Known for its innovative and cross-disciplinary approach to jewellery design, the Brazilian brand H.Stern combines top-quality traditional craftsmanship with a contemporary vision.
The company’s founding father Hans, an immigrant from Germany, was the first to open up the traditionally closed world of high-quality jewellery design to the general public. He also introduced the use of precious coloured gemstones such as aquamarines, amethysts, topaz, citrines and tourmalines, creating an entirely new global demand.
His son and successor Roberto continues to seek out innovation, developing new business models for the family owned company that is now a global player.
“When I took over at the helm of H.Stern in 1995,” Roberto says, “I realized that the wave of globalization of the last 20 years presented huge opportunities. Looking to modernize the company, rejuvenate the existing, loyal clients and seek out a whole host of new ones, I became a pioneer in collaboration.
“And so, since taking over, I have taken the company in an entirely new direction. While remaining true to the roots of the artisan jeweller in which specialist craftsmen create handmade pieces, our market and target group have changed completely, or at least, expanded significantly.”
“One of the extraordinary aspects of your work is your collaboration with artists, architects and fashion designers, which has resulted in stunning jewellery lines. What’s the story behind that?” I ask.
Roberto smiles. “That’s a good question. I got into design originally because I was curious and wanted to do things people thought were impossible. When we came up with the idea of working with others, it was not for marketing purposes, but rather to create new, fresh ideas. I wanted to work with people who had no background in jewellery, but were masters in their own fields so we could create a crossover between the two professions.
“We try to create one new collection each year, and every two years we collaborate with a third party. The special collections have marked a great shift in the company, which was rooted in my desire to move from being ‘just’ jewellers into being a fully-fledged house of design.”
The collection that really brought H.Stern into the media frontline was the 1980s launch of the Catherine Deneuve Collection, inspired by the unforgettable muse of Buñuel’s movie Belle du Jour. Within no time, the jewels and the muse’s diamond-set initials ‘CD’ were seen on the necks, ears and wrists of stylish women around the world. This was the start of what was to become a huge success story.
Taking on challenges: Capturing fluid movement in metal shape
Besides stars of the silver screen Roberto also drew inspiration from the stage and from modern dance when in 1998 he teamed up with Grupo Corpo, a flamboyant modern Brazilian dance troupe.
“Immersing themselves in the universe of modern dance, our jewellery design team studied all aspects of Grupo Corpo’s renowned productions, from the conceptualization to the choreography, costume and set design. It was something entirely new to our team, a very exciting process.”
The resulting line of avant-garde jewels transcends the concept of jewellery as objects, and creates an ensemble of unique artistic interpretation. Each piece in this collection expresses fluidity of movement, and has its origins in a complex world where imbalance can be more important than planned, rehearsed steps.
Roberto sits back and clearly remembers some of the events during the creation of this collection. “Expressing the energy of dance in a solid form required a new approach to tri-dimensionality and presented a unique dilemma when working with metal. We had so much material to work from, to work with… textures, depth and movement that are dynamic, ever-flowing… but needed to be captured.” A short silence follows. “This project required a level of intuition, of feeling and improvisation we had not experienced before,” he adds.
The ultimate: working with the Brazilian architectural icon
But without a doubt the most special collaboration was that with Brazil’s architectural icon Oscar Niemeyer, whose drawings inspired Roberto to design a special collection. Niemeyer’s projects include Brasília, the capital of Brazil, and many other iconic buildings, such as the United Nations headquarters, in New York, a collaboration with Le Corbusier.
The partnership between Roberto and Oscar started in 2008, when the architect had turned 100 years old. Their shared passion for sinuous lines shaped the contours of a creative partnership which was about to last until the end of Niemeyer’s life, in 2012.
In 2008, H.Stern launched the first jewellery collection inspired by Oscar’s drawings.
The second collection was approved by Niemeyer himself when was 104 years old and in the last year of his life, the undulating gold bracelets, curvilinear diamond earrings and pendants of free-form flowers reflect the unique, simple and natural outlines of Niemeyer’s timeless designs.
“Like you, I will never forget meeting with Oscar Niemeyer and getting to understand more about his work,” says Roberto. “What I like most in his work is the way he plays with curves. He is right: straight lines don’t exist in nature. We concluded that we both like asymmetry and irregular contours, which are more human and natural.”
Sinuous contours, light and continuous lines that seem to lead to infinity are moulded in yellow gold or white gold with diamonds. The contours are common features to all the designs, which were inspired by iconic architectural projects or unknown doodles. Every single piece carries the invaluable signature of Niemeyer. It’s proof that his work is still as alive, as the infinite paths he traced. “It was a privilege to create, from his immortal lines, jewels capable of illuminating the feminine beauty that always fascinated him,” says Roberto.
Meanwhile Roberto continues to innovate. He is always on the lookout for ways to change the industry and seek out new impulses to boost his creativity. Recently he issued the new Rock Season collection, a series inspired by nature. Using a range of precious stones and various shades of gold, the Rock Season collection features daring designs of birds and butterflies with a counterculture edge to them. Clearly, H.Stern remains a brand to watch as it continues to break the rules with dazzling results.
© 2014 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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