around the world and he brought back this piece of turquoise, which she then had made into a ring. I love the storytelling that comes with jewelry—that’s always been something that has really fascinated and inspired me.
What are some of your favorite gems from the new fall collection?
We went for the materials that had character, energy and meaning. Within the fall collection, some of the exciting materials that you’ll see, for example, is the silver sheen obsidian. It is actually a byproduct of the volcano—it’s this beautiful elegant material that has flash of silver running through it. And whilst it does have this glossy kind of optical illusion, it’s amazing to me to think that it came from such a powerful place as the volcano.
Talisman jewelry and jewelry with deeper spiritual meanings is big right now. Why do you think that is?
People have always been drawn to jewelry because of its symbolic power and meaning—but I definitely think there’s a rejuvenation of that happening right now. They are drawn to (that type of jewelry) because it does have a sort of strength, and empowers the wearer with energy and symbolic purity.
People are buying less, but they’re buying more purposefully. Our customer doesn’t just want to have a beautiful piece of jewelry, they want to know how it was made. When they buy a piece of John Hardy, they’re more connected to the artisans who created that piece. It’s about giving back and celebrating hand craftsmanship.
What everyday piece should every woman have in their jewelry wardrobe?
A classic chain design, or our Modern Chain pieces. Stack them in with your own pieces. They look amazing when they’re all grouped together, or as just an easy everyday piece.
What’s your favorite piece of statement jewelry right now?
Jewelry is about self-expression and being bold. One of my favorite pieces is the Tapered Collar (from the Naga collection); it’s extremely bold and dramatic. The body is made of tubes, so it looks like it’s going to be very stiff, but actually, it’s extremely comfortable and lightweight. I was wearing it recently, and I had it on by day and by night. It has a beautiful lava black color—it’s a great, dramatic evening piece that no one else will have.