Designer Mads Kornerup’s distinctive Shamballa jewellery circles the globe with its messages of tolerance, empathy, and love. From New York to Madrid, people are opening their eyes and minds to this exclusive Danish jewellery whose design is inspired by the Buddhist faith.
By Tina Varde
Shamballa Jewels, specialised in jewellery inspired by Buddhism, is enjoying great success with the launch of their exclusive pavé diamond bracelet. And at the moment, international interest in their coveted bling is spiralling to enlightened heights. Last month, both American and Spanish *Vogue* ran articles zeroing in on the Danish jeweller brothers, Mads and Mikkel Kornerup, and their precious jewellery designs. Danish supermodel Helena Christensen played an instrumental role in ushering the brothers into the spotlight when she swanned down the red carpet at the *Vanity Fair* Oscar party in Los Angeles wearing a Shamballa pavé bracelet lavished with 1,116 sparkling diamonds. It was sold shortly afterwards for the whopping sum of $50,000. Older brother Mads Kornerup designs the actual jewellery, while little brother Mikkel Kornerup is responsible for the more technical side, such as computer modelling and production. Their pieces are sold in Denmark at exclusive retailers including Copenhagen jeweller Hartmann’s and high-end fashion boutique Birger Christensen, and their jewellery is also exported for sale in the USA, England, Kuwait, Dubai, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia.
Jewellery with a message
Shamballa Jewels is attractively situated in a bright, inviting Aladdin’s cave in Grønnegade, in the heart of cosmopolitan Copenhagen. This is where Mads Kornerup can be found most days in his creative workshop. “I hope that diamond jewellery can help to establish an open dialogue with the world’s richest people. After all, it is the rich who have the most power; by addressing them we hope we can spread the message on Buddhist values such as tolerance, empathy and happiness,” the 37-year-old designer explains. “I don’t analyse things too much. Instead, I try to get a sense of what I’m doing and dive in when it feels right. Take hold of the opportunities that arise. Life is filled with coincidences. I’ve been off on many tangents, but that’s life, and you learn from everything you do,” Mads Kornerup muses.
Mads Kornerup had his first intense spiritual experience when, at age 20, he stood on a mountain top in Brazil and felt the forces of nature in an entirely new and powerful way. At the time, he lived in a rented house on a nearby beach, having found himself “crash-landed in the fashion world” as a photographer’s assistant. He then travelled to New York, where for seven years he operated his business, Shamballa Jewels. But in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Mads and his girlfriend Andrea decided to move back to Denmark. For a couple of years they ran a large yoga and meditation centre, which provided them with a great many experiences and life lessons, but no real financial profits. Nearly three years ago, Mads partnered with his brother Mikkel to once again focus on designing jewellery with a spiritual message. One piece reads *Um mani padme hum* – a soulful Buddhist ‘classic’ mantra that resounds with love and fellow feeling.
We are all stars
Mads Kornerup has spent years travelling in Asia, studying Buddhism and yoga. His desire to disseminate the best of the East to the West is also grounded in a need to “give something back to the East, which has given me so much,” as he puts it. Among many strong impressions is the one provided by his stay with the Neware Buddhists in Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. It was here that he designed his logo, the double Tibetan thunderbolt and shamballa star, which symbolises the concept that we are all of us shining stars. This is also where Andrea became pregnant with their son Storm, who is now nine years old and who has since been joined by a little brother, one-year-old Nor. All of which keeps Mads Kornerup very busy – both professionally and in his personal life based in Copenhagen. “For me, the strong messages of the 1980s Benetton ads constitute the ideal way in which advertising and societal messages can be combined. They really made a positive impact in their time, and I hope that we can, too,” explains Mads, who goes on to say: “Right now we’re looking into the possibility of working with Buddhist monks who can help us to create jewellery in the right spirit.”