Before aluminum was just the stuff we used to wrap sandwiches, the silvery-white metal—the most abundant alloy in the earth’s core—was actually a valuable commodity. Napoleon III prized his collection of aluminum cutlery over his gold and silver sets, breaking it out for only the most special occasions. When entrepreneurs discovered how to separate the metal from its minerals in the late 1800s, aluminum quickly became an industrial alloy. Then, in early 2016, when Munich-based fine jewelry atelier Hemmerle was researching ways to create bigger earrings that were also lightweight, the [AL] Project—a collection using aluminum as its main metal—was born. This one-of-a-kind Clematis brooch marries aluminum (flower petals) and white gold with diamonds and sapphires. “We’re always looking to do new things,” says creative director Christian Hemmerle. “Sometimes you have this moment where you say, ‘Why don’t we just try it?’?”
The pin-back floral brooch—which weighs only 28.8 grams—features 2.67 cts. t.w. sapphires, 1.67 cts. t.w. pink diamonds, 0.55 ct. t.w. diamonds, and pure aluminum, anodized to achieve various blue and lavender hues.
“Usually you can see the colors very clearly in a metal you’re working with, but aluminum looks like a very rough metal until the end, when it gets its patina,” Hemmerle says. The firm was advised that aluminum could yield up to six different hues/patinas using the anodizing process. The fabrication team wound up producing more than 35 hues.
The Light Stuff
All the [AL] Project pieces are “super ultralight,” Hemmerle says. “Someone once told me a small earring needs to be hefty and a big earring needs to be light, and this always stuck in my head.” And while initially the house goldsmiths were hesitant to work with the less-than-lofty metal (“It was a very controversial discussion”), aluminum eventually won them over. “They’ve all seen the amazing effects.”