Lord of the Rings’ ring was made by a jeweler who died simply earlier than launch


Sensible. Robust. Ageless. Unadorned, till heated to disclose the Tengwar script of the Black Speech of Mordor. In a position to morph to suit its wearer with out dropping integrity of form.
These are Peter Jackson’s “Guidelines of the One Ring,” recalled by Dan Hennah, supervising artwork director on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, from his residence in Nelson, New Zealand. “It was a fairly easy temporary, but it surely was very particular.”

2021 marks The Lord of the Rings motion pictures’ twentieth anniversary, and we could not think about exploring the trilogy in only one story. So every Wednesday all year long, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as trendy classics. That is Polygon’s 12 months of the Ring.

Hennah knew precisely who had the talent and aesthetic to forge probably the most well-known piece of jewellery in Western literature: Danish-born artist Jens Høyer Hansen. A bodily large of a person with a larger-than-life persona, Hansen already had a status as one of the vital influential up to date artists in New Zealand. Educated as a jeweler however a smith and sculptor at coronary heart, Hansen had been making daring, clear assertion items for the reason that Nineteen Sixties.
“He was able to understanding [the brief] without having to place his personal stamp on it,” Hennah defined. Plus, “he was by no means imply along with his gold.” (In contrast to some dragons we all know.)
However Hansen by no means bought to see his tiny creation on the massive display screen. Not lengthy after he started work on the One Ring in 1999, he was identified with the pancreatic most cancers. The situation took his life 4 months later on the age of 59.
As Halfdan Hansen, Jens’ eldest son and present supervisor of Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith, instructed Polygon, seeing his father’s design on display screen with out him “was undoubtedly a second of bittersweetness for my brother and I.”
The movies’ success launched a world viewers to Hansen’s work, and clients world wide now buy the official licensed prop replicas his workshop produces for Wētā Workshop. Nevertheless, the Ringmaker deserves appreciation for greater than this one piece. Known as “the grandfather of recent jewelry-making in New Zealand,” Jens Hansen reshaped the concept of what jewellery could possibly be.
“He was making this work that was form of daring, large, natural, sculptural surfaces,” mentioned Halfdan, “which in hindsight meant that he was a logical individual to make a hoop such because the One Ring.”

Picture: New Line Cinema

As a scholar of Outdated English, Outdated Norse, and different Germanic languages, J.R.R. Tolkein would have been delighted to know that the trilogy’s Ringmaker hailed from Denmark.
“My household tree could be very mono-culturally Danish for the final couple of hundred years,” mentioned Halfdan. “[My father] would have had innately in his soul and upbringing some publicity to Viking and Nordic mythology.”
Tall, bearded, and boisterous, Jens Hansen appeared to many Kiwis like a Nordic god himself.
“Jens, to me, was very a lot a Viking,” Hennah mentioned.
Born within the city of Gram in 1940, Hansen sailed east to Auckland along with his mother and father and three sisters in 1952, one in every of many households who left the war-scarred lands of Europe for higher alternatives.
By no means totally comfy within the classroom because of the language barrier, Hansen left college on the (then) authorized age of fifteen to start a jeweler’s apprenticeship in 1956. 4 years and eight thousand working hours later, Hansen returned to Denmark as a journeyman for the jeweler agency A. Michelsen.
“He would have minimize his tooth on diamond engagement rings and marriage ceremony rings and different stuff that he personally didn’t have an aesthetic style for,” Halfdan mentioned. To fulfill his rising inventive sensibility, Jens studied at Copehagen’s College of Utilized Arts and Industrial Design. He returned to Auckland with spouse Gurli in 1965, and immersed himself within the daring, easy, geometric designs that characterised postwar Danish jewellery. In 1968, the picturesque New Zealand city of Nelson, the place the mountains meet the seaside on the northern tip of the South Island, got here calling. Native leaders, desperate to woo artists, supplied Hansen monetary assist to arrange store.
Dan Hennah had relocated to Nelson across the similar time in his work as an architectural draftsman, and he quickly crossed paths with Jens. “He was a really succesful, large man,” Hennah remembered. “Bigger than life.”
Identical to his items. Throughout our dialog, Hennah pulled out a necklace he and his spouse Chris purchased from Hansen within the ’70s: a convex half-sphere of New Zealand greenstone mounted in silver. It’s practically as large as his palm.
Hennah identified the light curve of the clasp and held up the round-linked chain paying homage to one owned by the Baggins household. (Hensen’s workshop designed the Ring’s chain as properly.)

Dan Hennah shows his spouse’s Jens Hansen pendant and chain over Zoom.

Picture: New Line Cinema/Photograph: Sara Murphy

“The element in his stuff was evident,” he mentioned.
The necklace seems to be prefer it weighs a ton, reflecting Hansen’s dedication to substance as a mode. Justine Olsen, Curator of Ornamental Arts and Design at Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand, instructed Polygon by way of e-mail that “His apply was based on a love of supplies and course of. However type outlined his work.”
“I exploit a hammer to bend steel the place a jeweler would use pliers,” Jens himself defined in a 1999 jewellery exhibition catalogue. “This course of is in itself a creator of larger work with extra fullness of type.”
The One Ring he designed has that fullness, too. “It’s needlessly heavy,” Halfdan mentioned. “However what it means is that while you maintain it in your arms and really feel the load of it, or have a look at it on the display screen, it has this large reflective floor, and it simply has this brooding sense of energy.”
In fact, there was by no means simply “one” Ring for the movies. The primary to seem on digicam, in truth, didn’t come from Hansen in any respect: It belonged to co-producer and extra unit director Rick Porras.
You’ll be able to see it within the “Bag Finish Set Take a look at” featurette from the prolonged version DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring. The hobbit residence’s plywood shells had simply been accomplished, and Peter Jackson wished to examine the set dimensions and check digicam angles.
VFX cinematographer Brian Van’t Hul was behind the digicam, with Porras as Frodo, Jackson as Bilbo, and VFX producer Charlie McClellan as Gandalf (utilizing a puppet head on a stick). However of the 4 males at this impromptu taping, Porras alone had a marriage ring, having married in March 1999. Purchased in Wellington, the gold band had markings designed by Alan Lee, one of many trilogy’s major conceptual artists and a long-time illustrator of Tolkein’s work.
Porras instructed Polygon that it was really the primary time he’d ever taken the ring off, which he discovered “a bit of disconcerting” within the second. All the identical, he acknowledged the necessity for it. “It was a personality,” he mentioned. “In these scenes, it’s not simply somebody pulling it out of a pocket, but it surely’s additionally holding it to digicam, it’s dropping it, it’s then reducing to a detailed up of it on the ground.”

Picture: New Line Cinema

Shut-ups of Porras’s ring (now saved in a protected deposit field at an undisclosed location) from the set check present a hoop nearly similar in form to that used within the movies correct. Whereas film lore has introduced Porras’s ring as the unique prototype for the One Ring, the timeline complicates this narrative.
Within the prolonged version extras, Jackson dates the Bag Finish set check to a few month earlier than capturing started, or September 1999. In the identical commentary, Hennah confirms that he borrowed Porras’s ring to point out Jens in the course of the design course of. But, Jens died on Aug. 10.
“It was undoubtedly all executed and dusted earlier than our dad handed in August 1999,” Halfdan confirmed by way of e-mail after chatting with his brother Thorkild, who labored along with his father on the time. Regardless of the right timeline and family tree, two issues are true: Porras’s marriage ceremony band made a novel contribution to the historical past of the One Ring, and Jens himself developed the ultimate model.
The manufacturing was fortunate to have Hansen’s direct involvement in any respect, since he lived solely 4 months after his analysis. “His one large remorse was that later in his life, he actually felt like he was turning into a reliable panorama painter in watercolors and oils,” Halfdan remembered.

Picture: New Line Cinema

Nevertheless, Hansen’s lifelong generosity along with his time and instruments ensured that his jewellery artists — led by Thorkild — might execute his imaginative and prescient. “I select to coach folks not essentially to assume like me however not less than to know what I’m after,” he defined for a 1972 exhibition. (Halfdan labored abroad as an engineer till his father’s sickness required his return to handle the store.)
The workshop produced roughly 40 completely different rings for the movies. Costliest have been the 18 carat strong gold “hero” rings, sized ten for Frodo’s hand and 11 for the chain.
Tolkein’s “pure and strong gold” description (my emphasis) within the Fellowship of the Ring works on paper however not in actual life, as Halfdan defined. “Virtually, 18k gold has in all probability bought the correct stability between the richness of the golden coloration and the sturdiness,” he mentioned. In technical phrases, the One Ring is closest to a consolation or court docket marriage ceremony band with rounded outer and interior surfaces.
To economize — although not time — the workshop used gold-plated sterling silver for a lot of the rings. In contrast to the strong gold heroes, although, these rings saved dropping their luster. “We needed to maintain sending again the plated ones once they bought scratched on rocks and issues like that,” Hennah mentioned.
For a lot of followers, the ring utilized in close-ups — just like the scene the place the Ring slips away from Frodo to lure Boromir within the snow at Caradhras, or when arguing contributors within the Council of Elrond are proven mirrored within the Ring’s floor — is the actual hero ring. As a way to seize the ring’s sheen in excessive definition, that prop was a full eight inches extensive — too large even for Hansen’s instruments.

Picture: New Line Cinema

As a substitute, a neighborhood machine store made and polished the form that Hansen’s staff then plated. The sharpening alone took about three days. “It’s important to have it extremely polished, as a result of gold plating shouldn’t be like gold paint,” Halfdan mentioned. “It’ll present up any floor beneath.” Other than appearances at movie premieres, the Massive Ring sits in a show case within the Jens Hansen showroom the place guests can maintain it if time and COVID protocols allow.
As for the purported magnetized ring that Bilbo drops onto a magnetized ground, that rumor seems to have come from Dominic Monaghan, who mentions a magnetized ground within the prolonged version’s solid commentary. In his voiceover, although, VFX artist Brian Van’t Hul insisted they simply used a lead ring to get that loud, exhausting thud.
Jens Hansen died earlier than anybody had an inkling how profitable the trilogy would develop into.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Halfdan mentioned. “After we achieved the ultimate factor that we wished to make and we went with that, the entire different ones” — the prototypes — “have been mainly put into the store, and half of them had offered by the point anyone stopped to assume.”
At first, a number of corporations offered unofficial ring replicas, and a few nonetheless do. When Wētā regained the license for the One Ring from Warner Brothers in 2010, nevertheless, they requested Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith to provide their official prop replicas.

Considered one of many replicas of the One Ring obtainable from the Jens Hansen workshop.

Picture: Weta Workshop

Accessible in 18k gold-plated tungsten, sterling silver, 10k strong gold, and made-to-order 18k strong gold, these replicas include the Tengwar markings. (Tungsten was chosen for its heft and for security; in an emergency, it shatters simply for swift elimination.) They arrive housed in a novel picket field that shows the One Ring verse, the logos for Wētā and Jens Hansen, and the trilogy’s title font.
Halfdan introduced up a pair frequent questions in regards to the replicas to place them to relaxation. Prospects typically marvel why their rings have an “S10” stamp on the within: that’s the licensing image, not the ring’s dimension. As well as, many marvel how the ring will look on their finger. Irrespective of the scale, the width stays the identical: 7mm. Halfdan likens it to purchasing two completely different sizes of the identical shoe: “Loads of these figuring out options — the scale of the eyelets, the laces, the logos — they’re all the identical.”
Whereas the One Ring could also be Jens Hansen’s world legacy, proof of his broader inventive affect on New Zealand artwork and tradition seem all through the island nation. “He launched rising jewelers and silversmiths to workshop strategies and types of modernism via the Danish lens,” Olsen instructed Polygon. In 2004, the nationwide museum Te Papa added a few of his early items to their everlasting assortment.
Hansen additionally recruited and taught many next-generation jewelers and artists, via summer season portray and sculpture lessons on the native polytechnic, native workshop demonstrations, and providing bench area to any jeweler who requested. “Throughout a interval when formal [higher] schooling in jewellery was non-existent, Hansen’s workshop grew to become a lovely coaching floor,” Olsen added.
As Hansen instructed the Otago Every day Information in 1995, “Most up to date jewellers within the nation have had some involvement with this place.”
To maintain Jens Hansen’s private imaginative and prescient alive, the workshop now produces the Legacy Assortment, primarily based on a few of his earliest designs. “As soon as upon a time, we discovered a field of outdated six-by-four-inch index playing cards that had all the unique maker’s notes,” Halfdan mentioned. “Yearly, round in regards to the anniversary of his birthday, we launch a brand new piece.”
“I believe he was a singular artist,” Hennah mentioned. “New Zealand was very privileged that he got here right here.”