The Allgemeine Gold- und Silberscheideanstalt AG, founded in Pforzheim in 1891, is among the leading European firms in the precious metal refinery in the world. There are also affiliates in Austria and Thailand. More than 300 employees ensure comprehensive service. The firm’s Internet site, www.allgemeine-gold.de, is of particular interest to jewelry artists.
Allgemeine, in Pforzheim, offers a wide spectrum of services, from supplying high-value alloys and providing semi-finished products to materials analysis and environmentally friendly recovery of precious metals. With a capacity of over 1000 tons per year, it is among the top refineries in Europe for recovery and its continuous casting unit for silver materials is currently the most efficient in the world. The most modern technologies guarantee results that exceed international standards.
Among the services offered by Allgemeine, which sees itself as a system supplier to the industry is its unusually comprehensive Internet site. A goldsmith can find not only important information on technical questions, but also the largest collection currently available in the jewelry world of links to artists, galleries, museums, and schools. A unique treasure chest of information, suggestions, and contacts around the world. Art + Design spoke with H.J. von Zündt, Webmaster of Allgemeine, about the guiding principle and intentions behind this Internet site, which has developed into a “collective work of art” of communication.
Art + Design: Alongside your achievements as an industry supplier, Allgemeine has also compiled on its Internet site a comprehensive collection of useful tips and links for the entire industry worldwide. What was the motivation behind this labor-intensive effort to share information?
von Zündt: Several factors play a decisive role here. Allgemeine naturally wants to offer this unique service, which has now grown to about 5000 links, to emphasize its position as a partner to the entire industry worldwide. Our electronic product catalogue is available 24 hours a day and allows a goldsmith not just an overview of our extensive offerings. He can also use the detailed information to figure out how much precious metal in the various alloys he must take into account in his calculations, for a tube made of gold, for instance.
The benefit of the links for schools, museums, or the present 1240 Galleries and artists is evident. When we started the Internet site, it was clear to us that the World Wide Web was creating a new world of communication. We found our space in the industry network. Then and now, the goal has always been to follow the motto “Share what you know, learn what you don’t” and the example of the French encyclopedists in compiling and showing the knowledge of our times.
One particular aspect of our collection of links is that every individual entry has been checked. A tremendous amount of work goes into the selection process. We have removed not only ethically incorrect sites that have sexist, racist, or political content, but have also consistently filtered out sites that were not meaningful, credible, or persuasive. To date, I have also not taken into account large, industrially oriented operations.
The important thing for me is to bring work and artists together again. To promote the “re-individualization” of jewelry. To make people, cultures, and aspects of society accessible worldwide – by means of information in words, but above all also in pictures. For that reason, sites without meaningful pictures and sites that are loaded with too many technical tricks also ended up not making the cut.
Any and all available sources, such as trade fairs, exhibitions, publications, books, etc., and the Internet itself, must be utilized. We have even developed our own software program that scans the Net and regularly tests the functionality of the links. The final review and evaluation are, of course, my business. No machine in the world can take my place in that.
One further aspect that makes this kind of work possible in the first place is personal commitment. Without a certain excitement and obsession, this type of work cannot be accomplished at all. In the earliest phases in particular, we spent not only days, but also nights on research.
Art + Design: What individual areas are covered in your collection of links?
von Zündt: The spectrum ranges from auctions to industry listings, information services, design competitions, professional and technical schools, and industry publications to galleries, artists, techniques in goldsmithing and watchmaking, as well as collections of links all the way through trade fairs, museums, hallmarks, associations, and institutions. So that frequent users can find the newest information quickly, the ten most recently added links are shown under a separate heading. The date of the most recent update is shown next to the alphabetically sorted tips. That way, one can see quickly whether and where something has been changed.
Art + Design: What kind of reaction do you see to this offer?
von Zündt: We currently have about 30,000 visitors per month on our site, which makes a generous estimate of 360,000 per year. This indicates an increase of 30% over last year. Many other sites now refer visitors to our address, www.allgemeine-gold.de, most of them with a very positive assessment. Whole folders are filled with excited e-mails, which confirm for us that our offer has already been of great use to many people. Only think of the suggestions with regard to design, the gallery contacts, or the exchange of opinions with artists from the four corners of the world. One can also find on our site many examples that give practical tips for the design of one’s own Internet site. We are at the top of the list, often the first or second link, in the search engines, which sort their lists of links by frequency now.
Art + Design: How long did it take to design the Internet site in its current form, and what further headings are in the planning stages?
von Zündt: We started eight years ago, but naturally enough, this kind of thing is never really finished. But it is enjoyable. Like a hunter happy with his catch, I am always pleased when I find a new site that merits inclusion. This fuels my motivation to continue developing the project. When I find out, for example, that the Eskimos have courses in goldsmithing, and thus can make current jewelry art transparent, little by little, while promoting internationality. Right now I am considering whether it makes sense to add another heading, “world brands” with links to the big factories and workshops. Until now, I have deliberately excluded this area, because these firms, as opposed to goldsmiths’ studios and galleries, have entirely different means and opportunities to draw attention to themselves.
Art + Design: Are there also plans to set up a chat room, where industry professionals can exchange ideas about problems and new developments?
von Zündt: I don’t think so much about chat rooms, but I can well imagine our setting up a hotline that offers immediate help with questions problems within our field of expertise.
Art + Design: Mr. von Zündt, thank you for the interview.