Danish fine jewelry line Shamballa Jewels was founded in 2005 by brothers Mads and Mikkel Kornerup. Based in Copenhagen, the jewelry line takes its name from the Tibetan word for ‘happiness, or place of peace and tranquility’ and echoes the same sentiment through simple pieces made from ethically-sourced precious stones. In 2009, Michael Lillelund joined Shamballa Jewels as International Business Developer, propelling the brand to over 25 retailers around the world. Today, Lillelund continues to the grow the brand’s presence in the North American luxury market through SL Luxury Group.
When did you become involved with Shamballa Jewels? How has your role evolved over the years?
I partnered up with Shamballa Jewels in early 2009 when the company was predominantly focused on the Danish market and was only selling in a few stores internationally. I was brought onboard to grow the brand’s presence around the world and open up retailers in the major luxury markets. It was an amazing opportunity to work with a unique luxury brand so early on and help it grow to what it currently is.
In the early days, the focus was to get Shamballa Jewels into all the magazines and fashion events and make sure all the right people were wearing it, so the retailers in turn would start demanding it. I’d like to think we did a pretty good job at that! The job has evolved into scaling Shamballa Jewels around the world to new markets and ensuring the brand stays at the forefront of the luxury goods sector.
At SL Luxury Group, I’m continuing the journey I started in 2009 and focusing on growth of Shamballa Jewels in North America to allow Shamballa Jewels to have a strong foothold in the largest luxury goods market in the world.
The jewels are inspired by spiritual concepts – what does this mean exactly?
Ancient scriptures tell us of a mythical kingdom hidden in a valley in the Himalayas. A harmonious place populated by enlightened and compassionate people. The Kingdom of Shamballa, when translated into Sanskrit, means ‘a place of peace and tranquility’. Shamballa Jewels recreates this mythical place vibrant with the energy of creation – this philosophy is central to the jewelry.
Evocative of spiritual icons, symbols, and prayer beads used since the dawn of time, the jewelry encourages you to find your inner Shamballa. The distinct way of presenting the holistic principles of yoga and meditation with pavé beads and macramé braiding is now synonymous with Shamballa Jewels’ signature style. Reminiscent of places near and far, of spiritual stores ancient and new, Shamballa Jewels is designed to trigger curiosity and inspire conversation.
Shamballa Jewels counts many high profile celebrities as clients and fans, such as Jay Z, Diane von Furstenberg, Riccardo Tisci, Jessica Chastain, and Mary-Kate Olsen. How does this diverse group reflect the brand?
The opportunity to customize the bracelets was central to the spirit behind Shamballa Jewels. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves to the world and that is represented in the jewelry. We didn’t want the jewelry to be focused on one target group or have one specific design like a lot of other brands. Shamballa Jewels allows the wearer to be the designer and create their own unique piece to symbolize how they want to be reflected to the world. It’s so interesting to see how different the pieces are that people create. The core design of Shamballa Jewels is always there, but after that, you are making the bracelet your own and I think that has given us a lot of success among such a diverse group of people.
How do you describe the “Shamballa lifestyle”?
It’s a similar answer to the previous question. Our goal is to create beautiful pieces that last for centuries and the wearer has to define their own lifestyle. Most of the people wearing Shamballa Jewels bracelets are full of energy and passion in whatever they are doing, whether that is art, business or fashion.
Do you present new styles each season?
While the braided bracelet is core to Shamballa Jewels, we release new styles every season. The most popular styles now are the Tennis Bracelet, the Royal Bracelet and the Pyramid Bracelet. The Tennis Bracelet is the first bracelet we have done without the braiding, where we actually integrated the classic Star of Shamballa Gold bead as the lock. We created the Royal Bracelet for Princess Mary of Denmark. We have also had a lot of success with new forms of the bracelet like the Pyramid Bracelet, which is now one of our biggest sellers.
What is the signature Shamballa Jewels piece of jewelry?
The 10mm Macramé Gold Bracelet –there’s nothing like it and it will be a classic piece that always represents Shamballa Jewels.
How involved are brothers Mads and Mikkel Kornerup in the day-to-day?
Both Mads and Mikkel are still heavily involved in everything to do with Shamballa Jewels. The same as day one, Mads continues to lead a strong design team in Copenhagen, continuing to develop new styles and oversee the quality of all of the Shamballa Jewels lines. Mikkel leads business activities and operations for the brand. They are both my original mentors and I couldn’t have been where I am today without them. They gave me the tools to grow the brand around the world, but without them Shamballa Jewels wouldn’t exist.
Where are the jewels made?
All the pavé beads are hand-set in Hong Kong. They have done our beads for years and we won’t work with anyone else. Each pavé bead is made under a microscope by hand to ensure perfection. All of the gold and braiding is done by hand by our own designers in our workshops in Copenhagen. Each bracelet is finished off and inspected by a lead designer to ensure absolute perfection before it is sent to a retailer.
Is there a luxury market in Denmark? What’s it like?
Denmark has a thriving luxury goods market mostly due to the culture that is extremely focused on design. A lot of people have been surprised on their first trip to Copenhagen to see how fashionable all of the people are. Almost all of the leading luxury goods brands have a presence in Copenhagen and our Shamballa Jewels flagship store has attracted tourists from all over the world. This thriving luxury goods market in Denmark has allowed us to use it as a test market for new products to gauge interest before releasing them into the larger market.