“Walk with your eyes open and the world will inspire you” is a personal credo for Stefan Hemmerle, the third-generation owner of Hemmerle, the Munich fine jewelry house famous for employing rare gems and atypical materials in its pieces. While visiting an antiques store, Stefan’s open eyes landed on a circa–19th-century Italian decorative wood box topped with two micromosaics depicting a man and woman in a countryside. He envisioned the Lilliputian paintings in earrings—so they were sliced off, backed in 18k white gold, and framed with jade green–tinted copper. “My father was inspired by the idea of something he had never seen,” says Christian Hemmerle, Stefan’s son and a creative director. “But that’s almost always the inspiration for us.”
Humble copper isn’t usually used in fine jewelry, but “it’s not about the materials, it’s about getting the art the perfect home,” says Christian. “We liked green as a color to combine the mosaics with, and we knew we could patina copper this color green. It had the potential of providing the mosaics a perfect home.” Other offbeat materials Hemmerle has used: fossils from the Alaskan tundra and slices of mammoth tusk.
The 75 mm drop earrings, which sold soon after they were made, took a month for an individual artisan to handcraft in Hemmerle’s atelier in Munich. “In the workshop, every craftsman starts and finishes one piece,” explains Christian. “The patina technique is quite time-consuming, and not so plan-able. It’s always a trial-and-error process.”
Hemmerle was founded in 1893 by jeweler Joseph Hemmerle, who made medals for the Royal Bavarian Court. The firm’s shop and atelier on bustling Maximilianstrasse opened in 1904. At the time, “it was not the perfect shopping street,” comments Christian. But high-end commerce slowly sprouted up, transforming it into the city’s premier retail row. Stefan set the course for Hemmerle’s avant-garde future in 1995 when he set a diamond in textured iron for the wife of a prominent art collector.