In 1965, he won one of the most prestigious Goldsmith awards in the world. Hans-Leo Peters was still a student when he won the Diamonds International Award in New York so many years ago. The press of the day called this award the Oscar for jewellery awards.
It was in 1966, a year after he won the award, that Hans finally received his qualification as a Goldsmith artist. “I wanted to be self-employed, but I could only do this in Germany if I got a certificate from the German academy as an artist. The study and training I was doing as a jeweller did not allow me to have the certificate of ‘Artist’, but when I presented my art as the winner of such a prestigious award, I received my certificate and I became the the first goldsmith artist In Germany to be self-employed. After that a lot of young people were able to follow me; there is a lot of creativity and independent thinking involved as a goldsmith and being self -employed provides the impetus,” says Hans.
Later, Hans became one of the judges of the competition of which he had won first prize, judging alongside Pierre Cardin and Giovanni Bulghari. There would be three or thousand entries from top jewellery artists in gold from all over the world. Because of this work, Hans became the first goldsmith artist of the Diamonds National Academy.
I could have worked for big companies but I liked to work for myself. “Jewellery has always been in my thinking. I am the person who makes the jewellery and I work in gold.”
Hans’ coming to New Zealand to live took some years. “It began like this,”he says. “Every time I searched in the newspaper or online, for a dream holiday house, New Zealand always came up. I carried this dream or plan since I was 25 years old. So 35 years after first seeing New Zealand op up in my search, I found an advert selling a dream house on the 309. My daughter whose fiancé at the time was working in Sydney said, “Dad, do you know that I want to live in New Zealand. Try to buy this property; we will have our honeymoon on the 309.” We came at Christmas time that year,
But the end result of that was, my daughter returned to Germany and her husband got a position as a lawyer in Munich. The lesson was don’t plan your life around your adult children. “
At first, Hans and his wife flew to New Zealand every summer, alternating between countries.
“I made my exhibitions in New Zealand and Germany,” says Hans. Eventually, the New Zealand Government gave me residency as an artist, and we had to make the decision for one country only. We made it for New Zealand. My wife passed away in 2008; she was the face behind my work. I hope for a new face at the centre of my work. I cannot create without any inspiration and love is the source of the inspiration.”
Hans has become an online Goldsmith and sculptor. He lives locally; his workshop is in Whitianga, but he sells his jewellery and sculpted pieces online across New Zealand and the world. As a goldsmith, Hans is the most awarded artist in the world – many of his pieces are breathtaking, bold, and shimmering.
Hans has developed altogether, five different goldsmith techniques. He explains that creating pieces from gold is like conducting an orchestra. “There are so many different ways, but in every technique, you are working with very fine elements and a lot of feeling for temperature is needed,”says Hans. One special technique Hans invented when he was a student is saltpetre etching with silver and gold. “The melting point is lower for gold so working with gold and silver together, the gold can sink into the soft silver – the silver is etched but not the gold, and the gold which has a connection to the silver comes up in the centre of the silver sculpture.
In 1971, there was a book published about Hans and his work and achievements as a goldsmith. The author titled it, “In every piece is Love.” Hans says, “This is the way I do it and how I create. it has never changed.”
Hans smiles, “My new partner said when she saw my work, ‘I see love in you work – in every piece.’ She did not know about the book written in 1971.”
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Caption: Hans-Leo Peters in his studio.