Meet the former architects turning their hand to jewellery design

Munich-based Sian Design bring algorithms and artistry to their jewels

Munich studio
Simon Vorhammer and Antonia Frey in their Munich studio.
(Image credit: Hudson Hayden)

For Antonia Frey and Simon Vorhammer of Sian Design, the move from architecture to jewellery design was a natural progression. Both disciplines are inextricably concerned with space and light, geometry and texture, and these are just as carefully considered in miniature as they are on a large scale.

A move from Sydney, where they worked as architects, back home to Munich, where their jewellery is now crafted, sparked a desire to create on a smaller scale. ‘Complex geometries and structures are so much easier to implement in jewellery than in architecture,’ Frey and Vorhammer agree. ‘Also, there is no direct client. We can very much do what we are interested in.’

sian design necklace

Neta pendant in yellow gold.

(Image credit: Photography Adam Barclay)

The pair’s architectural skills have been transposed and updated. They refer to themselves as ‘digital native’ designers and professionally they move between the virtual and physical worlds. Working with both 3D-modelling and physical prototypes, combining digital and analogue methods, is central to their creative process.

And the use of digital technology goes deeper into the design process. ‘For each design, a computer algorithm is created, defining the logic and the geometrical dependencies between all elements,’ Frey says, giving them the opportunity to explore several potential geometrical formations. A negative mould, 3D-printed layer by layer in wax, then becomes a vessel in which to pour precious metal, which in turn is meticulously reworked by their goldsmith.

sian design bracelet

Sana bracelet in black polyamide.

(Image credit: Photography Adam Barclay)

Frey and Vorhammer focus on one material per piece, and emphasise the juxtaposition of textures. This approach is reflected in their first collection, where shells of intertwined webs twist on pendants, working together but never touching. Rings and bangles are a twist of smooth gold on the inside and tightly packed grids on the outside; sometimes, the jewellers reverse the smooth and the rough, so the bangle becomes a deceptively simple loop of gold. Only on closer inspection can thick bonds of an inner lattice be glimpsed, a teasing border of fine stitching along the edges the only clue to the delicate filigree detailing inside. The majority of the pieces are in gold, but the pair have experimented with light black polyamide and black PVD coating, hinting at future directions.

The duo are revelling in the relatively rapid journey from idea to realised design that their technology allows, In traditional architecture, as they point out, concept to realisation can take several years - here, design variants and prototypes can be established very quickly. ‘It’s perfect timing that we now have access to a technology that gives us the opportunity to realise our ideas. This wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago,’ says Frey. Obstacles barely faze them, instead opening up new avenues of creativity: ‘Throughout our careers, we have learned that the one perfect solution does not exist, but many.’

As originally featured in the April 2020 issue of Wallpaper* (W*253). Download it free here.

Sian Design

Iva bangle, Avi bangle, Nio earrings and Nio rings, all in yellow gold.

(Image credit: Photography Adam Barclay)

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.