Thursday, July 30, 2009


Today we are taking a long journey, over 625 miles to be exact, through Germany's Castle Road.

The name of the road says it all, as this extensive route highlights 70 of the most spectacular medieval architecture in the country, including baroque palaces,

Renaissance buildings, and Gothic fortifications. Germany is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Barbara Heinrich.

I am at a loss for words. I observe photos of a different designer jewelry every day, and I react to what I see. Sometimes it is difficult to put my reactions into words, because I don't respond the same. I feel my reactions are largely due to a type of nuance quality the jewelry possesses, if that makes sense.

It is as though a part of the designer becomes a physical by-product of the jewelry items. Heinrich's designer jewelry is no exception. The only word that keeps coming to my mind is beautiful; but there is also this intangible quality about the jewelry that I struggle to pinpoint. She works primarily with 18-karat yellow gold, and her designs carry an ancient, primordial ambiance that wraps around her fine jewelry collections.

Raised on a farm with grape vineyards, Heinrich spent her childhood embracing nature. She spent hours exploring her family's property collecting broken glass, snail shells, and pods.  She strung her findings with dried, dyed noodles creating her very first necklace. Heinrich's organic approach to creating jewelry so early in life set the stage for what would come, "I've wanted to make jewelry from the cradle," she acknowledges.

During her early adult years, Heinrich paved an impressive road that lead to a career in jewelry design and jewelry making. Heinrich's parents enrolled her in Pestalozzi Kinderdorf Wahlwies' four-year apprentice program located in tranquil Lake Constance, Germany. Here she learned to hone her spiritual approach to jewelry making.

"The flow of communication between you, the piece, and the peace should be constant," she reveals. "I let the piece tell me how to build it." Once she completed the program, she took her second apprenticeship at Pforzheim Academy earning two scholarships, and a Masters of Fine Arts in jewelry and hollowware (silverware and serving dishes). Next, Heinrich would travel to New York to study at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and earned a second Masters of Fine Arts.

While attending RIT, she met and married her husband, Gregory, and three years later established her studio in their home. Pulling from a 26-year educational base that includes goldsmithing, Heinrich initially created anodized aluminum pieces; she then changed gears choosing to design classic, gold jewelry using pumice, wire brushes, and sandpaper to achieve polishing effects.

She not only excels in her manipulation of gold, but she highlights multi-gemstone pieces featuring exquisite color combinations such as watermelon tourmaline, emerald, ruby, orange Mexican fire opal, iridescent opals, and purple amethyst.

Heinrich is also a shrewd businessperson; conducting business meetings with galleries across the United States interested in exhibiting her expensive pieces, as well as gathering the work force to meet their demands. "A strong partnership with individual galleries has contributed immensely to our success. Because we understand their specific needs and circumstances, we are able to meet their needs," she explains.

"Currently we have jewelers from India, Korea, Taiwan, and America. I invite them to just add as much know-how as they can while they're here and then they can go fly and do something great. I'm proud of that whole teaching process--professional training, gallery skills, and exposure to trade shows--because young people need opportunities and this studio has been a place for that."

Heinrich has given much thought to factors that contribute to ongoing success. "I want to be able to pay my employees well, give them benefits and still be able to make a salary. Success means building a studio team, where everyone's abilities create a synergy with a positive dynamic."

Ultimately however, success to Heinrich rests in creating pieces that speak to the wearer and enhances "the beauty and nobility present in all people," therein causing her pieces to become a "visual language.

When the ideas come across for a particular piece and a certain idea gels and everything is right--that is success to me."

Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Hammered Gold Petal Brooch with Freshwater Pearls and Bezel Set Diamonds
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Leaf Cuff with 40 Scattered Surface Set Diamonds
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