Hamburg is known for big-name jewellery houses such as Wempe, and this creative city is also home to a wealth of independent jewellery workshops, many of them tucked away in less visited neighbourhoods. Jan Spille, Colleen B Rosenblat and Hilde Leiss are just three of many talented independent jewellers in this creative city
Hamburg’s jewellery traditions go back a long way. This is the city where world-renowned watch and jewellery specialist Wempe first saw great success; it developed a network of branches here before establishing its headquarters in the city in 1923. Today other favourite brands such as Cartier, Tiffany & Co and Bucherer also have stores in the city. But there’s more to Hamburg’s jewellery offering than these globally recognised names. A host of independent designers and goldsmiths have ateliers dotted across the city. Each is defined by his or her distinctive aesthetic, and visiting their respective studios also offers a wonderful opportunity to discover some of Hamburg’s lovely and less visited places.
If you’re looking for ethically sourced jewellery, seek out designers who work with ecological, fair trade or recycled precious metals, such as Thomas Becker and Jan Spille
The city’s craftsmen, designers and artists have a strong sense of community and are promoted and supported by organisations such as Handwerkskammer Hamburg and Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Kunsthandwerks (AdK). Hamburg’s jewellers have flourished in this environment and are as plentiful as they are diverse; there is something for every taste and need. Alongside their own collections some offer the possibility of custom design so that you can devise your dream piece. Hagen, for example, makes bespoke wedding rings, whether you’re looking for a sleek, classic band or a more contemporary design. Others, such as Andreas Baur’s Goldwerk, include restoration services, perfect for reviving a family heirloom or antique.
If you’re looking for ethically sourced jewellery, seek out designers who work with ecological, fair trade or recycled precious metals, such as Thomas Becker and Jan Spille. The latter specialises in working with gold and silver from responsible mines that ensure fair salaries and safety for miners, prohibition of child labour and conservation of nature.
The jewellery is made at the Jan Spille atelier in the Ottensen district. It has a modern showroom and an adjoining studio where there’s an atmosphere of a traditional jewellery workshop. ‘Our customers have personal interviews with our goldsmiths and jewellery designers,’ explains Jan Spille. The team has developed an innovative customisation system that uses in-house collections as a starting point. ‘All design criteria of the jewellery pieces ‒ for example colour, form, surface, diamonds and gemstones ‒ is selected and newly combined in consultation with the customer,’ he says. Ethical, unique and custom-made, the pieces created at Jan Spille’s workshop are ones to cherish.
At another end of the city, in the Harvestehude district, goldsmith Colleen B Rosenblat takes inspiration from nature, creating pieces that are a colourful celebration of precious stones, from diamonds to tourmalines, sapphires, amethysts and more. The settings are striking; Rosenblat uses an intriguing technique of hand-hammering gold surfaces.
She moved to the city in the early 90s and almost immediately felt at home in the innovative environment. ‘When I first came to Hamburg, I was drawn into the very vigorous creative scene. I met designers like Jil Sander, Iris von Arnim and Wolfgang Joop,’ she says. She set up her atelier and showroom, calling on American architect and interior designer Michael Gabellini to devise the perfect space. ‘The atmosphere we created is very calm. The studio feels like a retreat in a big city.’ The property, she adds, is an old carriage house set back from the street and its accompanying noise. ‘It’s very green with big trees around it.’ The choice of limestone floors, white walls and walnut Nakashima furniture creates an elegant, neutral mood. ‘The showroom doesn’t draw attention away from my one-of-a-kind pieces,’ explains the designer.
In the Altstadt district, Hilde Leiss is a master goldsmith and jewellery designer whose pieces are defined by their simplicity. In tandem with her atelier, she has a successful gallery which she runs from the same address. The space is in a 19th-century Kontorhaus, an impressive style of office building that is testimony to Hamburg’s status as a powerful Hanseatic city. She describes her workshop and gallery as ‘495 square metres of wonderful merchandise attractively displayed. The atmosphere is one of joy.’
Under the high ceilings of the historic building, visitors will discover a changing roster of exhibitions alongside jewellery by Leiss. She explains that this is a very natural combination. ‘The dynamic is rooted in my conviction to share objects of desire, regardless of the medium – ceramic, wood, bronze, flat art and, of course, jewellery ‒ with an appreciative visitor or customer.’ She has created a haven in the heart of a city brimming with talent. As Leiss says, ‘Hamburg reverberates with creativity.’
When visiting this vibrant city, let your footsteps take you on an exploration of Hamburg’s many jewellery workshops and showrooms. You’re likely to leave with a unique piece of Hamburg-made jewellery to treasure forever ‒ and you can’t get a local experience more compelling than that.