One of Germany’s most illustrious makers of fine jewelry, Georg Hornemann is turning a new chapter — in Berlin.
Based in Düsseldorf, the award-winning goldsmith and designer will move part of its operations to the German capital this month, to capture a more modern woman.
Hornemann, who racked up the Prix de la Ville de Genève and two Diamonds-International Awards in New York and San Francisco before founding his namesake company in Düsseldorf in 1973, is widely considered to be an artist among jewelers. His son, Alexander, came on board in 1985, garnering his first Diamonds Today award seven years later. Together, father and son have created a business known for an unusual and hard-to-categorize oeuvre that spans haute joaillerie, deluxe prêt-à-porter jewelry, small sculptures, objets d’art, artist collaborations, books and museum exhibits. Volume is placed in the “high-single-digit millions” in euros, and the company produces about 120 to 140 pieces a year. About 40 percent of its most loyal customers are from outside Germany. The Hornemanns also design complete collections for other brands.
Working with diamonds and precious stones, combined with white and yellow gold, blackened silver, platinum, bronze as well as materials like acrylic and Corian, Georg Hornemann jewelry draws its inspiration from flora and fauna, architecture and art. Hallmarks include highly sculptural rings and statement brooches, where cherry blossoms might branch, serpents coil or blossoms rotate on gem-studded creations. Graphic statement bracelets come in shiny white Corian worked with silver, pink sapphires, tsavorites and diamonds.
On the lighter side, there are fluttering earrings and a simple safety-pin in yellow gold and one of the house’s favorite new materials: amber, heat-treated to a clear and pale citron shade, and feather-light in weight.
Reflecting his interest in the arts, the elder Hornemann also embarked on a series of artist collaborations in 2013, but this isn’t about arty jewelry. “Above all, it has to do with shared, interdisciplinary work and a creative process that unites the goldsmith’s craft with a conceptual, artistic approach,” he stated. The results reflect this, as only the most recent collaboration with Alicja Kwade and Koenig Gallery — 97 hanging necklace-like gold cubes — even suggests a jewelry link. There have been gold chopsticks created with Bazon Brock, Kris Martin’s yellow gold and gem spectacles, and a mini variation of Rita McBride’s architectonic sculpture Mae West.
And while size matters in design, the business is not about big numbers — at least not in terms of series. “With amber, for example, we don’t have a collection of 25 pieces, but maybe five, because [Georg] likes to explore a concept or material, and then move on to new things,” explained marketing director Claudia Hornemann, who is Alexander’s wife. Moreover, “even if it’s an edition of 10 pieces, we don’t do the same frog ring time and again, but each has a unique character. Our customers know each other, so we’re very careful about that. We don’t want three people at the same table wearing the same ring.”
“It’s the same in jewelry as in everything else these days,” Alexander added. “When everything is all the same, we have a longing for individuality and exclusivity. That’s what customers search for and find with us.”
Indeed, custom-made pieces are an important pillar of the business, father and son both meeting with clients several times as the product takes shape. Hornemann starts with a deluxe prêt-à-porter line priced between 3,000 and 12,000 euros, or about $3,275 and $13,100 at current exchange. High jewelry retails from 15,000 to 30,000 euros ($16,370 to $32,735), with prices rising for custom made-to-measure pieces, depending on the materials.
To date, Hornemann has been a Düsseldorf-oriented affair. As of Nov. 19, though, the company will move some operations to Berlin, while at the same time, move to a new atelier on Königsallee in Düsseldorf. Both spaces will integrate workshops, showroom, salon and design studio. Berlin is somewhat more international. “Mostly it’s a conceptual shift,” said Claudia. “We wanted to be able to visualize the design and craft involved in our work. Before, in Düsseldorf, the workshop was a floor above, but people always wanted to see where and how the pieces were made. In the digital age, the haptic aspect becomes more important.”
The new Berlin space, on the second floor of an art nouveau landmark building off Kurfürstendamm at 45 Schlüterstrasse, will present jewelry and objects in a series of exhibitions.
“At the intersection between art and jewelry, we think Berlin is ideal. We’ve never felt like retailers, and this is more like a gallery with an atelier and showroom, integrating the goldsmith’s craft,” said Claudia. “It’s a modern woman we want to attract in Berlin — a younger, fashionable woman who doesn’t want to look bejeweled but accessorized. It’s a great art to make modern and contemporary jewelry, and that is our challenge.”