After many years of success, Bernd Munsteiner, one of the most renowned, creative, and innovative gemstone cutters from the village of Stiphausen in Hunsrück, Germany, has passed on both his knowledge and his studio to the next generation: his son Tom and Tom’s wife Jutta, who brings her skills as a goldsmith to the team, represent the fourth generation to take over the gemstone cutting workshop.
Recognition of chance and refusal to act arbitrarily are two of the main points of Bernd and Tom Munsteiner’s design philosophy. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Bernd Munsteiner broke with the established traditions in gemstone cutting and changed gemstone processing and design with the introduction of new approaches and methods. Conscious acceptance of geological flaws, or “crystal inclusions,” is one of the hallmarks of the Munsteiner style of design, which embraces the outward signs of a stone’s natural history. Munsteiner’s unique cutting technique of using negative facets makes it possible to draw these flaws into the design in an unusual way, thus emphasizing the uniqueness and specific character of the cut stone. “The Munsteiner name stands not only for very good design, but also – and above all – for perfection in handling and execution,” says a confident Tom Munsteiner of the studio’s work. He himself learned the gemstone cutter’s profession from the bottom up at his father’s workshop before going on to complete and apprenticeship and study gemology, eventually earning the degree of State-Accredited Gemstone and Jewelry Designer at the School of Applied Sciences in Idar-Oberstein. Father and son now bear exclusive responsibility for the design and formulation of their unusual cuts and objects, which are then handled in four work stages by the workshop’s nine employees. “We guarantee that every stone, object, sculpture, or piece of jewelry that leaves our workshop bearing the name Munsteiner is of one hundred percent quality,” declares Tom.
A leading role for German jewelry designers
Since Tom and Jutta took over the studio, the style has changed somewhat, according to Bernd Munsteiner, who is happy to see the developments brought about by the couple, especially in the area of gemstone cutting and design. “The cuts are all Renaissance in origin,” the 59-year-old explains. “As long as the cuts are always the same, jewelry design as a whole will remain conservative,” he says, finding fault with the lackluster innovative abilities of cutters worldwide and the overwhelming number of traditional gemstone cutters working in lower-wage countries. One of the most important interests of the two master designers from Hunsrück is therefore the development of new, vivid cuts, so that the stones – whether used as sculpture or in jewelry – have the highest possible degree of radiance. As the Munsteiner see it, creative, innovative jewelry design has enormous potential; despite their diminishing numbers, German gemstone cutters with excellent training may well retake the lead in the world market, making substantial changes to the face of the jewelry industry along the way.
The Munsteiners devote about 80% of their time to the design of larger stones, large-format objects and sculptures, with the other 20% for jewelry. They travel regularly to Brazil for the purchase of uncut stones; their renown allows them to select stones there exclusively on the basis of quality, not quantity. They take along with them their affinity for the radiance of the stones, a good measure of imagination in terms of handling, their recognition of special and unique features, and a healthy respect for the million-year-old treasures they find. In addition to the many international distinctions they have been awarded for numerous of their stone objects, one of their other honors was that of cutting the world’s largest cut aquamarine, which the owner had them transform from its original 26 kg into a carved obelisk 35 cm in height. The Munsteiners also appreciate the independence they have earned through many years of innovative design activity, which have allowed them freedom in design, limited only by the materials and their imaginations. They do not follow trends, but rather make their own mark Buyers for their extravagant stones include individual goldsmiths and numerous object collectors and enthusiasts. Cete