A Swedish goldsmith makes old European jewelry in Vancouver
Pernilla Ahrnstedt, a Swedish Goldsmith, came to Vancouver in 1988, without knowing anything about her new prospective home town.
"I had only heard about Montreal and Hull in Quebec, but never Vancouver," she tells me in a recent interview.
Pernilla met her Canadian now ex-husband while backpacking through Greece. He invited her to visit Vancouver, hoping she would like it and want to stay.
"Arriving here in April, after leaving a typical grey and muddy spring in Stockholm, was amazing. My first impression was that the whole town was scrubbed clean, everything was so green and I loved the cherry blossoms." says Pernilla with a smile.
Vancouver was not what Pernilla had expected at all. She thought it would be more like a typical North American city that she had seen in the movies, filled with high rises and densely populated with a mix of races.
"Back in the late 80's Vancouver still seemed like a small town with wonderful quiet residential neighbourhoods. I think that the city planners have been very successful in retaining a charming mix of low and high rises. Vancouver still doesn't feel like a huge city, and that's a good thing!" she laughs happily.
Pernilla was immediately impressed with the overall Canadian friendliness that she encountered everywhere.
"I love that you can chit chat with anyone, people smile and you feel so welcome. I remember the first time the check out girl at Safeway asked me how my day was going, and I wondered why and what should I say? did she really care?"
"In Sweden people are so much more reserved and unwilling to open up to strangers. I'm glad that Vancouver is still so friendly even though it has grown a lot since I first came here."
Pernilla had studied fine art and metal art in Sweden, and after settling into Vancouver she applied and got accepted to the industrial design program at Emily Carr University on Granville Island. She later transferred to the jewellery art design program at Vancouver Community College (VCC).
After graduating from VCC she shared a few different studios with artists around town, before ending up at Aurum Argentum (Gold Silver in Latin) in the Railspur Alley on Granville Island back in 2001. Aurum Argentum is a Co-op studio where 3 goldsmiths, with individual businesses, share the space.
"My business is a one woman show," Pernilla laughs and tosses her long blonde hair. "I do everything from sales and marketing to the paperwork and designing of the jewellery."
Pernilla specializes in custom made design jewellery, and specifically engagement and wedding rings for couples who want a unique piece instead of the mass produced lines in the big stores.
"I work with the clients' ideas and budgets, they can choose a design they like out of my portfolio, or we can develop one together. A custom made ring can be produced in 3-5 weeks."
"I only deal with conflict free diamonds, and on request Canadian diamonds. The gem dealers I do business with are all Canadian. The gold I use is 100 % recycled, and comes exclusively from a gold refining plant in the US."
Pernilla also produces her own line of jewellery which has a unique "Old European" feel to it.
"I create the type of jewellery I would like to wear myself and it is so exciting when a client likes my own creations. I get inspired by history, movies, Greek mythology. I especially like roman, byzantine and renaissance style of jewellery."
"Moving to Vancouver really changed my life. I don't think I would have been able to have my own studio back in Sweden. There are so many opportunities here for everyone, and less obstacles even for an immigrant. I do miss my family in Sweden and I visit occasionally, but I would never want to move back there."
Pernilla also has family here; Evelyn (14) and Piers (10), as well as her new partner who works in the film industry.
"My long term professional goal is to design more jewellery, and to have staff that could produce it for me. My personal goal is to eventually work less, spend more time with my family and friends, and to travel. I would like to finally take that trip to New York that I've been dreaming about for years," says Pernilla with a big smile.
For more information about Pernilla's jewellery, check out her website.