When it comes to shopping for fine jewellery, Germany offers a stunning range of options
Although dazzling gems may not be the first things that spring to mind when visiting Germany, there are riches here. The country’s big cities are home to some of the best names in the field of fine jewellery – Wempe, Wellendorff and Bucherer are three brands you simply must discover.
The most famous name on the German jewellery scene, Wempe has stores in seven countries, including an impressive range of 26 boutiques across Germany. Founded in 1878, this is still a family-run business. From humble beginnings in the town of Elsfleth, west of Hamburg, Wempe found a niche in the market by adapting and changing to suit the needs of its customers. Its first store was a watch workshop that specialised in repairs as well as selling new models, providing both a necessary service and the thrill of a new purchase. This was augmented by the stunning window displays of founder Gerhard Diedrich Wilhelm Wempe, and the company thrived in an era when visual merchandising was otherwise almost non-existent. It was not long before Gerhard Wempe opened a store in the busy town of Oldenburg, and in 1907 the brand branched into cosmopolitan Hamburg, becoming the first jewellery and watch dealer in the city to set up a network of shops selling its own watches as well as new Swiss imports.
Expansion and innovation have always driven the Wempe business as well as the Wempe family. In 2003, when the founder’s great-granddaughter Kim-Eva Wempe took the reins of the company, such spirit continued. Having already pioneered a successful in-house jewellery line at the turn of the millennium, Kim-Eva Wempe also launched her own eponymous line. The By Kim range turned this historic family watchmaking business into a vibrant player on the international jewellery scene.
The brand also boasts the trademarked Wempe-Cut® diamond; a secret cut that was specially developed for the company. Where a diamond will typically include around 57 facets, this offers a ground-breaking 137 light-catching facets, giving each stone almost unparalleled sparkle. Each cut takes two days to complete and can only be undertaken by the most skilled of diamond experts. To showcase these extra-special stones, a new range, Splendora by Kim, has been designed. The collection includes rings, pendants and earrings, with each one of the magnificent Wempe-Cut® stones surrounded by 16 smaller brilliant cut diamonds to amplify the sparkle. ‘As a result, the Splendora by Kim line radiates exactly the lightness and transparency that makes style timeless,’ remarks Kim-Eva Wempe.
If you are looking for timeless style, Wempe is not the only player in Germany. Wellendorff, based at Pforzheim, south of Frankfurt, is another family-run German jeweller that puts craftsmanship and exceptional materials at its heart. Ernst Alexander and Julie Wellendorff opened their jewellery workshop in 1893 and soon counted the Russian tsar and the British royal family among their customers.
As time went on, the family saw a decline in the need for the grand jewels with which it had made its name and concentrated instead on high-quality gold and signet rings. Ernst Alexander Wellendorff’s advice to this son was that if you ‘work with the best and most spectacular materials and employ the best goldsmiths it is inevitable that you will produce the most exquisite jewellery in the world’. The rings were an instant success and to this day Wellendorff’s annual ring launches are among the brand’s most successful.
The real signature for the brand came in 1977, with the creation of the Wellendorff Rope, a necklace in woven 18-carat gold. It is said to be the softest necklace in the world. The idea of jewellery as a symbol is central to Wellendorff and, reflecting this, Hanspeter Wellendorff created the original Rope necklace as a gift for his wife Eva. Whether through its distinctive cold enamel rings, silky soft necklaces or the new My Heart ring created to celebrate the brand’s 125th anniversary, each Wellendorff piece carries the idea of love through to its core.
Five years before Wellendorff opened its first workshop, just across the border in Switzerland another family-run company by the name of Bucherer started selling its wares in Lucerne. Much like Wempe, the company’s origins lie in watches, but the Bucherer Fine Jewellery line is now present in its 33 stores across Europe, including the world’s largest watch and jewellery store in Paris. Throughout its six German locations, in Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg and Düsseldorf, the brand’s own line of jewellery is as much, if not more, of a reason to visit as the international watch collections.
When it comes to jewels, Bucherer’s approach is to create modern, timeless pieces that evoke a sense of fun. The latest launch, the Peekaboo collection, is a perfect example of this. Bangles, earrings and statement cocktail rings feature colourful cushion cut gemstones set in white and rose gold and finished with diamonds. The design of the collection is inspired by an idea of a modern Marie Antoinette, in equal parts jovial and magnificent, while the cushion cut used on all the stones was specially selected to show the alluring colour and shine of each jewel.
While the core of the collection features aquamarines and morganites, there’s an extra-special touch with a unique ring featuring a Paraiba tourmaline, one of the rarest and most exquisite gemstones in the world. ‘We consider ourselves extremely lucky that we are able to procure such a magnificent example of a Paraiba tourmaline,’ says Matthias Heimberg, director of Bucherer Fine Jewellery. ‘And even more so to set it in such an unusual piece of jewellery.’
Whether you are searching for an extraordinary one-off piece, a dazzling diamond or a golden ring to be worn every day, the fine jewellery shops that line Germany’s streets are excellent places to start.