If you haven’t heard of Hemmerle, we’re here to rectify that. We sat down with Christian and Yasmin Hemmerle, who shared the story behind their family’s jewelry house.
Known for their breathtaking combinations of precious stones and humble materials such as iron, copper and wood, family-run Munich jewelry store Hemmerle specializes in one-of-a-kind creations. Christian and Yasmin Hemmerle talk about their quest to create jewelry as original works of art, which combine ancient treasures with high levels of craftsmanship and quality.
Tell us about the first jewel of the house.
Christian: Being a fourth-generation, family-owned jewelry house, it’s hard to highlight a creation as the first piece we created. Our trajectory began in 1893 as jewelers for the Bavarian royal court and we have pivoted into the 21st century as designers of unique jewelry that are defined by our own distinct aesthetic and drive for experimentation and innovation. The Hemmerle boutique on Maximillianstrasse opened in 1904.
In 1995, my father, Stefan Hemmerle, gave Hemmerle a new direction by forging a unique avant-garde aesthetic. By designing a ring for the wife of a prominent German art collector who “hated flashy gemstones”, he responded to her penchant for wearing prized Berlin iron jewelery (which the Germans received in return from donating their gold and silver jewelry to fund the War of Liberation.) He set a diamond in textured iron rather than, as you might expect, in gold or platinum. The combination of a “common” metal with a precious, shiny stone was unusual, but the iron ring uniquely enhanced the sparkling beauty of the diamond, resulting in a striking modernity that heralded a new era in our creative vocabulary. Experimenting with innovation and respecting our history as well as the know-how and skills passed down from one generation to the next are all intrinsic components of our history today.
Where does Hemmerle’s distinct aesthetic come from?
C: Design can offer new visions and understanding of beauty. Materials are our starting point and stimulate our creativity. Often we center our designs around an artifact or stone with the goal of developing the perfect home for it. We experiment with unconventional materials not only to be different, but to develop an ideal and resolute creation that reflects our philosophy. We’ve been working with unique materials for decades, including, as you mention, 17th and 19th century micro-mosaics defined by the highest levels of craftsmanship historically achieved with 3,000 to 5,000 tesserae per square inch. Paired with weathered aluminum to reflect the shades of blue highlighted in each, it strikes exactly the right balance of contemporary element and artifact that defines our aesthetic. Our goal with such combinations of materials is to complement each other in perfect symbiosis, an exercise that in many cases forces us to search for new elements in our visual vocabulary.
No two Hemmerle jewels are identical and no combination of materials is the same. We do, however, have signature models like the open harmony bangle with its seamless closure, structural pieces with geometric lines and necklaces with chains knitted in the round of cut stones using an ancient Austrian technique, hanging from a lush pompom.
Our open Harmony bracelet is in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt in New York.
What did your father teach you about running a family jewelry business?
C: My dad used to tell me not to over-analyze design, not to just think that something can’t be done because there’s always a way. If a piece of jewelry looks harmonious and attractive, what should stop me from creating it?
Yasmin: My father-in-law had a huge impact on my appreciation of jewelry and design. Thanks to her vision and advice, I learned to be even more daring with jewelry and not be afraid to take risks and think outside the box. He did not adhere to any standard or convention, but focused on his creative process and pioneering production. We work closely together – we are all involved in the design aspect and come up with creative ideas for the rooms together. One advantage of being two generations is that our knowledge and experiences are slightly different; tradition and heritage combine with modernity and novelty. We are continually learning from each other.
What are your core values and how do you see heritage, invention and innovation?
C: What I look for in jewelry is a clear aesthetic with bold outlines and quirky settings that are part of contemporary art, museum acquisition and defined by difference – a hint of rebellion – imaginative , individual and cherished like everyday treasures. Here in Munich, in one of our museums, there is an inscription on the walls of a gallery filled with ancient Egyptian artifacts that states: “All art is contemporary”. This sums up everything we aim to achieve in terms of our aesthetic and cultural heritage.
What are some of the most interesting techniques that Hemmerle is known for?
Y: We believe that an identifiable red thread in our design philosophy is essential and acts as a driving force for our creativity. We do not have seasonal collections and the use of non-precious metals and materials is not tied to a specific time period. Instead, it’s a common thread running through all of our unique creations. We seek out special and unusual stones, sometimes waiting years to find the perfect combination. Each piece is shaped through iterative sketches, then handcrafted in Hemmerle’s workshop, which takes up to 500 hours. We are known for our innovative use of aluminum, rare material combinations and our unconventional approach to setting stones, such as with tension, as well as reverse cutting and our knit bead technique.
Tell us a bit about your previous collection. What were the highlights and what were the challenges you faced?
Y: With each of our special projects, we tend to focus on a central idea that inspired us to innovate and push our limits and our creativity even further. Such special projects only happen every 3-4 years and require a lot of research and refinement to reach the final perspective that we then present to the world. We are excited to present our next project in 2022 for the first time in Asia with special events in Hong Kong. Always looking forward, trying to push our creative limits, never resting on what we have achieved so far and trying to challenge ourselves with what is doable in jewelry.
Is jewelry an art form?
Jewelry can most definitely be an art form to be enjoyed and worn every day. The juxtaposition of the materials we use gives our jewelry a liveliness that sets them apart and sometimes even makes them easier to wear. We firmly believe that jewelry should be worn and enjoyed rather than hidden away in a safe.
Interestingly, museums are increasingly interested in exhibiting jewelry as part of art and design rather than decorative arts. Our work has further been recognized in museum exhibitions in Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Chicago, Doha, Houston, London, Munich, Paris, Pforzheim, Sydney, Toronto, Tokyo and other cities.
To learn more about Hemmerle, visit hemmerle.com.
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Hong Kong.