February’s edition of our monthly investment updates features an interesting set of cufflinks which could well become a Dutch design classic.
The City Cufflinks bear all the hallmarks of traditional jewellery craftsmanship, but they have a very modern twist. Designer Seroj de Graaf, co-founder of the Amsterdam-based design studio New Design Associates, has produced the striking silver cufflinks using the latest 3D printing technologies.
Intrigued by the technology, but uninspired by the usual low-grade plastic output, de Graaf set his sights on a higher-quality end product. Cufflinks became the obvious choice when de Graaf noticed how many men are still dedicated to wearing, and collecting, this classic item of jewellery.
For the design, De Graaf found inspiration in the diversity and beauty of the canal houses on the Herengracht in Amsterdam.
Exploring the canals of Amsterdam, I was inspired by the beautiful façades of all houses in the city. Without a clear beginning or end each canal tells its own ‘story’ with a row of characteristic façades It seems like an endless circle. The visual interplay of many windows, doors and other details transforms a set of houses into a unique entity. Seroj de Graaf
De Graaf sourced the original Herengracht building plans from the Amsterdam city archive to create a precise digital model of canal houses numbers 1 to 77.
By working directly from the computer model, the 3D printer was able to create the highly-detailed wax model required for casting the Herengracht houses in silver. The cufflinks can now be cast in batches, then refined and finished by hand to the highest standard. The process is a harmonious blend of technology and craftsmanship.
With the houses constructed in a circle, the cufflink has a precisely-faceted surface that playfully catches the light. The eye is then drawn to the row of Herengracht canal houses intricately carved around the edge. It is a striking modern design, but with a charming and respectful nod to Amsterdam’s heritage and the elegance of the ‘Gentleman’s Canal’.
Another innovative aspect of the ‘City Cufflinks’ project, is that it was initiated through ‘crowd-funding’ on Facebook. Having created the 3D design, de Graaf posted the project on Facebook and invited 50 potential sponsors to fund the prototype cufflinks. In return they would receive a pair of limited edition cufflinks from the first production run, accompanied with a signed certificate of authenticity. It took just one week for the project to be fully funded!
For de Graaf, the biggest surprise was the sense of connection that the project created. Many of the investors wanted to get more involved, and to actually meet each other. This aim was achieved at a special event organised by two of the investors, where the sponsors received their limited-edition first-run cufflinks. Appropriately, the event took place at the Jan Six Fine Arts gallery on the Herengracht, and was attended by the Mayor of Amsterdam.
City Cufflinks are now in production and available direct from de Bijenkorf and the Rijksmuseum, as well as a selection of boutique outlets.
Although Seroj de Graaf’s design studio works on a broad range of products and design projects, it seems that City Cufflinks have inspired a passion for detail in de Graaf – along with an appreciation of the unique sense of connection that jewellery can have. So hopefully we may have more New Design Associates jewellery projects to look forward to in the future.
About Seroj de Graaf / New Design Associates
New Design Associates is an Amsterdam-based design company founded by Seroj de Graaf and Jeroen Pliester. New Design Associates designs, develops and markets design products in-house or on behalf of third parties. The studio also undertakes business development services.
Photo credits: Seroj de Graaf, Chocolate and Foam
- On 13th February 2013