A Metalsmith’s Guide to Germany
11 Minute Read
My trips to Germany in 1980 and 1982 were the most satisfying experiences in relation to my metalwork. They were the most rewarding in my growth as an artist/designer and the expansion of my business. Therefore I would like to share some of my observations. Although I will discuss at length here both Pforzheim and Idar-Oberstein, they are by no means the only places rich in what jewelers and those interested in metalwork are looking for. Following is a list of suggestions on finding unusual jewelry and metalwork in any location in Germany, along with some specific places to start.
Pforzheim is not only the center of the jewelry industry, it is a charming town. The small town flavor mixes with the big city excitement without the oppressiveness. The parks are inviting; especially relaxing are the ones along the rivers Enz and Nagold. Pforzheim is the gateway to the Black Forest region and attracts visitors to its many cultural and recreational offerings in and around the city. The jewelry stores show work no more exciting than that in other German towns with a population of over 100,000. But there are these special places of interest to the goldsmith/jeweler, some of the best in the field, all within walking distance.
The best place to learn about places of interest is the Tourist Information center. Just about any city in Europe will send you maps, lists of hotels and pensions and attractions of the city. One of the nicest is the Stadtinformation (Marktplatz 1, 7530 Pforzheim). They speak English and have lots of brochures in English. Request them two to three months before you start your trip. None of the places mentioned in Pforzheim charge admission.
Idar-Oberstein is situated in a narrow valley with steep rocky walls rising on most sides and the Idar river running through it. Life is a bit tougher in this region; the weather a bit cooler.
Idar-Oberstein is the hub of the precious stone industry. Hundreds of small and some larger stonecutters are located in the city and in a number of communities surrounding the town. They are easily accessible and many cater to the tourist trade with inviting storefronts. This is quite in contrast to Pforzheim, where the retail and wholesale business is completely separate.
The train station is in the city section, Oberstein, and directly across from it is the Tourist Information center (6580 Idar-Oberstein). In this part of town is Felsenkirche, a church built into the cliff face, and below it, on the river, is the Herimatmuseum. This museum has a large and varied collection of minerals, carved stones and traditional and contemporary sculpture of the finest quality in design, material and craftsmanship. One room shows contemporary jewelry, another samples of the jewelry and accessory industry from this and the previous centuries.
Last year the museum mounted a special exhibit form Czechoslovakia including work by Anton Cepka. Some of the displays could have used some dusting and polishing, but budget cuts seem to be a world-wide malaise. One room is set up as an old lapidary, where the men used to do their work lying on their stomachs.
Jewelry Stores + Galleries
In almost any German town you will find a goldsmith who has some intriguing work on display. Some may have just a few unusual pieces, others have a great selection. The quality will vary too. To find the best in each town just walk into a jewelry store which seems to show well-designed work and ask about others in town. However, jealousy and differences of opinion on what is worth seeing might make it necessary to inquire in more than one place. Some of the outstanding jewelry stores and galleries showing Europe's finest artists in metal are as follows:
Bastionsstrasse 31, 4000 Dusseldorf
Marie Hassenflug dares to show the most avant-garde work by outstanding artists such as Hermann Schafran, Hubertus von Skal and Christa Luehtje. The selection is large for this type of work. She shares a studio with Michael Kunze in the gallery.
Map—Gallerie für Schmuck und Objekte,
Auf der Ruhr (WDR-Vierscheibenhaus) 5000 Cologne 1
Map Sauer shows jewelry (and sculpture) by Nele, Jan Wehrens, Michael Zobel, Carl Heinz Reister, Klaus Ullrich, Miriam Sharlin, Peter Hassenflug, Marie Hassenflug and Sous. She also shows bronze castings and other fine crafts in her spacious gallery.
Kölner Ladenstadt, Ladden 22, 5000 Cologne 1
The most outstanding work at Goldschmiede Hayden is jewelry in a combination of sterling and gold, as that of Doris Raymann-Novak, Uwe Boettinger, Wilhelm Buchert and Edgar Hoefling. Also shown here is work designed by Elisabeth Treskow, known in the United States for her granulation. Now in her 80s, she cannot work anymore.
The other leading galleries for jewelry are:
Galerie Charlotte Henning
Rheinstrasse 18, 6100 Darmstadt
Bleitreustrasse, 1000 Berlin 12
Marktplatz 20, 7900 Ulm
Maximilianstrasse 22, 8000 Munich 22
Kronprinzstrasse 21, 7000 Stuttgart 1
Museum + Exhibitions
Any city in Germany has one or several museums showing rich collections of art, including lots of metalwork made in the last 1000 years, and some older. Many museums have more stored in the basements than on display and can be choosy in what to show. During the fat years, new museums were built to generously display not only the old, but the latest American artists. Valuable metalwork can be found in the treasure chamber (Schatzkammer) associated with some cathedrals (Dom or Münster).
The Schatzkammer in the Residenzmuseum in Munich (Max-Joseph-Platz 3, telephone: 224641) is most impressive. The opulence of the vessels with an abundance of gems shows how appreciated this type of work was, as it must have been incredibly expensive.
The Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne (Roemisch- Germanisches Museum, Roncalliplatz 4, telephone: 0221/2211) just in front of the main train station has a collection of antique jewelry quite varied in design. Another example is the Landes Museum in Stuttgart with its collection of jewelry and small objects mostly from the 19th century, and another section with very early metalwork. The best place to meet designer craftsmen is at the Frankfurt Exhibition (Frankfurter Messe) held each year at the end of February and in August in Frankfurt. Here one can meet more designer-goldsmiths than at any other exhibition in Germany, I was told.
Another center for goldsmithing art is Hanau. It used to be especially important for the finest in quality and is still known as "Hanau—city of precious jewelry." The German House for Goldsmiths (Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus), built in about 1538, has changing shows of international rank.
The Jewelry Museum
(Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Jahnstrasse 42, 7530 Pforzheim) located in the Reuchlinghaus, permanently exhibits the history of European jewelry from antiquity to the present, with original pieces from five millennia. The collection of antique and modern rings is remarkable, considered the largest in the world. The ground floor holds the antique collection and the new wing for special shows, as that of Reinhold Reiling (see Metalsmith fall/82, page 44). On a lower floor are located some of the Pforzheim industry exhibits and the second floor holds work of the early 20th century right up to the present.
This room will hold the most joys for the contemporary jeweler. Some of the best work of many well-known metalsmiths from around the world is on display here, including some from the United States. This is the only place that continuously shows the very best of international metalwork. Even though the Schmuckmuseum is not really large as museums go, I found it required several visits in order to comprehend and absorb the different approaches, ideas, designs and exquisite craftsmanship. Almost across from the Schmuckmuseum is Schuett's Precious Stone Exhibition, with a large collection of crystals, minerals, cut stones and finished jewelry.
The permanent Samples Exhibition (Staendige Musterausstellung) is the showcase of Pforzheim's jewelry industry, including also watches and silverware. On the top floor of the Industriehaus (Poststrasse 1) near the Leopoldplatz, it serves as an information center for retail jewelers (and anyone needing supplies) about manufacturers in and around Pforzheim.
Over 240 exhibitors have their best products on display in 270 cases spread over seven rooms. The Samples Exhibition is open only to retail jewelers (Juweliere) not to goldsmiths or anyone (who admits) being on the production end in any form. One has to show a business card or the like to get in. Free copies of German jewelry magazines are available. Look under "Wo-Was-Wann" in the Goldschmeide. zeitung or European Jeweler for current jewelry exhibits in Europe. They have a handsome free catalog of all exhibitors. (Remember, if you say you are a goldsmith, they will not let you in.)
The 10 or more story high Diamond and Precious Stones Exchange building dominates the city section of Idar. On a lower floor of the exchange is the German Precious Stones Museum (Deutsches Edelstein Museum). It has a large selection of gems and minerals, including carved antique and contemporary gemstones, starting with Sumerian seals. The presentation is excellent. In 1982 the museum more than doubled in size.
Of great interest to the goldsmith is the Continuous Sample Show for Precious Stones and the Jewelry Industry (Staendige Musterschau). It is located on the top floor of the same building and open to visitors in the trade. A great variety of mostly cut and carved stones is elegantly displayed in hundreds of showcases, with business cards conveniently stored under each case. Anyone can become a member of the sponsoring organization and rent space. Most exhibitors are from this region and some have offices in the same building. I noticed a higher quality of both work and display since my previous visit in 1980.
In Stipshausen, about 16 miles north of Idar-Oberstein, just west of Rhaunen, designer and stonecutter Bernd Munsteiner has his studio (Wiesenstrasse 10, telephone: 06544/600). The location spares him any tourist traffic, but goldsmiths and patrons are welcome. In his handsome gallery and studio sculpture and a few pieces of beautiful jewelry are on display. He makes his living by selling uniquely cut stones. They are not on display, as "everyone" knows he has them for sale. A master stonecutter works with him and one excellent goldsmith. The sculpture and jewelry are mostly created for shows. A biannual exhibit in his studio is an extravagant affair, where he shows his work and that of other jewelers and artists from Germany and other countries.
Around the Bourse on one side goldsmith Herbert Munsteiner has his gallery and studio (Mainzerstrasse 69). He is the brother of Bernd Munsteiner and his innovative goldsmithing compliments the designs of Bernd's stones. On the other side of the Bourse is the Lorenz Crafts Gallery (Hauptstrasse 105). Here Dieter Lorenz shows his contemporary gem carvings, well set into modern jewelry or as small sculptures. Lorenz, a former psychologist, entered the field only a few years ago, but his work is growing fast. Recent issues of the European Jeweler report that he has won some awards in leading competitions.
The Goldsmith and Watchmakers Training School (Goldschmiedeschule, St. Georgen Steige 65) is the most influential in the field. At the end of the school-year in June I was able to view their extensive exhibit of student work. I was impressed by the thorough teaching going on there as demonstrated on the step-by-step samples, the fine craftsmanship in pavé setting, the drawings and renderings of metalwork in color, including all types of stones. The office requests that you ask for permission to take photographs. Although the show is open in June only, the office will give you information at any time of the year.
The College of Design (Fachhochschule für Gestaltung, Holzgartenstrasse 12) stresses a more advanced artistic level. There is not much, if anything, on display, but usually the office will give you a tour of the classes. You might be able to get closer contact with the professors if you introduce yourself ahead of time by writing, as would be the case with any goldsmith in Germany.
The Public Academy of Drawing in Hanau (Staatliche Zeichenakademie) is one of the leading institutions for the education of the goldsmith in Germany.
There are tools and supplies, including findings and chains available in Pforzheim you might not get anywhere else, or not the quality or at the manufacturer's price. For tools I visited Karl Fischer GMBH (Berliner Strasse 18) and H. Seltsam (Leopoldstrasse 20). Fischer has a fat catalog in English. They ship worldwide. There are numerous manufacturers for findings and chains in and around Pforzheim.
If you need findings for earrings, Robert Beck (Schulberg 3) is a good small manufacturer to do business with. Ernst Gideon Bek (Lameystrasse 2-10) is one of the largest chain manufacturers. By law, to each sale, 13% value added tax (Mehrwertsteuer) has to be added, retail or wholesale. If you can get the company to prepare the right export forms and you show them and the bought goods to customs (Zollamt) at the airport when leaving the country, and have them sign the form and mail one in the supplied envelope back to the seller, you will get the tax refunded by the company.
One of the old lapidaries for agate, the Weiherschleife (Tiefensteinerstrasse) was restored in 1954 and is open to visitors, the only one of over 50 along the Idar once in operation.
Frontis Panorama of Pforzheim on the Enz river; Inset Felsenkirche (church in the rocks), Idar-Oberstein.
Ann Grundler is an independent jeweler of German origin who lives and works in Castro Valley, CA
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