WHERE THE STONES SMILE: MGP AURARIUS TRYJEFACZKA
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN KRAKOW? THE CLOTH HALL OR THE WAWEL ROYAL CASTLE COME TO MIND. WE HAVE ALSO FOUND A MUST-SEE FOR ALL MAGPIES! MAREK AND HIS TWO CHILDREN PATRYCJA AND GRZEGORZ, MAKE UP TWO GENERATIONS OF GOLDSMITHS WORKING SIDE BY SIDE IN THE EXTRAORDINARY MGP AURARIUS TRYJEFACZKA WORKSHOP. EACH ONE OF THEM DIFFERENT AND WITH THEIR RESPECTIVE MINDSET, ALL THREE UNITED BY A LOVE OF PRECISION CRAFTSMANSHIP AND JEWELRY PERFECTION. READ ON TO FIND OUR WHY THEIR WORK SHINES AT COMPETITIONS, AND WHY CLIENTS QUICKLY TURN INTO REGULARS.
A family-run business across generations can be a real challenge. How is working together with family turning out for you?
Marek: It’s loud! Often emotions come to the fore and they lead to warfare breaking out. That happens because each one of us has a different vision of what how a piece should be carried out. We always manage to form consensus, so despite all the various reactions and heated debates, the cooperation is most successful. It results in high creativity.
Is division of responsibility a key to success?
Patrycja: Perhaps there is something to it. I work as the manager, coordinator, photographer, and designer. I deal with all the dirty work and papers. I am fearless. My dad and brother stay in the studio and make beautiful things. We have this running joke that they are the back room people.
I know that Marek taught Grzegorz the trade. What was the most important lesson and thing that your father taught you?
Grzegorz: Patience and accuracy. There is no room for plasterwork or trickery. If something breaks, you need to start over. There is no mercy here. It has to be done right from start to finish. The client has to be happy. Our jewelry is not meant to be something short-lived, but to become an heirloom for future generations.
You create jewelry from scratch without using ready-made molds. Why is that?
Grzegorz: We are aware that very few people still work like this way today and it is somewhat exceptional. As far as our industry, it is unique, because most jewelry studios do not create from scratch. It makes our jewelry stand out. You will not find copies of the same ring here. Even if we make a similar piece, the detailing is different every time. This way, everyone gets their one-of-a-kind item tailor-made just for them. Understandably, working this way is a challenge. It is time-consuming. It is also impossible to show renderings of the finished project in advance. So at a studio like ours, the client simply has to trust us. And we do our best not to abuse that trust.
Do you create made-to-order pieces only, or do you also make jewelry of your own design?
Grzegorz: Our offer includes ready to wear items, such as rings or earrings. You can drop by and if something catches your eye, it can be yours right away. However, in most cases, we create custom-made jewelry. We start with a search for a stone and adjust the rest of the design. Obviously, we already have a general idea after the first meeting, but it is the stone that sets the tone for the design and determines the final shape.
What is the process of searching for that perfect stone like?
Grzegorz: To a large extent it depends on the client’s budget, because sometimes there can be a substantial gap between expectations and what one can afford. However, we always strive to search for the most favorable solution and get a stone the client will find satisfactory in both its appearance and quality. In this respect, you can count on us. Both dad and I are Diamond Appraisers of the Polish Gemological Society. Last year, I also completed a Diamond Grader course at HRD Antwerp.
Is working closely with the client a challenge or a pleasure for you?
Marek: I’d have to say it’s a pleasure. In jewelry, it is the stone that considerably contributes to the first impression. So if you show it to the client, then the hard part is over, and you could say the client is content. Clearly, you have to add the setting, workmanship, and details to that, but the first step on the road to success has been made.
Unusual cuts are your hallmark. I was told that Grzegorz is a true master. How are your cuts different from what we can find in chain stores?
Grzegorz: Stones that are generally available receive a commercial cut. That means that the facets do not touch as they should, they are out of alignment. We often observe the fisheye effect, which means that the stone seems to be transparent, and light does not perform properly inside. If you put a newspaper against it, you could easily read it. This way, you immediately spot that something went wrong and that the color is only at the edges. And then there are precision cuts. That is what we do at our Studio and it is extraordinary. There is no one else in Poland who can cut stones like I do. In precision cuts, for the stone to have the right proportions you must first create a diagram, and then it all has to align. As a result, this stone comes alive, the luster displays in a completely different way, and the color is more vivid. It is as if the stone was sending a prompt smile to the client and the way it presents itself just makes you want to have it.
Marek: The difference between a precision and commercial cut can be seen at first glance. All you have to do it just place them side by side. Upon such comparison, even an untrained eye can recognize a precision cut. When the facets are cut symmetrically, they are evenly positioned in their correct places instead of being randomly and chaotically scattered, the experience is completely different.
Beautiful hand-made cuts. Do you have any more aces up your sleeve?
Patrycja: Sculpture. I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts with a major in sculpture. So we are not afraid to smuggle small sculptural forms in jewelry. They can be incredibly attractive. They draw our eyes to the detail work we like so much. I believe we can execute any and every idea our clients bring forth. The last remarkable piece we created that was highly sculptural was a dragon. A lady brought in her stones and a statue of a Chinese dragon. She wanted to make them made into a necklace.
Why was the dragon special?
Patrycja: The client had been looking for a long time for someone who would even consider carrying out her idea. Eventually, she found us. She had looked all over Poland and no one but us felt confident enough that they could face the challenge.
Marek: It was because that was an extremely difficult, very complicated piece. It really took a lot of time to make it look the way the client wanted it to. Just to prepare to create a dragon like that from gold is loads of work. Each scale had to be individually sculpted.
Patrycja: Exactly. When working with such petite forms, every detail draws attention. Precious metals expose all imperfections. Even the tiniest mistakes become instantly evident. We had a similar experience with a 14-carat-gold owl. We had a client once who was extremely curious about owls. So I started to explore the field looking through photos of owls. I realized that owls are actually beautiful enough to deserve to be immortalized in jewelry forms. I love such personalized, purely sculptural designs.
Since you have mentioned gold, is that your favorite metal?
Marek: We love gold, but we also work very well with palladium and platinum.
So here you are unanimous. No warfare breaking out. What is it about gold that you like it so much?
Grzegorz: You can do anything with gold. It lends itself to treatment and it is very ductile. That leaves plenty of room to maneuver when it comes to details. For me, the most enjoyable part of the job is exploiting the details. I also like gold because of all its shades; it can present a really wide range of tints. There is a gorgeous shine to it, too. It just draws the eye.
Marek: Working with gold is quite pleasant, because you can puncture, pull, stretch, or cast it. All technologies are at your fingertips. Both my son and I originally worked with gold. When you engage with such a material, you could say it’s a love till death do us part.
Are you just as unanimous about your favorite stone?
Grzegorz: Emerald is my personal favorite. One: because of its color. Two: because of its fragility. Many people are apprehensive about emerald, because setting is so tricky, and it likes to split into several parts. Many goldsmiths with less experience stress out when working on larger stones. To me emerald definitely means adrenaline and I like it. To broaden my expertise about the stone, I have completed specialist courses including Gemology at the University of Silesia.
Patrycja: That’s a tough question, because every stone is different, and the decision is a hard one. Sometimes even the choice of color becomes a challenge. But if I had to choose one stone, it would be the diamond.
Marek: Well put. Diamonds are my favorites, too. They are so hard that they lend themselves to all kinds of fun and you do not have to worry as much as with emeralds. However, that it not to say that you can be completely carefree, because the diamond has a distinctive cleavage. And so, despite its hardness, you need to proceed with care. If you make a mistake and something crumbles off, the diamond has just dropped in value.
Your studio offers much more than just diamonds and emeralds.
Patrycja: Of course we do. We have quite a selection of stones that are very rare in retail chains. Other than diamonds or emeralds, they may offer rubies, or occasionally topazes or aquamarines. We have almost just about anything you could ever desire: tourmalines, spinels, rhodolites and many, many more. We simply love stones, so the numbers just keep growing. A great variety of very unusual, exotic stones of splendid colors. It is worth getting to know them and seeing them in person because the assortment of precious stones goes well beyond the basic few I have mentioned here. There is a multitude of them out there.
Speaking of unusual things, your competition entries certainly count as such. You have collected quite a few awards for them. Tell us a little bit about them.
Grzegorz: Indeed, competition entries are our hallmark. We have been on the podium a fair number of times, but the one piece that proved to us that we can compete for the top was the Flower of Independence with a rhodolite. I am very fond of that piece because getting first place motivated us to start showing our work. It was living proof that people appreciate what we do. Anyway, everything we create for competitions is truly extraordinary, well thought-out and memorable. But it is also very time consuming. For Amberif, I created the piece Right Course and got an award. Tales of the Sea was the theme of the competition, so we went for the form of a compass rose. The piece is made from two-color amber, white and yellow gold and diamonds. It took about 220-230 hours to complete. It was a month of solid work on just one thing.
These days, we do not see such care and attention given to just one item too often. Where does this approach come from?
Patrycja: Jewelry is in fact a form of applied art. It should not be reduced to the ranks of mass market, wholesale, or the priority of quantity. We know perfectly well the origins of jewelry. It was meant to be unique, personalized, and created with a specific person in mind. The gift of jewelry was a meaningful one. The recipient was to enjoy it and eventually be able to pass it on. Jewelry was intended to become part of someone’s history. I do not believe this can pair up with mass production and haste. We work with great care and attention to detail. There is diligence in that.
Who are your clients? Who can appreciate craftsmanship and perfectionism today?
Marek: Our clients are people in search for something exceptional for themselves. Definitely, a common denominator is that they are demanding. They want to get exactly what they dreamed up, and they are looking for someone who will take on the challenge of the particular design they are seeking. Our clients come around several times. They visit, chat and look around. The desire grows inside. It takes some time before they commission a piece. In the meantime, they learn from a few other goldsmiths that no one will undertake their dream jewelry item.
So you are the last hope?
Marek: I guess you could say that. We seem to have the client leave us with a smile of satisfaction. That is a fantastic reward for us.
Grzegorz: It is definitely a very pleasant part of our job and a tremendous feeling. Especially when clients return. When they come back for another piece, we greet them like an old friend. It is terrific because it goes to show that despite having cost a considerable amount of money, we managed to make someone happy and that they want more. It proves that our efforts pay off. We have regular customers from all over Poland, and also from abroad. And they want us, and only us, to make jewelry for them.
Patrycja: Sometimes a client comes to us having looked for a very long time for someone who would create a piece for them. It also gives us incredible satisfaction that we can do something that nobody but us is able to do. This is the greatest reward for all those hours spent on refining the minutest details of the piece.