I’m in the heart of Rio de Janeiro in Ipanema and today I’m catching up with Roberto Stern, CEO and creative director for H.Stern, one of the world’s most innovative jewellers. I met Roberto a few years ago and have become a great fan not only of his work, but also of his collaborative approach to design.
We’re sitting on a shady terrace on the high-end Rua Garcia d’Avila and we’ve been chatting about Roberto’s work and my travels as we watch the trendy Cariocas amble by. “I’ve been wondering: where does your drive and creativity come from?” I ask Roberto as we order our second cafezinho.
“I think I get it from my dad. The only way he could express himself was to do things differently, and I have the same passion.”
“I see, so your dad also had the urge to break the mould and take a new approach to the jewellery business.”
“Definitely,” says Roberto. “He was an innovator from the start. Before him the world of top-quality jewellery was quite closed, but he opened up our doors to the public to show off our craftsmanship. He was also the first jeweller in Brazil to use Brazilian gemstones like aquamarines, amethysts, topaz, citrines and tourmalines. Without his vision, these stones might well still just be the domain of stone collectors. Nowadays, they are used in jewellery around the world and are known as Brazilian coloured stones. We created a new demand.”
“And you continued this drive for innovation when you took over in the 1990s.”
“I got into design because I wanted to do things that people thought were impossible. I am originally an economist, which helps me with my function as CEO, but I also had this incredible desire to create shocking, imperfect, organic design. At the same time, I wanted to make the brand attractive to all generations and so I transformed the business into a house of design.”
“What does that mean in practice though? How has the business changed?”
“In the past traditional artisan shops catered to a select group of local consumers. In today’s globalized world consumers everywhere want the same thing: style. They are looking for creativity, simplicity and straight elegant lines. Being ostentatious is out.
“It’s not easy to stay on the cutting edge but we are out there anticipating trends, fashion and behaviour. I am constantly exploring new design concepts and developing new techniques – for example recently I have been working with new gemstone cutting and polishing techniques.
“You’ve also become renowned for your collaborative projects and for seeking inspiration in the arts, architecture, music and fashion.”
“That’s right. We collaborated with Oskar Metsavaht who designed a watch for us, and we have just launched a unique Oscar Niemeyer line inspired by the curves he uses in his architectural designs. After our coffee, we’ll visit our boutique…I have a feeling there are some pieces you’re going to love in the new Niemeyer collection!”
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