Christian Hemmerle on Unconstrained Beauty
veryone has heard of the usual suspects, Tiffany’s, Cartier, Van Cleef. However, have you ever heard of Hemmerle?
I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. They are not a conglomerate producing thousands of pieces a year, and they do not have stores scattered across the globe. They are a design house, in the finest and most refined sense of the word. It has been passed through four generations and is now run by Christian and Yasmin Hemmerle, along side Christian’s father and mother, Stefan and Sylveli.
It is a haven for the beautiful in the most unexpected, and surprising ways.
“We are striving to make tomorrows classics.”
Hemmerle’s approach to fine jewellery is unlike any other. In this space a large old cut diamond can be set in iron, and a precious aquamarine can (whimsically) exist amongst a game of wooden pick up sticks. You may also find fancy coloured diamonds set upside down, or pebbles from the Isar forming the riverbed to a fine sapphire; and If you’re fortunate, you could even trip across an artifact from an ancient civilization.
It is here every material is a possibility, and no idea will be discounted, or overlooked in discussion.
“…because beauty can be in anything and everywhere.”
Christian explains, “…because beauty can be in anything and everywhere.”
This is the foundation on which Hemmerle operates, and builds their house on today. Stepping into the future, and pushing the limits of what is accepted as “fine jewellery” in the industry today takes an exceptional level of artistry and foresight, but also an in-depth knowledge of the past and a reverence for where we have come from as humans.
During my interview with Christian, I asked him where his favourite place was to be inspired. His answer was equally complex as it is simple, “What first comes to mind is…It’s everywhere…you need to be able to walk through life with open eyes and to recognize the beauty in anything which inspires you in this moment.” He continued, “But if it had to be a place, it could only be Egypt. The home of my wife.”
“If you look at what the ancient Egyptians had done four thousand years ago…the aesthetic is so reduced and so beautiful, the proportions and relations of the pyramids to the Nile (river)…to consider all these things they were true masters in what they were doing to perfection. And, I believe it transports the idea of the old and the new…something old can be very contemporary.”
While many fine jewellers have embraced modern technology to assist in their design capabilities, Hemmerle has refused it. You will not find any form of computer assisted design (CAD) equipment, or 3D printing technology in the atelier. In fact the eighty year old master-craftsman still comes into the workshop once a week to keep a watchful eye over the goldsmiths and young apprentices. All of this is for good reason too.
Christian gave me an interesting perspective about his frustration with modern jewellery making; CAD, and 3D printing has destroyed the art of skilled craftsmanship in our modern world. He illustrated his point, “…because every curve is the same. Whereas a hand crafted jewel has the right proportion, it has the right weight…you hold it and you know it is something special, and that is something so difficult to explain. But, when you see it, you know it, when you hold it, you know it. And that is the unexpected part of our Hemmerle pieces.”
He continued to educate me on the fact that it is the final 5% of work when crafting a jewel which can be 30% harder than the rest of the piece. Reflecting on a sapphire and pebble brooch; Christian explained to me that the piece was made with the smooth grey stones set like a river bed with the sapphire set above in white gold. However, when the brooch was finished, it did not look like how anyone had envisioned. Something was missing. “My father at the time…” he explained, “said, ‘you know what, let’s reconvene tomorrow.’ and he took the brooch back to the workshop.” The following day, the brooch had been refinished, changing the polished finish to a sand blast matte. The brilliant white gold melted away into the grey of the pebbles, and the brooch they had envisioned came to life before their eyes.
It is these minute differences, almost visually undetectable, which are the most important part of crafting a jewel. “Most people stop at the 90% mark, but we go 100%…”
Unlike larger houses, everything is a possibility in discussion. “When we were holding the aquamarine which we wanted to make a brooch out of, someone said, ‘Ah! The blue in the aquamarine reminds me of the blue in pick up sticks, why don’t we put it in the centre of a pickup stick game?’” Christian laughingly continued, “when people come up to us the tell us, ‘so the mikado brooch, what is the material?’ (we reply) it’s pickup sticks. ‘yeah but, what are the pick up sticks made of?’ No, no it’s really pick up sticks, we bought them in a shop!” It is surprise elements like this which draws in new and existing clients into the Hemmerle boutique. A desire for something different, and unassuming.
Christian and his team have also taken an honourable stance to protect the future of the jewellery industry. Taking in young apprentices, some as young as seven-teen years old, seems to be one of the many things at the heart of their operation. Over the course of a three year and a half year apprenticeship these students will be educated in the traditional craft of gold smithing and learn from multiple generations of goldsmiths.
He goes on to explain, “My aim in these three and a half years is that I equip them with the tools to theoretically be the best in our industry. Whether he then works for me, or somebody else, that is my aim. So we give them everything they need to succeed in the world of goldsmiths.” He continues, “I think it is essential…I have benefited all my life from that industry, or my family has. So, it’s only natural to give back to something you have taken. What we do is a holistic approach.”
People seek out Hemmerle because they desire the unexpected. When I first set out to write this article, I thought it would be a profile of a generational jeweller with a different take on what fine jewellery was meant to be.
However, I was captivated in uncovering a story which was much deeper. A house which pays tribute to the past, honours the next generation of goldsmiths, and instills a passion in the individuals who they come into contact with.
The jewels Hemmerle creates will be passed down through generations, becoming the classics of tomorrow. To quote Christian, “If you can create something where in 25 years time you can reflect on it and not say, ‘oh what were we thinking?’ you have done your job in creating a classic and fulfilled a sustainability.”
Thank you to the entire Hemmerle team for their time, resources and assistance in the production of this article.
For more information on these, and other Hemmerle pieces; Please visit Hemmerle online.
1. Portrait of Christian and Yasmin Hemmerle.
2. Hemmerle “Mikado Brooch:” Aquamarine, Mikado Pick-up Sticks.
3. Hemmerle Necklace: Java Beads, Dumortierite, Agate, Sapphires, White Gold.
4. Hemmerle Earrings: Turtle Shell Fossil, Diamonds, Silver, White Gold.
5. Sketch – Hemmerle Ancient Egyptian Faience Necklace.
6. Hemmerle Necklace: Faience, Emerald, Sapphire, Agate, Bronze, White Gold.
7. Hemmerle Bangle: Diamonds, Bronze, White Gold.
9. Hemmerle “Mikado Brooch:” Aquamarine, Mikado Pick-up Sticks.
10. Hemmerle Earrings with Diamonds
11. Hemmerle “Harmony Bangle:” Diamonds, Bronze, White Gold.
12. Hemmerle Atelier, Munich.
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