Buoyed by Munich’s history of craftsmanship and a thriving gallery district, the city’s wealth of innovative jewellers is no longer its best-kept secret. As designer Saskia Diez says, ‘Some of the most influential names are living and working in Munich. Maybe this is by accident, but maybe it’s also because Munich – and its surroundings – is full of companies and crafts workshops, of possibilities to develop things.’
The design talent ranges from those who painstakingly craft bespoke pieces that are wearable works of art to creators of bold modern jewellery. Hemmerle, one of the city’s oldest jewellers, is also one of its most innovative. Opened in 1893, when brothers Joseph and Anton Hemmerle took over an existing goldsmiths’ business to start making medals, the house is now run by the fourth generation of the family.
It specialises in hand-crafted bespoke pieces, created by its 15 in-house goldsmiths. The company’s most recent designs play on the wonder and weirdness of nature, from a eucalyptus-brand brooch rendered in diamonds, brass, bronze and gold, to tiny pavé diamond aubergines and a life-size tarantula made of giant conch pearls, sapphires and white, yellow and brown diamonds. With such intricate designs, it seems appropriate that Hemmerle’s pieces have cropped up in galleries and art museums all over the world, whether at the recent exhibition devoted to pearls at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.
But Munich’s jewellery is not just about opulent embellishments. With a graphic, strong and sensual style, Saskia Diez designs for independent and intelligent women. Diez started her craft by designing pieces for a competition about women and sports: bracelets that looked like jewellery but served as wrist weights. ‘I had the feeling that I could contribute something to the world of jewellery that was not there already, a kind of jewellery for women like me,’ says Diez. Her designs reference ideas of masculinity and femininity, movement and the body, with each piece reinterpreting traditions in a modern way.
The strong, subtle forms of Diez’s designs have an understated luxury, from the bold, geometric use of the pearls in her Stripe collection, where they are paired with neatly curved matt gold, to the long silver-chain earrings of her Fringe collection. Diez is now working on the launch of her first flagship store outside Germany, designing everything from staff uniforms to the interiors.
Meanwhile, Cada (which stands for Creativity, Arts, Design and Anarchy) showcases the edgy, quirky side of Munich’s fine jewellery scene. The brand, launched by Annette and Herbert Kopp in 1986, combines a contemporary sleekness with precious materials and craftsmanship. The result is items that fit in with the way people wear jewellery now – statement pieces mixed with subtle slivers of silver and gold, and precious materials worn as casually as costume jewellery. Herbert Kopp references art, architecture, music and subcultures to inspire his signature designs. Alongside its witty Love collection, Cada’s key piece for autumn/winter 2014/15 is the Ixxo ring, an elegantly angular band of white pavé diamonds set in white gold.
After working for several jewellers, Claudia Lassner started her Cocii brand by experimenting with designs in the metal workshop of an ex-boyfriend. Lassner describes her handmade silver and gold jewellery as delicate and restrained, with a touch of glamour. ‘It’s an eclectic mixture of different influences,’ she says. ‘The recent 2014 collection could be described as clean, straight, art deco-style meets old-school hip-hop, or Coco Chanel bumps into Kanye West.’ Lassner points to her big twisted Creole earrings as a key piece, but her next collection will see a cooler monochrome look, with hints of her favourite decade, the 1920s.
Like her fellow jewellers, Lassner thrives on the creative culture of Munich, and her atelier and shop on Schraudolphstrasse has become a magnet for the city’s design talent. ‘Munich has a small but unique scene, with many young, talented and ambitious creatives,’ Lassner says. ’I’m always happy walking through the streets and discovering new things. Design starts with ideas and the culture in Munich really promotes new ideas.’