The entrance to Shamballa Jewels' new boutique in New York City features a sacred lingal stone suspended from a mandala symbol set into the ceiling. Photo by Peter Murdock
New York--Spiritual expression through symbols is the guiding design principle of Shamballa Jewels and, likewise, the Danish brand’s new digs in New York City.

Opened late last month, Shamballa’s new retail space in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood is its only other branded store outside of its Copenhagen flagship.

Its location on the second floor of 170 Mercer St., like every endeavor on which Shamballa embarks, has meaning to founder Mads Kornerup.
20171108 Shamballa insert1The Shamballa Jewels second floor store front on 170 Mercer St; photo by Peter Murdock

For many years he lived on Thompson Street in the neighborhood, and after classes at the now defunct Virayoga, he and his friends would decamp to a restaurant where Shamballa Jewels sits now, sitting at a corner table against the dramatic street-facing windows that reach to the ceiling, which is exactly where we sit when I interview him, albeit on a sumptuous velvet couch.

Kornerup enlisted his in-house architect and the company that designs Shamballa trade show booths to create the New York interiors, which he says are similar to the Copenhagen store designed by Space Copenhagen.

“All the carpentry was done in Copenhagen, shipped over and assembled in three weeks,” he tells me.

One of the advantages of being located on the second floor, besides the considerably lower real estate value than the street-level properties, is the opportunity for a grand entrance.

When I enter, I alight a large wooden staircase that leads to an enormous oak mandala symbol on the ceiling at its apex. A polished lingam stone sourced from India that is used for worship as a representation of Shiva hangs suspended on a brass rod from the mandala’s center.

If a passerby thought they were entering some sort of Asian temple or meditation hall (with well-heeled and chic parishioners), then Kornerup and his team would have achieved their desired effect.

Though the store fits into the aesthetic narrative of the Copenhagen flagship with its mix of Nordic and Asian influences and a dark, relaxing color palette accented by low lighting, the mandala symbol was introduced just for New York at the behest of Kornerup’s architect. It’s repeated on a smaller scale across the ceiling, over a stone bar and all the way to the windows.

20171108 Shamballa insert2Mikkel and Mads Kornerup; photo by Peter Murdock

“The mandala is the cosmic representation of our spirit and mind,” he tells me. “It’s the different layers of ego and spirit that are represented in the mandala. You will always see mandalas in Buddhist monasteries, and you will see all different kinds of paintings and signs that are there to unlock the different layers for you to eventually be free of. That’s what Shamballa is about--all the symbolism we use is a reminder to unlock your pure potential.”

There’s of course, a less beatific, more commerical aspect to Shamballa.

It’s no coincidence that the brand hails from the same country as Pandora, essentially serving as the latter’s upscale counterpart, an ironic play on mass-market consumerism, but Kornerup tells me that his dedication to beaded bracelets, which are available in all manner of precious and semi-precious gemstones, even as the brand offers other categories like rings, is the beads’ religious implication. 

“My design philosophy is really simple,” says Kornerup. “For me, it’s not so much about the piece of jewelry, it’s most important that the symbolism is something that reminds you of something, even if just to calm your mind, to take a conscious inhalation.

20171108 Shamballa insert3I wanted to create a meditative, church feel," said Kornerup of the brand's new store in lower Manhattan. Photo by Peter Murdock

“That’s why I love the beads, because they’ve always represented mantras, calming your mind whether with a rosary or a mala, from all the different religions. That’s why the beads have always fascinated me and keep on fascinating me. That’s why we hold on to the bead world.”

Kornerup’s similarity to and difference from Pandora has proved a savvy model since the brand as we know it today launched in 2005.

With starting price points at $3,000 to $5,000, Kornerup views a Shamballa bracelet as a status item for the man or woman who already has the vacation house, the luxury car and the Rolex, but one that retains the wearability of a Pandora bracelet via its masculine, unfussy appearance, due in large part to its mix of diamonds and gems with string.

Kornerup believes this so much so that he plans on opening stores in Los Angeles and Miami because “it’s a product that really loves to be in the sun, it’s a high-end piece of jewelry that loves to be on the beach … it won’t break,” though London and Paris are in line first.

He says that he and his brother/business partner Mikkel’s greatest accomplishment is getting men to wear jewelry, the type of men who would typically never deign to adorn themselves with more than a watch and a pair of cufflinks.

20171108 Shamballa insert4Shamballa Jewels' bracelets, which combine gold, precious and semi-precious gemstones with string, begin retailing at $3,000 to $5,000.

Kornerup is a man who wears a uniform--black Dior Jeans, Mykita glasses and a python jacket dyed black that he designed himself--and even if it’s more fashion-forward than the average executive’s look, Kornerup and his brother have been able to establish what a man would feel comfortable wearing by designing for themselves.

“I think we created a huge movement, of jewelers daring to use expensive materials, expensive stones, but in a kind of casual, down-to-earth way. I think that that’s really what we are, that you can wear a Shamballa bracelet on the beach in the afternoon but also with black tie. Our biggest pride is of course getting men to wear fine jewelry, getting men into sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and gold.”

In New York, Kornerup expects the store to serve mostly tourists from Europe, Russia and Asia, and considers it a sort of clubhouse for his clientele, who travel regularly to New York, and local, aspiring converts to the brand.

He plans to host dinners at the store, yoga classes and to display the works of artists.

Next up is a store in London, which Kornerup hopes will open next year because, unlike Copenhagen, there’s a direct flight from London to his new home in Ibiza, he tells me with a laugh.

Shamballa Jewels is located at 170 Mercer St.

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Filed Under: Jewelry , Retailing
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