Lapidarium Jewellery Making & Fine Metalsmithing


Lapidarium’s fine metalsmithing production is best known for unique collections of high aesthetic value, associated with wearers’ individual expression, done in close relation with local visual artists, designers and sculptors. Results of these collaborations have encouraged a favorable reception of the gallery by a wider audience, and have since been successfully challenging the notion of mainstream jewellery creation.

Lapidarium is an extension of the family business rooted in traditional jewellery making, established in 1990 by the Nokaj family, renowned for its characteristic designs and use of high quality components in production of both limited and commercial fine jewellery. It came about from an idea to highlight the artistic production set by the next generation of Nokaj goldsmiths, and has been acting as an independent showroom since 2011.

Family of goldsmithers Nokaj have a long running history of fine metalsmithing and jewellery making with several shops and galleries. Their first jewellery shop, founded by parents Nikola and Jana in 1990 on Krvavi most, is still actively running and is considered a cornerstone of their family business. After opening an art gallery in Crikvenica in 1996, their practice was turned towards art jewellery making.
Independent workshop and store Lapidarium were established in 2011 by one of their sons, Mario Nokaj, with an underlining philosophy of putting art and design in the forefront of their jewellery making practice. It is located near Zagreb Main City Square in Radićeva 10 and acts as a representative showroom with a storefront window facing the street, styled by Mario himself as a kind of cabinet of curiosities.
Shift in their manufacturing policies came with introduction of fine jewellery design created in collaboration with artists branded as Lapidarium products. Invited authors (such as Dean D., Ivan Midžić, Stjepan Balja, Isabelle Bianchi Marchesseau, Irineja Ćubela, Silvio Hrnčir, Zdravka Radić) take on a role of designers while the workshop acts as a producer and distributer.

Traditional metalsmithing techniques for jewellery making are still at the heart of Nokaj production however it has been optimized for manufacturing larger series, having the reproducibility of the collections in mind. Hand fabrication and making of individual pieces of jewellery is enhanced by use of computer programs and new technologies that help standardize the production process and inform the overall design.
The workshop covers variety of metal processing and treatments, ranging from sawing, plying, soldering, brushing, hammering to galvanizing. Their technical capacities were additionally improved in recent years by introducing new technologies such as laser cutting and casting/cast molding that helped further optimize the production cycle in preparation for manual processing.
Considering serial reproduction, and its potential for wider distribution of objects in an international context, the master goldsmith took into account adjustments of production tools and machines as well as further introduction of new technologies into the manufacturing process. In its current setup, the shop is fully equipped to fulfill orders on demand, producing quantities of up to 100 units per month.
In production of one of their staple pieces, Ginko leaf assortment for instance, goldsmith undergoes several processing stages, starting with cutting the metal plate in order to form the outer contour. It can be done manually with a blade or by laser, depending on the complexity of the motif. To further shape the piece, precious metal is heated by torch and anneals, softening enough to be formed over a stamping tool or template. Additional embossing is done while the sheet is still in flat form if the design has raised or sunken relief. Rough edges are then grinded, and surface is polished to desired finish. Fine details can be added afterwards by hand engraving. In case of pendants, earrings and brooches smaller metal segments are soldered and attached onto the base and then fused together. Some of the more complex pieces might require additional welding, casting, molding and gold plating. Chemical or electrochemical plating is used to deposit a thin layer of gold onto the metal surface and can be experimented with in terms of coloration of the pieces.

From Jewellery Mario to Lapidarium, family of jewellery makers Nokaj have been producing valuable pieces from precious metals, different stones and other natural materials such as wood and corals.
Distinctive styles of the studio collections still manage to convey wearability which attracts Lapidarium customers who appreciate the visible connection between traditional techniques and contemporary styles, while breaking away from adornments and convention, like in their signature Ginko, Poppy, Butterfly, Wave lines.
Working with cultural institutions, the company developed souvenirs based on the collections from the Modern gallery and Museum of Arts and Crafts, which also inspired the design of Gold Licitar Heart line dedicated to a traditional symbol of Zagreb, in form of pendants and bracelets.