Hemmerle: The Masters of Exotic Jewelry

Ajak Deng by Charlie Engman for Vogue’s February 2014 issue, features a gorgeous pair of conch pearl, spinel, white gold and copper earrings by Hemmerle. Image VOGUE/CHARLIE ENGMAN

A few days ago I was clearing out some files in my computer and I came across a picture of a brooch amongst some old documents. It was a picture of Hemmerle’s Tarantula Brooch, an exceptional piece of jewelry featuring a 117.76 ct. horse conch pearl- one of the largest and rarest conch pearls in the world. Paired with yellow gold, chocolate diamonds, sapphires and tortoise shell, then wrought in the shape of a large tarantula, the brooch is quite literally a wearable masterpiece of art .

In a word, its simply… breathtaking.

The Tarantula Brooch by Hemmerle was produced in 1995 and has toured the world on multiple occasions as part of touring exhibitions of fine pearl jewelry. Image HEMMERLE

I’ve known of Hemmerle’s exceptional quality and devotion to detail for years, but every time I see one of their creations, I’m struck anew by their craftsmanship. Finding this picture has inspired me to write about the Hemmerle jewelry house, one of the world’s most innovative producers of intriguing fine gems.

The Physalis earrings and brooch from Hemmerle’s Nature’s Jewels Collection; yellow gold and Melo pearls are wrought in the shape of a physalis fruit. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle has been crafting fine jewelry since the late 19th century. The house was established in 1893 by jeweler brothers Anton and Joseph Hemmerle, who, in 1895, were appointed as the Court’s ‘Purveyors of Medals and Ornaments’ by Prince Regent Luitpold. The jewelers’ fame continued to grow as they produced creations for the likes of King Ludwig III of Bavaria, as well as other notable figures of German nobility, government and military.

Hemmerle’s Bishop’s Cross circa 1900. A confection of yellow gold, pearls, amethysts, quartz and blue enamel. Image HEMMERLE

From there, the jewelry house steadily established its reputation for exceptional fine jewelry, eventually opening their flagship boutique in 1903 in the fashionable Maximilianstrasse district of Munich. The house still operates out of this original location and is overseen by members of the Hemmerle family- now in it’s fourth-generation of jewelers!

Two pairs of Hemmerle earrings featuring (from left) white gold, patinated copper, aquamarine briolettes, blue opals and sapphires and white diamonds, grey pearls, white gold and silver. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle produces a wide scope of precious ornaments in conjunction with their artistic gems, including silver and military ornaments. The firm most notably produces medals for the Bavarian Maximiliansorden, an award established by King Maximilian II of Bavaria in 1853 to celebrate achievements in science and art. Hemmerle was granted the honor of creating the award in 1905 and still produces them to this day.

The Maxililiansorden Award for achievements in science and art. Image HEMMERLE

The house may be steeped in history but it’s certainly not bound by traditional methods of jewelry making. Hemmerle’s style can be described as “contemporary traditional,” and their jewelry embodies this aesthetic perfectly- it’s the right mix of age-old techniques and modern innovation. Their jewelry is eye-catching and strikingly exotic and their avant-garde approach to design has made them one of the forerunners in progressive fine jewelry design.

A bangle from Hemmerle’s Egyptian Sotry Collection in white gold, patinated copper and tourmaline. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle creates jewelry that is truly unlike anything else on the market today. Bold and experimental, their style still manages to harken back to the house’s fundamental aspects of design. By pairing old-cut diamonds, vintage cameos and rare coloured gemstones with both precious metals and copper, iron, brass or wood, the house produces jewelry that is truly unique.

A collection of mushroom-shaped pins from Hemmerle’s Mushroom Collection, wrought from cognac diamonds, white diamonds and champagne diamonds, in white gold, yellow gold, silver and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

This penchant for mixing rare stones with unorthodox settings was developed in 1995, when the firm was commissioned to create a ring for a client who hated traditional ‘flashy jewelery’. Hemmerle responded by indulging the patron’s fondness for Berlin iron jewellery, and set a large diamond in a ring of textured steel. The combination of common metal with a precious stone was unusual, however the iron enhanced the diamond’s beauty and inspired Hemmerle’s design aesthetic to progress their collections into new directions.

A collection of Hemmerle rings, featuring opals, spinels, topaz, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, beryls, tsavorites, mammoth ivory and diamonds, set in yellow gold, white gold, patinated copper, iron and brass. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle’s gem setting techniques can also be called unconventional. Aside from their use of avant-garde mounting materials, the company often stitches stones into a silky mesh or reverse-sets them for a prickly effect. To me, its a setting reminiscent of Van Cleef & Arpels’ mystery setting, but less rigid and stuffy. Hemmerle uses only the most exceptional of gemstones, often preferring gems that are not widely used: green tsavorites, intense blue Brazilian aquamarines, richly hued tourmalines and Melo Pearls, to name a few.

A turquoise and aquamarine necklace in white gold and patinated copper from Hemmerle’s Egyptian Story Collection, showing two of the firm’s trademark features: a woven chain of hand drilled gemstones and a lush jeweled tassel. Image HEMMERLE

Nature is one of the main inspirations behind Hemmerle’s jewelry. Their designs are often breathtakingly lifelike reproductions of objects found in the natural world. Flora and fauna alike have been rendered in mixed metals and precious gems, turning into perfect miniatures of their organic counterparts. Everything’s fair game – Hemmerle has not only fashioned gems in the shape of arachnids, birds, insects and reptiles, but even jeweled mushrooms, woodland flowers, fruit and even vegetables like aubergines and cauliflowers!

A collection of jeweled vegetable brooches and earrings from the Delicious Jewels Collection by Hemmerle, featuring seed pearls, demantoid garnets, white diamonds, violet sapphires, jade, orange sapphires, spinels and tsavorites, set in white gold, yellow gold, silver and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

Every piece is perfectly proportioned with the right balance of textures, colours, geometry and movement, with the result of quirky jewelry that is at the same time both understated and perfectly statement worthy. They’re thoroughly chic- and a perfect choice for women who like wearing their big gems in the middle of the day (like me!)

Two pairs of Hemmerle earrings featuring (from left) rough tourmalines and sapphires in patinated copper and white gold, and tourmalines and pink sapphires in white gold and patinated copper. Image HEMMERLE

Hemmerle’s incredible designs have been celebrated the world over, with their pieces often being included in global touring exhibitions of fine jewelry. Their most famous touring piece is without a doubt their Tarantula Brooch, which has been included in a number of exhibits showcasing the beauty of pearls. The praise that their jewelry has received has prompted Hemmerle to release four publications, Delicious Jewels, Art of Nature, Jewels Today and Nature’s Jewels, that document the company’s design process and showcase outstanding pieces of their work.

The Arbutus brooch from Hemmerle’s Nature’s Jewels Collection features prickly reverse-set sapphires and demantoid garnets in patinated copper, white gold, bronze and silver. Image HEMMERLE

It goes without saying that Hemmerle’s jewelry is extremely exclusive; their workrooms produce about 300 pieces a year. The company employs only 15 artisans for their whole production, where the process for creating the spectacular jewels remains a practice in pure devotion to the craft. Not a single detail is overlooked in this exact approach to construction- it’s not unusual for 500 or more hours to be spent on the making of a single Hemmerle jewel! However this process is key to producing Hemmerle’s exceptional jewelry.

Hemmerle bracelet featuring antique walrus teeth set with cognac diamonds in white gold and burnished copper. Image HEMMERLE

I’m thrilled to showcase these stunning examples of their work. Please feel free to swoon with me!

6 thoughts on “Hemmerle: The Masters of Exotic Jewelry

  1. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post is simply cool and
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