The story of Kalevala Jewelry
Every piece of Kalevala jewelry tells a story: legends from history, stories of our time, glimpses of the future. We would also like to share the story of Kalevala Jewelry as a company. This is a journey into more than eighty years of making jewelry – welcome along!
Brave visions can go a long way. In 1935, inspired by the centennial of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, writer Elsa Heporauta (1883–1960) came up with the idea of setting up a statue for the Finnish woman. She established a committee of influential women to raise funds for the statue project. The committee decided to produce and sell jewelry based on ancient models that were selected from the collections of the National Museum of Finland. The first collection of 40 models was introduced in December 1937, and it was an instant hit. The jewelry production expanded, and the fund-raising project evolved into the most beloved jewelry brand in Finland – a much greater way to pay homage to Finnish women than a single statue! Eventually, a statue was also set up, albeit a much smaller one than initially planned. The bronze statue entitled Louhi, which was designed by Emil Halonen, is now situated in the premises of the owner of Kalevala Jewelry, the Kalevala Women's Association » in Helsinki.
PICTURE: Writer Elsa Heporauta (1883-1960) founded Kalevala Jewelry. She wanted to establish a statue to honor the Finnish woman.
Moon Goddess is born
The establishment of Kalevala Jewelry was the result of the visions and vigor of strong Finnish women, but its first collections were nevertheless designed by a man. Germund Paaer (1881–1950) designed the first pieces of jewelry based on pieces selected from the Finnish National Museum's collections. He also selected the makers of the jewelry and carefully monitored the quality of manufacture.
"The edges must be flawlessly smooth. The woman will be touching them with her sensitive fingers, so they must not have any inconsistencies and they most definitely must not be sharp!” (Germund Paaer)
By the 1940s, Paaer had already designed over 200 pieces for Kalevala Jewelry. Apart from copies and adaptations of museum pieces, Paaer also produced his own designs, which drew inspiration from the shapes and rich ornamentation of ancient jewelry but were not directly based on any specific items. Many of these designs have become iconic Kalevala Jewelry classics, such as Moon Goddess and Iku-Turso, which are still in production. In addition to jewelry, Paaer also designed over 300 wooden decorations and utility items for Kalevala Jewelry in the 1940s.
PICTURE: Did you know that we have also had bridal crowns designed by Germund Paaer in our offering? The crowns were rented out, and the proceeds were used for the benefit of people who lost their eyesight in the war.
“If you copy something old, you must also create something new.” (Elsa Heporauta)
In 1947, Kalevala Jewelry organized the first design competition for modern jewelry. Designers awarded in this competition include Kirsti Ilvessalo and Kaj Franck. The role of modern jewelry design further increased in the early 1950s, when the young Eero Rislakki (1924-2017) was hired as the head of design, followed by Börje Rajalin in 1956. Modern jewelry design was also a key driver in the international breakthrough of Finnish applied art. One important milestone in this success was the 1960 Milan Triennial, where a unique silver installation designed by Rajalin and manufactured by Kalevala Jewelry, won the gold medal and, consequently, gained a lot of publicity both in Finland and abroad. In addition to the standard sales collections, Rajalin also designed impressive unique pieces of jewelry for Kalevala Jewelry, such as the spectacular golden bracelet Tokio.
PICTURE: The Tokio bracelet. Designed by Börje Rajalin, this unique golden bracelet features implanted smoky quartz, Lapland garnet and rose quartz.
First woman as head of design
The first woman appointed as Kalevala Jewelry's head of design was Paula Häiväoja (1929–2011). Häiväoja joined the company in 1963. Her ultra-modern silver and gold jewelry designs look equally futuristic today as they did half a century ago. In celebration of Häiväoja's 80th birthday in 2009, Kalevala Jewelry produced a batch of 80 numbered pieces of the “Currents of Change” ring designed by the artist in the 1960s.
PICTURE: A brave specimen of 1960s design. Futuristic silver headband designed by Paula Häiväoja.
Peace and love
“Peace in the world begins in the heart of each individual.” Participants at the SALT talks in Helsinki in 1972 were greeted with these words and the brooch shown in the picture. Originally designed by Germund Paaer in the 1940s based on an old brooch found in Kihniö, Finland, this piece of jewelry gained an entirely new meaning as a symbol of peace. This brooch was presented to the spouses of all heads of state who participated in the talks. This brooch is a good example of how stories evolve and come together in our jewelry. The year 1972 was also when Kalevala Jewelry moved into its first office and factory building of its own, in the Pitäjänmäki district of Helsinki. Since then, all of our jewelry has been manufactured in western Helsinki. The company is solidly rooted in the capital of Finland!
PICTURE: Spouses of the heads of state participating in the SALT talks visited Kalevala Jewelry's factory in spring 1972.
The enchanting eighties
The 1980s marked an era of dynamic development and modernization for Kalevala Jewelry. We opened a new store, introduced automatic data processing at our factory, and featured hefty shoulder pads in our ads. In 1989, Kalevala Jewelry bought Kaunis Koru, a company founded by Martta Ritvanen in 1956, which produced simplified, modern jewelry.
PICTURE: Silver and plastic. The winning design by Tarja Kunttunen in the Kalevala Jewelry design competition 1986.
The Sun Lion era
In the morning of February 28 – Kalevala Day in Finland – in 1997, people queued at the Kalevala Jewelry store in Helsinki for the Sun Lion. This jewelry collection marked Kalevala Jewelry's 60th anniversary, and the first 180 necklaces of this collection were made from genuine Lapland gold, and also numbered. Our factory store had only 20 of these numbered necklaces to sell – not quite enough for all the enthusiasts.
PICTURE: Miss Finland Lola Odusoga in a Sun Lion advertisement in spring 1997.
Into the new millennium
In the 2000s, the focus of Kalevala Jewelry's collections began to shift from historically inspired classic jewelry to modern jewelry reflecting the spirit of the time, as well as the vision and skills of the designers. A trailblazer for the success of modern Kalevala Jewelry models was the Twinflower by Kirsti Doukas. At first, some people had doubts about this model, which “doesn't look like a piece of Kalevala Jewelry at all”, but it turned out to be very successful. It was followed by such models as Fountain, Dream, and Snow Flower, which today are well-known pieces of empowering jewelry for the modern woman – just like the classic Moon Goddess and the Water Signs ring were in their time.
PICTURE: The Twinflower, the modest beauty of Finnish forests. This jewelry collection designed by Kirsti Doukas has had a place in Finns’ hearts since 2002.
Kalevala Jewelry today
Kalevala Jewelry is one of the most well-known and valued brands in Finland. It has its finger firmly on the pulse of today, keeps an open mind and bravely addresses contemporary issues. As a company founded and owned by women, we have a particular passion for promoting women’s and girls’ rights and equal opportunities to follow their dreams and break the boundaries of traditional gender roles. We want to diversify the representation of women and femininity, and empower each individual woman to bravely be herself. All this is crystallized in our slogan, Untamed Beauty. Kalevala Jewelry and Untamed Beauty pay homage to the Finnish woman of today.
Kalevala Jewelry's brand video Untamed Beauty from spring 2017.