Once he had what he wanted, Stefan Hemmerle abruptly left the convention center hosting February’s annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show and jumped into the back seat of his rental car. There, while being driven through the streets of the Arizona city to his hotel, the 60-year-old patriarch of the family who operates the namesake jewelry house in Munich began sketching designs. In the car with him were his 26-year-old son, Christian, and his daughter-in-law, Yasmin. Stefan kept showing them his drawings and seeking their suggestions on how best to showcase the magnificent oval-shaped red and green tourmaline stones—perfectly matched in size and cut—that he had just acquired at the show. Ultimately, Hemmerle created a pair of earrings with the red tourmaline set in red-toned, matte copper, and the green stone set in green-hued copper.
The circumstances of their conception might have been unusual, but the earrings are typical of Hemmerle in that they juxtapose striking colored gemstones with unconventional metals. In addition to copper, he and his family often work with iron, brass, and aluminum. “Stefan’s innovative use of materials and his sense of color and style are completely distinctive,” says New York jewelry consultant Patricia Hambrecht. “It’s instantly recognizable as Hemmerle.”
The style is so distinctive that last fall, Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne museum hosted a three-month exhibition celebrating Hemmerle’s contribution to modern design. “It’s not about the stone,” says Christian, who joined the family business two years ago. “Our jewelry is about the composition of the design.”
Hemmerle annually produces about 250 unique pieces, many of which result from the family’s extensive experimentation with various metals. Before using aluminum in their jewelry, they heated, cooled, and embellished it with different finishes to determine how those treatments would affect the metal’s appearance. Christian is particularly fond of precious gemstones set in brass. “You can’t control the color of brass since its patina changes with the oils of the skin,” he says. “It’s like free-form art.”
Hemmerle sells its jewelry only through its Munich boutique, which is located on the Maximilianstrasse shopping thoroughfare, and which Stefan’s grandfather Josef and great-uncle Anton opened in 1904. The company also displays its collection at biannual private showings in New York.