Hemmerle is a unique jewelry family from Munich, Germany. They have been around since 1893, and today they are still known for their one-of-a-kind pieces of magnificent jewelry. Freshly returned from a successful exhibition at TEFAF NY, I sat down with them for an exclusive interview.
Yasmin and Christian Hemmerle
Hemmerle is one of those names that genuine jewelry lovers immediately connect with uniqueness, innovation, and style. These characteristics are often randomly used to describe jewelry and the work of many brands, but rarely are they so accurate as with Hemmerle.
This German brand started in 1893 and is led today by Christian Hemmerle, his wife Yasmin, and his parents Stefan and Sylveli. They are most known for the one-of-a-kind pieces they create. They work with techniques that are either new or forgotten and spend much of their time treasure hunting all over the globe for unique gemstones and artifacts to include in their jewelry pieces.
Hemmerle earrings with diamonds, white gold, and bronze
I met them at Tefaf several times and can see why Tefaf, its visitors, and Hemmerle are a match made in heaven. It's the kind of jewelry that needs more eye for detail than classic jewelry in the same price range. It tells you a story, every way you turn it around, there is something to discover. This is why, should you ever have the chance, you must ask for the story. It'll enchant you.
Although I first came across Hemmerle during a TEFAF exhibition ( Maastricht), I knew the brand and showcased it many times on Bizzita.com. Why? Because the first time I saw a collection, which was the mushroom collection, I remained mesmerized.
Hemmerle earrings with jasper, diamonds, white gold and bronze
I wanted to know more. I sat down with the Hemmerle family and asked them about their vision, dreams, goals, and how it is to work so closely with the family.
Hemmerle earrings with ' pietra dura ' mosaics, sapphites, silver, and white gold
Both Stefan and Christian grew up in a jewelry family, did they both always knew they wanted to work for the family business? Were there any doubts, moments of not-knowing for sure?
Christian: My father trained as a goldsmith in Munich, before working with jewelers in France, Italy, and Denmark, nurturing new ideas and his style before joining Hemmerle in 1970 and later radically spearheading its design direction in 1995 when he set a diamond in iron. I briefly considered other careers, but ultimately for both of us, our lives have been and continue to be devoted to jewelry.
And how about Sylveli and Yasmin? What are their roles in the company today, and what is their connection, if any, with the world of jewelry?
Yasmin: As a family, we work very collaboratively and creatively together in thinking of new ideas for pieces together, and we are all involved in the design process. Growing up in Cairo as an Egyptian, I felt like jewelry was in my blood - my grandmothers both loved jewelry. I met my husband Christian in my early 20s and was already working in the jewelry industry in Paris. My mother-in-law Sylveli actually first met Stefan in the Hemmerle boutique on Maximillianstrasse in Munich!
Hemmerle Harmony bangle with 1400 emeralds, bronze, and white gold. This bangle can be found at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York
What do you consider the most challenging parts of running a jewelry business as you do? With one store and multiple exhibitions. How and why have you chosen this path and not, let's say, sell the jewelry to other high-end stores or open more boutiques around the globe?
Christian: For four generations, Hemmerle has remained dedicated to craftsmanship, exceptional quality, and innovative material combinations. Being a family-run house has meant traditional skills among artisans have been preserved while developing new ones. At our Munich atelier, we have managed to build an ethos where freedom and a belief in pushing boundaries are at the center of thinking and inquiry – this is something we are very proud of and want to preserve. This means we have to allow ourselves as designers and our goldsmiths as craftsmen time to really understand each creation in its entirety. We challenge ourselves to slow down and allow for mistakes in the atelier that can lead to innovation.
Working with unique pieces of jewelry, often containing a specific one-of-a-kind element, is lovely. However, it's time-consuming and also a high financial investment. Do you always feel confident about your creations and their route to the final client?
Christian: We set no limits on the time it takes to make each piece, and there are no shortcuts at our atelier. It can take years to treasure hunt stones whose proportions fit together, and once in production, a piece can take more than 500 hours of craftsmanship to complete. As artists, we make not only to sell and are confident there is the right home out there for each jewel - we believe in staying true to our creative vision as designers.
V&A has exhibited your work - that's extraordinary. Are you, with such a durable and lengthy heritage and with so many milestones in the past, still able to experience unique moments, such as becoming part of an important museum's collection as very special? And if so, how do you celebrate events like that?
Yasmin: The ultimate honor is to see people enjoying and appreciating our work - being part of museum exhibitions allows our creations to be seen by a much wider public, and so are hugely special moments for us. From the Cooper Hewitt and The Met in New York to the Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha, being part of these treasured museums has been unforgettable. We had celebrated with the public through talks (Stefan Hemmerle gave a speech at the V&A when our bangle joined its permanent collection); at times, we have published or contributed to books. Privately we enjoy hosting dinners with our friends and family to share the experience with those who are also part of our journey.
Working with family is a bliss and a challenge. What can you tell us about your experience?
Christian: We are fortunate enough to share the same vision and direction for Hemmerle. An advantage of working so closely with your family is that we can be completely open and honest with each other. Having two generations means our knowledge and experiences are slightly different – tradition and heritage are combined with modernity and innovation.
Hemmerle earrings in iron, silver, white gold and diamonds
The world of how people buy and the retail of jewelry (as so many other businesses) are changing due to mostly consumer behavior. Do you feel this, too, or are you operating on such a different level that you think that these rules apply less to your business?
Christian: Today's reality is things are moving faster, but in turn, this has also led to a desire for handmade objects that are genuinely one-off. Over the last decade, we've seen a greater general appreciation and interest in the unusual and unique; this has increased opportunities for jewelers to use platforms once only enjoyed by "traditional visual artists" to communicate their work through such as biennales, fairs, and exhibitions at major institutions. Our craftsmanship has also evolved with how people use jewelry. It is no longer just worn on occasions and is now a part of everyday life.
How important is sustainability for you? What can you tell us about the resources of your jewelry?
Christian: Sustainability is something that has naturally been addressed in our atelier long before it became such a topical issue in our consciousness, from physically recycling metals to a philosophy of working towards creating something timeless. We only use old stones and find beauty in the imperfection of their cuts, treasuring hunting for interesting materials to use in their creations and objects that can add an extra layer of history, narrative, and personality to a jewel.
Hemmerle ring with a marvelous sapphire, sapphires, silver, and white gold
Hemmerle earring with pearls, diamonds, in aluminum, bronze, and white gold
What can you share with us about Hemmerle, that few people know?
Christian: Last year, in 2018, we celebrated our 125th anniversary. As we delved into our archives, we discovered that while our official founding was in 1893, when my ancestor's brothers Joseph and Anton Hemmerle took over an established goldsmiths' company in Munich specializing in medals and orders, that company could be traced back to 1796.
What is your view on the direction of the company for the upcoming years?
Yasmin: We believe human creativity exists to push cultural boundaries, and we aim to take jewelry design to new heights. By housing multiple crafts under one roof at our Munich atelier - an initiative of my mother-in-law's - we pass skills between generations and use our collective creativity to discover new ways of working.
Yasmin and Christian Hemmerle