Master Jewelry Designers: Atelier Munsteiner
Bernd Munsteiner Biography
Known to jewelry aficionados as "the Picasso of gems," Bernd Munsteiner - whose last name includes the word "steine," or stones - was destined to be a stonecutter. Born in 1943 in Mšrschied, Germany, he grew up near the lapidary Mecca of Idar-Oberstein and trained at his father's lapidary workshop. From 1962 to 1966, Bernd Munsteiner attended the arts and crafts school (now the academy for design) at Pforzheim.
At Pforzheim, Bernd Musteiner, like another premier jewelry designer of the 20th century, Michael Zobel, studied under Professor Ullrich. In addition to Zobel, Munsteiner met other young pioneers of a nascent new aesthetic in the jewelry genre including Karin Strand from Denmark, Robert Smit from Amsterdam, and GŸnter Krauss from Germany. All of these young artists shared one goal: to reinvent jewelry as an art form by infusing it with new artistic content.
At Pforzheim, Bernd Munsteiner studied metal sculpting, painting, and jewelry design. In art history class, Munsteiner learned that the art of cutting and polishing gemstones had changed little since the Renaissance; this revelation spurred him to break with the traditions of a craft at which he was a master in favor of bold new techniques. He would leave parts of a gem rough and unpolished to be contrasted with a polished and cut part of a gem; he would integrate inclusions of a gem into the design of the cut gem. His trademark is a bold, geometric, precise cut that often results in the gemstone appearing to be its own kaleidoscope.
Munsteiner's professors were very excited with his ingenuity, and enlisted his assistance in establishing a gemstone department at Pforzheim. Outside the school, however, his work was initially viewed with skepticism by many of the established lapidaries, who claimed that Munsteiner's "fantasy gem cuts," or "fantasieschliffe" actually disfigured the gems! Despite the negative criticism in Germany, Munsteiner sold his first stones in Denmark in 1966, where modernist jewellery was embraced. It was there that he also met his future wife, Hanne. Back home in Germany, Bernd and Hanne received a visit in 1967 from Andrew Grima, a court jeweler from London, who was extremely enthusiastic about Munsteiner's stones. He went on to win international awards and a reputation as possibly the greatest living gem cutter in the world.
In addition to cutting smaller stones for use in jewelry, Bernd Munsteiner cuts larger stones as stand alone sculptures or for use in geometrically designed wall sculptures. In "Metamorphoses" (1990), an jumbled mass of rutile needles is naturally captured within the large rutilated quartz. Munsteiner continues these internal geometric lines to the outside of the sculpture with his incisions. Munsteiner polished the world's largest aquamarine 10,363 carats - into "Dom Pedro," which is more than five times larger than the world's second-largest aquamarine. Bernd Munsteiner's wall sculptures, which he calls simply "pictures," are created when he geometrically cuts rock crystals and citrines, and then arranges these geometrically cut crystals on quadratic steel slabs.
When assessing the merits of a rough stone, Bernd uses the natural imperfections and inclusions as an integral part of the final piece, looking at them as "an opportunity" rather than an obstacle. With his "seemingly" random cuts and grooves, Bernd exploits the play-of-light that is inherent to the stone's internal architecture, known as its crystalline lattice structure.
Bernd's keen instincts for the best optical attributes of a given mineral have enabled him to do with only a few strategically placed facets, what most cutters can achieve with far more. In fact, Bernd's patented "Context Cut" was designed specifically for diamonds, and can exhibit a similar play-of-light with only eight facets, as the mathmatically "perfect" round brilliant cut's fifthy-eight facets.
Cutting Rutilated Quartz
Munsteiner Polishing Large Citrine
The Munsteiner Family Legacy
Both of Bernd Munsteiner's sons (Tom and Jšrg) followed their father into the world of jewelry design along with Toms's wife Jutta. Together, the Munsteiner clan has created a dynasty of contemporary jewelry design that has set fashion trends and created innovative gem cutting styles that will undoubtedly withstand the test of time.
Just like his father before him, Jšrg was a master gem cutter and innovative jewelry designer. Tragically, Jšrg's body of work was tragically limited due to his untimely death in 2003.
Born in 1969, son Tom learned to cut and polish gems literally on the knee of his father and grandfather. A fourth generation gem cutter, Tom Munsteiner first learned the skills which he would need to successfully cut and polish gems into the classical faceted cuts before learning the special incisions required for the geometric cuts that his father pioneered. Tom Munsteiner has taken his skills on a path towards his own style, however, and has earned a reputation as a master gem cutter in his own right.
Jutta & Tom Munsteiner Collaboration: Tom's stones are often set by his wife and creative foil, Jutta Munsteiner, a goldsmith and innovative jewelry designer who has attracted attention for her own creativity.
Jutta's designs epitomize the motto "from having to being." Today, women prefer to wear jewelry to show who they are rather than what they have. Therefore, the design of the jewelry, rather than the value of its gems and metal, has taken on much greater importance.
Jutta & Tom at Atelier Munsteiner
"Be alert for felicitous opportunities and do nothing arbitrarily." Bernd Munsteiner heard these words during a jewelry exhibition in the 1960's; these are two fundamental tenets of design philosophy that are apparent in the work of the Munsteiner family.
Atelier Munsteiner's Website: www.munsteiner-cut.de
California: Ladyfingers Jewelry - Carmel
California: De Novo Jewelry - Palo Alto
New Mexico: Patina Gallery - Santa Fe
New York: Aaron Faber Gallery - New York City
Vermont: Grannis Gallery - Burlington
Switzerland: Golay - Lausanne