Haute Joaillerie: Four Questions with Christian Hemmerle

December06Jewelry Now

Hemmerle, the renowned 126-year-old German jewelry house, has been a perennial favorite of ours to cover simply because their work is among the best in the world. Always balanced, sumptuous, and employing a unique approach to textures and shapes with incredible attention to detail, the house of Hemmerle has earned its special place among European design houses. Besides, each piece I encounter evokes a deep sense of pleasure and wonder – what else could be asked of a piece of jewelry?

Their latest collection turns to the culture and tropes of East Asia. We spoke with Christian Hemmerle to learn more about what it all means.

JI: So we’ll start with fundamentals. These pieces are incredibly detailed; how much time needed for their production?

CH: We set no limits on the time it takes to make each piece. We make around 200 one-off handcrafted pieces of jewelry a year and each piece is made on site at our Munich atelier by our team of 20 master-craftsmen. It can take years to treasure hunt stones whose proportions fit together and once in production, a piece can take over 500 hours to complete. Usually, the same craftsman will work on a piece from beginning to end drawing expertise and advice from across the workshop.

For over 15 years now we use a very precise technique of setting stones in reverse pavé. The setting adds an unexpected depth as light is reflected from many different angles due to the increased exposed surface area. In these iron and diamond earrings we have reverse-set over 300 diamonds in a variety of sizes to achieve a seamless surface layered behind the cut-out iron structure. Similarly in the earrings featuring Japanese Gods, the reverse of each porcelain panel is reverse-set with over 400 diamonds to add an extra layer of craftsmanship and detail.

JI: Are there any particular creative techniques that has have been used to create these pieces? The house is known for their innovative technical processes…

Each piece is a new discovery for us and we never get bored of experimenting and innovating with design and process. We aim to continuously challenge our craft and push boundaries in what is feasible. In the earrings below the iron used for the lattice over the diamond-set surface has been engineered so it appears curved from the creation’s profile allowing for an elevated aesthetic and unique physical volume to our piece. Similarly, In the copper and jade earrings, the honeycomb structure which fuses the natural zircons and orange jade discs was a challenge technically to achieve but we tackled it through experimentation. We often innovate in our pieces that include technical elements created uniquely as prototypes, facilitating accordingly our creative vision.

JI: Tell us more about the stones used here: how they were sourced and why they were chosen.

CH: We are continually searching around the world for the most beautiful, intriguing stones and materials, both old and new, to add to our creative vocabulary
The pearls in the topaz earrings feature natural melo and conch pearls. Melo pearls are unfathomably rare; found in melo melo snails in the waters of the South China Sea, melo pearls remain unique as only one in every 10,000 snails produces a pearl and, most often, it is small. Conch pearls are similarly hard to come by and it took us many years to find four pearls whose proportions worked perfectly together like this.

JI: These earrings in particular‘Seven Gods of Fortune’ are incredible. What’s the story?

CH: These earrings boldly use porcelain portraits depicting the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune. According to myth, the Gods arrive on New Year’s Day on a ship carrying treasures that symbolize honesty, fortune, dignity, amiability, longevity, happiness and wisdom. They were chosen from Hinduist, Buddhist, Taoist and Shintoist gods or saints, and settled into Japanese Folklore Gods, believed to have been grouped together around the 17th century. In our earrings, each of the six Gods used face inwards towards the viewer.
Beyond the beauty in the colour of the orange jade used, the material also holds cultural significance intricately woven into Chinese history. We have found much inspiration in the material and have previously used both ancient and antique jade in an array of colours from lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown to white, black, and grey, in each case selected for its unique color and texture.


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