Interview with the Founder of Shamballa Jewels
The New York-based, Kathmandu-inspired, jewelry company Shamballa Jewels, creates designs with deep meaning and a connection to ancient history.
“In a sense, Shamballa Jewels doesn’t really have much to do with jewellery. The jewellery is almost like a vehicle to spread the mantra of Shamballa all over the planet to all kinds of human beings.”
Tibetan Buddhism speaks of a mythical kingdom called Shambala hidden deep within the Himalayas. The spiritual significance of this magical place traces back to an ancient prophecy that generations of believers have interpreted to be the birthplace of the final incarnation of Vishnu, who will usher in a new Age.
Today, Mads Kornerup, co-founder of Shamballa Jewels, brings that mystical nature and divine belief to jewelry designs. “For us at Shamballa, the goal has always been to help you try to overcome fear,” he says. “Whether it is the fear of dying, fear of envy, fear of jealousy, greed, all the aspects of fear that you have within you. It’s what you have to overcome in order to get in touch with your inner Shamballa.”
Kornerup’s journey in the jewellery industry didn’t start in the Himalayas, however. Instead, it was on the hard-biting streets of New York that he discovered his calling. He had been working as a photographer’s assistant when he started a side business of selling hand-braided Indian jewellery since he had always had a fondness for Eastern arts. When profits from the jewellery began to earn him more than three times what his regular job paid, he decided to strike out on his own and start a company.
Destined fate leading to the path to Shambala Jewels
Growing up in Denmark and later moving to New York, Kornerup always had an appreciation for the breadth of the world. He was eventually drawn to the expansive world of the Eastern mysticism, but one place in particular changed his journey of life. “It was really Kathmandu that lured me in—there was a homey feeling, a feeling of having most likely been there before,” he says.
“Kathmandu served as inspiration because it has such a rich history of Hinduism and Buddhism mixed together. The artistry, the craftsmanship that they have—the wood carving, the statue carving, the statue casting, the crystal carving—are just mind-blowing and out of this world. I take all these great symbols and I translate them into my Danish design aesthetic.”
Kornerup’s designs marry ancient Buddhist and Nordic philosophy nicely with modern Scandinavian design and Indian craftsmanship, bringing us into a mysterious world with richness and beauty both physical and intangible.
“Being around Buddhist philosophy for so many years now, I’ve grown more comfortable with the concept of reincarnation,” he says. “But I grew up in Denmark, where there was no talk of it whatsoever in my childhood. So for me, it began as a very distant, far-off idea. I would say that in the last few years, it’s been accepted by my mind and ego that there might be a possibility that we are all reincarnations. That’s a super exciting thing.”
Equally exciting for Kornerup is the global resurgence of ancient philosophies in general. “It’s some of the most profound knowledge, and the Chinese, especially, have had it,” he says. “People are digging that knowledge back up again and understanding how precious it is and how much we can learn from it now.”
Shamballa Jewels’ Four Virtues
Kornerup drew inspiration for Shamballa’s logo from the sacred Tibetan double vajra symbol. “We have adopted four virtues represented by the double vajra symbol – joy, love, compassion, and wisdom – which are the representations of the four directions of the double thunderbolt. It’s our interpretation of the ancient Eastern mythical symbol,” Kornerup says. According to legend, the inhabitants of Shamballa became so in tune with themselves and one another that they released all fear and transcended duality, becoming one with the universe.
“In a sense, Shamballa Jewels doesn’t really have much to do with jewellery,” says Kornerup, but he hopes his bijoux can inspire the bearers on many levels and encourage them on their own journeys.
“Everybody is different—all seven billion of us are actually different. We encourage people to come with their own ideas, their own ways of putting colours and stones together. The different stones have different energies and different values—it’s about people trusting their own intuition,” he says. “Just listen within. Don’t listen to your brain—listen to your heart.”