Happy birthday Hemmerle: the Harmony bracelet celebrates a historic anniversary
It was King Maximilian II of Bavaria who in 1850 began to develop Munich’s Maximilianstraße as one of the four royal boulevards. Today, the Maximilianstraße testifies to the monarch’s particular vision on architectural history: the city center street is lined with sumptuous buildings, their imposing facades a mixture of Renaissance and neo-Gothic details rarely seen since. In Hemmerle, the address has been home since 1904, when the legendary jeweler first moved into Maximilianstrasse 14.
HemmerleThe store’s contact details are far from his only historical connection to royalty. Joseph and Anton Hemmerle started their business in 1893, taking over a local silversmith. Two years later, in 1895, the two brothers received the equivalent of a royal mandate, invited to make small gem-set treasures and medals for the royal court of Louis III, the last king of Bavaria. Their reputation quickly spread beyond borders. In Paris, during the Universal Exhibition of 1900, a Hemmerle pectoral cross won a prize; it has since been added to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
In short, Hemmerle is a picture book legacy. The company remained in the hands of its founding family; but, instead of building on past successes, Joseph Hemmerle Christian’s great-grandson, his wife Yasmin and his parents made innovation their leitmotif, placing creative freedom above nostalgia. There is material magic in their work: ancient bronze pieces, a 19th century micro-mosaic, and pebbles rejected by the Isar in Munich have all been worked into Hemmerle patterns. The woods – Tropical Black Palmyra and Colla Fossilized Woods have been listed – are a highlight, as are non-traditional metals such as textured iron and brushed copper.
Growing up in Munich, I went to school for a while a short walk from the Hemmerle store. And although I remember walking the Maximilianstraße through the seasons and every hour of the day, I don’t remember many memories of the jeweler’s storefront. At Hemmerle, this may be welcome: here, a certain discretion has long been required.
Apart from the private meetings scheduled every six months at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in New York, Hemmerle, nicknamed “jeweler jeweler”, only sells from his Munich boutique. The family exhibit at top art fairs – Masterpiece in London and TEFAF in New York and Maastricht among them – but have not touched on e-commerce or retail partnerships. To this day, every Hemmerle piece of jewelry is unique – meaning no second version will ever be produced – and entirely made in its main workshop in Munich.
It was in their family workshop – located near the boutique and made up of 18 highly skilled artisans, many of whom have remained in the business for decades – that Yasmin Hemmerle recently headed. She was on a quest to learn more about a Hemmerle piece she calls her “Wonder Woman bracelet”, alluding to the superheroine’s signature accessory. “It makes me feel invincible,” she said of the Harmony bracelet, an open bracelet that has become a totemic design for the firm. This year, Hemmerle celebrates its 30th anniversary. “For me, it’s like a blanket,” explains Yasmin, who sports an olive wood version, her signature two rounded ends topped with brown diamonds. “It’s timeless. It gives joy. Rarely does she not wear hers. “I wear it all the time. I wear it to the playground, I wear it to work. I wear it to cocktails.
The ease of wearing, she learned at the workshop, was what first inspired her stepfather to craft the Harmony bracelet. “He said, ‘Our main reason, our main goal was to do something that a woman could wear on her own, that she didn’t need someone else to help her with.”
Simple in line, the Harmony bangle is in fact a triumph of jewelry. The design is equipped with an invisible, seamless closure that opens with a twist; its pleasantly balanced silhouette is the result of precisely calibrated dimensions and volumes. “For me, it sums up everything Hemmerle is: engineering, craftsmanship, materials,” enthuses Yasmin. “What’s funny is that it looks so easy,” adds Christian. “Proportion, shape, lines – everything must be in perfect harmony for a perfect Harmony bracelet.”
Since its creation, the Harmony bracelet has been a canvas for creative flights of fantasy and experimentation. Yasmin says, “As we have evolved with our materials, the Harmony bracelet has evolved with us. Only a handful of designs are completed per year; previous models were crafted from textured walnut wood – its ends end in a pair of moonstones set with aluminum and white gold – or dotted with red carnelian in the shape of sparkling pink pearls and spinels.
In London, the Victoria & Albert Museum added in 2010 to its collections an iteration in patinated red copper and white gold with red spinels; an Egyptian-themed Harmony bracelet can be admired at New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum since 2014. “The bracelet anchors so many milestones of what Hemmerle has achieved,” says Christian.
Back in Munich, the team recently completed a lightweight, all-aluminum Harmony bangle. Is there a material, I ask, that the brand wouldn’t experiment with? “No”, says Christian. “When it comes to that, we just do it.”