Tell us about the Ancient America collection. What was the impetus for this new collection? As the collection is very symbolic, which forms do you personally respond to the most?
It all started some years ago, when my brother Roberto, who is our Creative Director, traveled to Peru and became completely enchanted by the rich cultural heritage that ancient American civilizations had left behind. He discovered interesting forms of arts in which a relentless attempt to understand the universe and its natural phenomena was expressed.
In order to develop a new jewelry collection, Roberto challenged the H.Stern designers to deeply immerse themselves into the civilizations’ cultural and aesthetic expressions. The designers were most fascinated with the belief that united all people of the pre-Columbian era, animism: the certainty that the world was influenced by spiritual beings. That souls or spirits existed not only in humans, but other pieces of the natural environment as well, such as animals, plants and minerals. The idea was that man was thought to be inhabited by ever-changing spirits, including animal forms.
With this inspiration, we created jewelry that uses the spirit form of animals to acquire their symbolism and powers. Marked by patterns that reproduce animal skin, each piece in the collection allows one to take on the spirit form of the animal by which it was inspired, be it a serpent, bird, or even jaguar. The serpent, for example, was considered a symbol of rebirth and renewal. To simulate the pattern of snakeskin, we use various tones of cognac and black pavé diamonds set in Noble Gold, further depicting the movements of a serpent.
What was it like growing up around the family company? Were you always enamored by the jewelry business?
Many of our dinner conversations related to interesting stories about the company. As a child, I would also follow my father, Hans Stern, the founder of the company. I would go in on weekends when he visited the stores, not to mention vacations where he would do prospecting and even new store openings.
As for my love of jewelry, it started with colored stones. My father had these boxes of tourmalines (his favorite gemstone), and whenever he would find a new shape or color, he would add it to his collection. Today we display his collection at the H.Stern museum in Rio de Janeiro, which comprises more than 1,000 tourmalines. It’s really exciting!
All eyes are on Brazil these days. As the country's largest jewelry company, what do you feel your role is in representing Brazil?
Long before Brazil started receiving so much attention, we were always very proud of being the only Brazilian jewelry company being represented globally. However, we act as a global brand, not putting the Brazilian origin in front of the most important thing for us, which is to transform women’s dreams and emotions into jewelry. Although no piece of H.Stern jewelry is without a concept, which we like to call the soul of the product, the jewel alone must speak to the client and ignite interest; people must find it beautiful and want to own it without further explanation.
We used to admit that the Brazilian accent is shown in our jewelry subtly, maybe in the form of sensuality. We Brazilians have a very natural and social approach when dealing with and understanding sensuality, and that reflects in our culture and artistic creations as a whole, including H.Stern’s jewelry. At one point, someone from overseas correlated the movement of our jewelry (most of them are flexible, malleable, made of links or connected segments) to the way Brazilian women walk (they are said to move their hips more than what is considered “usual”). We had never thought of it, but he was probably right!
Tell us about H. Stern's workshop. Is it true that it's a popular tourist destination?
Yes. Since the ‘80s, H.Stern Headquarters has been located in a building in Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro. It was the first building ever to be designed to house each and every area involved in the manufacturing and retailing of fine jewelry: goldsmith and lapidary workshops, laboratories, training facilities, offices, showrooms and much more. We open our space to host visitors on a Guided Tour, where tourists can see, step-by-step, the detailed work of the artists, from cutting the gemstones to the final polishing of the jewel.
Another stop is the H.Stern Museum, where we showcase jewels that won prizes abroad over the past few decades. Additionally, a great variety of gemstones in their original state gives a clear idea of the reasons why the Brazilian stones have become famous all over the world. They are really beautiful!
You've been a leader in the industry in promoting no-conflict diamonds. Have you seen a greater awareness of social change policies like this one?
H.Stern does not condone the exploitation of diamonds for illicit or immoral purposes. We always have, and continue to buy diamonds (as we do for other precious materials) only from reputable dealers, who have certified that they operate under the guidelines set forth by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. This became especially important for the consumers recently as they are caring more and more about transparency and environment commitment.
Where did you last go on holiday?
The Atacama Desert in Chile. It was truly amazing, such a variety of landscapes.
Can you recommend an unexpected destination our readers should visit in Brazil?
Brazil is an amazing country. I would recommend Bonito (near the Pantanal), Fernando de Noronha, Iguazu Falls (not that unexpected). And the list goes on…
How about three great restaurants in Rio de Janeiro?
First of all, I would suggest Eça Restaurant from H.Stern, in downtown Rio. It’s on the lower level of one of our boutiques and the ambiance is inviting and modern. The award-winning Belgian chef Fréderic de Maeyer has chosen a contemporary menu that is based on French cuisine and influenced by several cultures. Other suggestions are the restaurant of Brazilian top chef Roberta Sudbrack and Olympe, from Claude Troisgros.