Unique in the World: Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum

Written by Isabel Schmidt-Mappes, English translation: Sabine Goodman . Posted in Profiles

Exquisite jewellery from antiquity to the present day and themed special exhibitions

Whether mythical or mystical, whether emphasising a person’s status or worn merely for ornamental purposes, jewellery has a long tradition in all world cultures. Since the advent of mankind, people have adorned themselves with necklaces, rings, face and body paint, pendants, belts and headgear in forms and shapes that are as disparate as the materials used. Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum in the Reuchlinhaus building is the world’s only museum devoted exclusively to jewellery and its history.

Some 2,000 exhibits illustrate the art of jewellery-making over a period of five millennia, from antiquity to the present day. These include superlative creations from Persia and Egypt, artistically and delicately crafted Etruscan jewellery, lavishly sumptuous specimens from the Baroque period, outstanding pieces from the Art Nouveau period, as well as a renowned collection of modern jewellery.


The Herion Collection of ethnographic jewellery provides impressive insights into the crafted manifestations of adornment created by non-Western civilizations. Exquisitely crafted pocket watches from the collection accumulated by the Pforzheim watch manufacturer Philipp Weber bear witness to the artistry of watchmakers and goldsmiths in the 17th to 19th centuries, and a dedicated department illustrates the history of Pforzheim’s jewellery industry.

Pretty on Pink – Éminences Grises in Jewellery Special exhibitions give visitors an opportunity to repeatedly rediscover the museum. The Pretty on Pink – Éminences Grises in Jewellery show will be on display from 28 October 2017 through 25 February 2018. Grey is conspicuously unobtrusive. In this exhibition, it will be spotlighted in all conceivable nuances between black and white, along with new materials that inspired jewellery artists in their respective eras.

People’s fascination for silver dates back to the early days of metalworking. In the 18th and 19th centuries, cut steel jewellery in England and Berlin iron jewellery in Germany ushered in the era of industrial jewellery manufacturing. Further technological advances in the early 20th century enabled Louis Cartier to create platinum jewellery and led to its gaining the significance it enjoys nowadays. Jewellery crafted from white gold alloys as a substitute for this expensive material also became fashionable. There were periods when people’s tastes even favoured white and grey precious metals over the warm glow of yellow or rose gold.

Different mindsets are manifested in this colour spectrum: reticence by mourning jewellery crafted from iron, refined understatement by diamond jewellery, and dispassionate sobriety and rationality by jewellery created in the Art Deco period and in the tradition of the Bauhaus. Like no other colour, grey represents the modern era, whose most characteristic materials, concrete and steel, are also grey. In particular, contemporary artists like Ramón Puig Cuyàs, Katja Prins and Ruudt Peters have occasionally explored this colour spectrum.

All this is in stark contrast to the colour pink. With its vibrant chromatic depth, it immediately demands our attention. In the hue of Tyrian purple, it once symbolised both secular and ecclesiastical power, and in contemporary fashion, pink has even been used intentionally to shock. Effectively contrasting the jewellery creations on display, this colour will be highlighting them quite “indiscreetly”.

The Reuchlinhaus Nestling harmoniously in the municipal gardens, the Reuchlinhaus, which is home to the Jewellery Museum, is a genuine architectural gem. It was built in 1961 in the International Style according to plans prepared by architect Manfred Lehmbruck, and it is reminiscent of the architectural masterpieces created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Upon its completion, it was named after Pforzheim’s most famous son, the humanist scholar, author and jurist Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522). It ranks among the finest examples of German post-war architecture.

Manfred Lehmbruck’s achievements also include the Reuchlinhaus’ interior, the staircases’ sophisticated designs, the furniture and the exhibition systems. In particular, the showcases suspended from the Jewellery Museum’s ceilings constitute outstanding examples of innovative design: luminous bodies with precious contents, hovering mysteriously in the darkness like spaceships floating in the black vastness of outer space. They might indeed have been inspired by the beginnings of the space age. Tradition, classical modernism and Pop Art have been united in the Reuchlinhaus to form a total work of art that unforgettably weds the past and future, concentration and spaciousness. A cultural heritage and reifying the sense of life adopted by the era’s artists, it is a listed building now.

The Reuchlinhaus can be rented for events.
The auditorium accommodates about 200 chairs, or 160 when tables are also provided. It is also possible to rent the entrance hall, as well as the foyer and kitchen. In addition to comprehensive event technology, catering services and guided tours through the Jewellery Museum can be booked to complement an event. Technical Museum of Pforzheim’s Jewellery and Watchmaking Industries Only a five-minute walk from the Jewellery Museum, the Technical Museum of Pforzheim’s Jewellery and Watchmaking Industries is located in the former Kollmar & Jourdan jewellery factory. Visitors gain insights into the world of the traditional jewellery and watch industries, which once dominated the global market. It’s a place where history comes alive, where visitors can witness how pieces of jewellery are created, how metal is melted and shaped, and how complex movement blanks, watch dials or cases are made. Starting from the drawing of an initial sketch all the way through to the production process itself, visitors to the Technical Museum can observe the individual steps of work involved and marvel at the traditional manufacturing techniques employed using original historical machines.



Image captions:
01 Exterior view of Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum © Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim Photo Winfried Reinhardt
01a Interior views of the historical collection Photo Valentin Wormbs 
02 Hellenistic snake bracelet Gold, a garnet Greece, 3rd–2nd century BC © Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim Photo Günther Meyer 
03 “Octopus and Butterfly” brooch Gold, pearls, diamonds, rubies, amethysts, a topaz, enamel Design: Wilhelm Lukas von Cranach, Berlin Crafted by Louis Werner 1900 © Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim Photo Günther Meyer 
04 Bracelet Acrylic, polyester Peter Chang Glasgow, 1998 © Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim Photo Rüdiger Flöter Pretty on Pink 05 [Inv. No. 2007/2] Brooch Silver, plastic Katja Prins 2006 © Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim Photo Eddo Hartmann Technical Museum 
05 Kolmar & Jourdan building — home to the Technical Museum of Pforzheim’s Jewellery and Watchmaking Industries © Technisches Museum der Pforzheimer Schmuck- und Uhrenindustrie (TMP) Photo Petra Jaschke 

Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum opening hours: Tue–Sun and holidays from 10am to 5pm (except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve) | Admission to the permanent exhibition €4.50, reduced price €2.50, € 6 incl. a visit to the Technical Museum of Pforzheim’s Jewellery and Watchmaking Industries, free admission for children no older than 14 and for holders of the Museum-PASS-Musées | Guided tours for groups by appointment | Public guided tours through the permanent exhibition Sun 3pm, €6.50, reduced price €4.50 | Partners: Pforzheimer Zeitung and SWR2

For more information, please visit www.schmuckmuseum.de


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