Jewels in the ring




in the




From the Russian courts of Zar Nikolai II to the ring of Helsinki Horse Show, Tina Tillander continues her family’s rich traditions – while including her passion for horses.


By Camilla Alfthan



“I always say, that I muck out stalls in the mornings and then I make gems in the afternoon,” says Tina Tillander – a fifth generation jeweller who is based in the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland.


It was her great grandfather, Alexander E. Tillander who founded the family company when he left his native Helsinki to work as an apprentice to a goldsmith in St. Petersburg. Finland was then a duchy in the Russian empire and the elegant city which was built by Peter the Great as Russia’s window to Europe was the place to be for anyone in the arts world or the creative crafts.

In 1860, when Tillander was 23 years old and already had several years of experience behind him, he founded his own company that would become one of the city’s most renowned makers of jewellery.

His son, Alexander Theodor, took over at the turn of the century and moved the business to Nevski Prospekt; the elegant street strewn with palaces built for the elite  just a few steps away from the Winter Palace.

The glamorous tone of Tillander’s skilfully crafted gems that helped forge the image of the house led to clients  that  included the family of Tsar Nikolai II.

During the celebration of the tercentenary of the Romanoff dynasty in 1913, The House of Tillander received a number of commissions from members of the Imperial family and cabinet to make small luxurious pieces such as presentation brooches, pendants, bracelets, cufflinks and tie-pins.

Despite the instability of the times, due to the impending World War I, The House of Tillander was striving.  In 1917,however,  the Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the business.

Alexander T. Tillander moved his family back to Helsinki where his three sons joined the family business in 1921, after the War, when the company was re-established continuing the St. Petersburg image.


As the fifth generation in line to work in the company and the first woman to run it, Tina Tillander is also a goldsmith.

Aged 16, she even graduated as a gemologist as the youngest person ever in Europe. Later she travelled to Japan to continue her studies and become specialized in the knowledge of pearls.

Today, she continues the family tradition while she also indulges in her passion for horses while literally combining the two.


“The equestrian world is elegant and its people are elegant, too. It’s a historic tradition that I like very much and the aesthetic side of it goes hand in hand with what we’re doing,” says Tillander who is a sponsor of Helsinki Horse Show including the new Knock Out dressage class which was launched during the first leg of the 2013 show jumping world cup.


“The World Cup is a great opportunity to showcase the sport – especially to the young.”


A show jumper herself, her two daughters, Daniella and Jenny, have taken her passion even further. To help them compete from an early age, Tina Tillander was one of the creators the Helsinki Pony Event.


“Equestrianism is relatively small in Finland so it important to be able to host these event. The World Cup is a great opportunity to showcase the sport; especially to the young,”  says Tillander who is based on the outskirts of the capital near Ekenäs where the family currently keeps four horses and their very first, homebred foal.


”Daniella still competes with the same horse that she had as a junior, a mare after the Swedish warmblood Cadento. They fit each other like hand in glove. Though obviously, she doesn’t have the same routines as the professionals who ride several horses a day,” she tells about her eldest daughter who also works at the family company while Jenny has moved to St. Petersburg to learn Russian.


Stones from Finland include green beryls, amethysts and gold that people have sometimes washed out themselves in the Arctic Circle.


These days, the Russians come to Helsinki to buy jewelry from Tillander that are hand crafted in the old fashioned way just as during the Imperial times. The studio has five goldsmiths that are among some of the best in Europe.


”Our clients are typically between 30 and 70 and often women who buy their own jewelry. Most times, they have a clear idea of what they want and if they are unsure, we sketch proposals of what we think would suit them best. Sometimes, they also bring ancient jewelry that they would like us to emulate,” tells Tillander.


Stones that are from Finland include green beryls, amethysts and gold that people have sometimes washed out themselves in the Arctic Circle.


Even wood is popular in the designs just as leather. Materials that would never even have been accepted a generation ago.


”Typically, women want a lovely, old diamond hanging from a leather string to play it down a little. I love the contrasts and the functionality of it all. As the trends are so deeply linked to fashion we always make sure to stay in the know and even offer people the unexpected,” says Tina Tillander who personally opts for the most sporty pieces in the stable and the show jumping ring.


”One day, we’d like to make jewelry with equestrian motifs. We haven’t yet found the time for that but it’s a dream and something to do in the future.”


Daniella and Jenny Tillander with their horses in Finland.

Flowers and horses