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Hardy slips a stunning silver-and-diamond pavĂ© cuff off his wife's wrist and holds it up to the light. It looks as if some silver-fingered Midas brushed against a bamboo trellis covered in climbing flowers. â€śIn 200 years,â€ť he says, â€śyou will see this on the block at Sotheby's.â€ť He is not speaking of the design but of the exquisite craftsmanship. One of the great luxuries of working in Bali is the ability to draw from a tradition of jewelry making that goes back thousands of yearsâ€”and the ability to lure Europe's greatest designers with the promise of working in paradise. Hardy's designers number in the eighties, something unheard of for most jewelry companies. That allows for an unparalleled attention to detail, such as the back of a brooch that is just as beautiful as the front. â€śIt's like a little secret for the wearer alone,â€ť says creative director Guy Bedarida. â€śThat's our trademark.â€ť
It's also one of the reasons John Hardy jewelry has such a following. Customers feel an intensely personal bond with their pieces. Hardy says it's because the jewelry has soul, something he attributes to the fact that everything he designs is handmade. â€śOur jewelry is more than the sum of its parts,â€ť he says. â€śThe man who carved your bracelet is proud of it.â€ť That's Hardy's critical ingredient for luxury: the hand-hewn imperfections that turn a thing of beauty into a work of art.
â€śWe could make this all by machine,â€ť says Bedarida, â€śbut it would be a kind of death. Death of tradition, and death of soul.â€ť Not that the latest high-tech casting machines don't exist on the factory floor; they just share space with village women wielding toothpick paintbrushes and men pounding silver beads onto titanium ribbon with wooden mallets.
â€śThat's what I love about how we make our jewelry,â€ť says Cynthia Hardy. â€śYou have these wonderful craftspeople descended from artisans who worked for the kings of Bali hundreds of years ago sitting down with ceramic polymer from Liechtenstein. It's 21st century technology combined with the craftsmanship and talents of the 19th century.â€ť
If the John Hardy factory is 21st century, the John Hardy home could be the futureâ€”or at least the Hardy vision of a sustainable, luxurious future. The entire structure is built of recycled hardwoods, including old ironwood telephone poles. It appears to float above an organic garden, and the ground floor has no walls, allowing for an unobstructed view over endless rice paddies.
A day with the Hardys is living life as it should be lived: effortless, peaceful, sensuous. But it also takes into account actions and their repercussions. On the third anniversary of the terrible bombings in Bali that took 202 lives, and 11 days after another bombing that rattled the Balinese people's already shaky confidence, the Hardys discussed how they were helping their adopted home. â€śAt first I thought about raising money to build a hospital,â€ť says Cynthia. â€śBut John said that we could do a better job looking after our own workers. So that's where we started.â€ť