The pioneering spirit of heritage

25 Nov 2016
6 min read
Alexander Brenk of luxury jewellers, Emil’s GreatGrandson, talks to FOUR about how knowledge, experience and the passion continues to drive the timeless designs.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Pforzheim, Germany – theheadquarterof Emil Brenk and Emil’s GreatGrandson.

How did you find your way into producing high-endjewellery?

I would say I didn’t find my way into producing high-endjewelry, but was born into it. Growing up in a long-established familybusiness, manufacturing sterling silver and gold products, which mygreat-grandfather has founded in 1907, has shaped me a lot.Early on Irealized that it would be my goal to keep the pioneering spirit of mygreat-grandfather and founder Emil Brenk alive bytransforming andadapting.During my bachelor studies in visual communication and my master studies in brand managementI acquired the essential skills to do so. At first I focused on the websiteand everything concerning the visual communication for Emil Brenk.Following up the development of Emil Brenk and to complement our product portfolio with high-endjewelry, Ideveloped the concept ofEmil’s GreatGrandson 2015 in order todress a newtarget-group. For my father, Heribert Brenkand me it is always important toconcentrate on minimalistic and timeless forms e.g. from our company archives,as well as the meaning of different surfaces.We started to create timeless pieces of jewelrywith a clean and minimalist surface,always trying to find balance between the idea oftimeless pieces, the insights form the target-group and the heritage.

Can you tell me a bit about the history of Emil Brenk?

The history of Emil Brenk GmbH starts in 1907when the company was founded by mygreat-grandfather EmilBrenk in Pforzheim,Germany. During the first couple of years the main focus was on steel and lacquer products, but changed over the years to a more luxurious andselected range of products made of sterling silver, gold andenamel.A wide range of our successfulsterling silver and gold productsfrom back than are still strong and relevant today. There include e.g.small bag consumer goods, bar, laid table, boxes and cases to desk products and also key chains.The year 1951 was a landmark for the company. This was the year we started to expand our product range with themanufacturing of singing bird boxes. Thesesinging bird boxes are not only beautiful, but also require a great amount of accuracy and high level craftsmanship.

Knowledge, experience and the passion for manufacturing high-end luxury objects made Emil Brenk on of the most important producer in this field.

In 2015 and afteralmost a full year of development, Emil’s GreatGrandson was founded. A concept that combined the tradition, the history and the great respect and value ofcraftsmanship with a future forward-looking vision.Itis more of a free and future oriented attempt on designing products and goods for contemporary and self-confident customers.

How would you describe the designs and items you create to those who have never experienced them?

EmilBrenk |Our collection consists ofmainly two parts. A range of jewelry and a range of traditional, classic sterling silver and gold items.All our differentsegments, from jewelry to other products have one thing in common: High quality. Thisfocus had and still does always provide a central theme for thecompaniesphilosophy. Thejewelry we carry are timeless and classic models and shapes like curb chains, anchor chains and many more. The second productsegment includessterling silver and goldaccessories likepicture frames, money clips, key chains,pocketknives as well asoffice-desk and smoking equipment. Allmade of sterling silver and gold.This range is alsocharacterized by the idea of a timeless and classicaesthetic.Today – We are one of the lastcompanies with such a wide range ofdifferent sterling silver and gold products inGermany.

Emil’s GreatGrandson |The designs of Emil’s GreatGrandson are timeless and unisex, passionately manufactured by hand in sterling silver and gold – ready to tell each wearers story.The pieces are always in context to the future developmentof the customer and their needs, desires and activities – because the jewelry ofthe present and future has to be able to be a part of their ever changing lifestyle. The jewelry ofEmil’sGreatGrandson is made to write history – the history of each and every wearer. To write history it’s simply enough towear them, because everynotch and every trace of use tells a unique history. A history out of theirlives.With the notch tool that we developedand designed as a tool as well as a piece of jewelry, it is up to them to rely on thosenotches and traces of usage or to set marks and tag their story on their own. A piece of jewelry byEmil’sGreatgrandson is like a observantbiographer,like a companion that accompanies your life and writes down every moment. In its own language. Acrypticlanguage ofnotches, marks and scratches. It’s up to the wearer to tell those stories or to keep them.

Where do you get your inspiration for the design of the jewellery?

EmilBrenk |For our collection of classic and timelessjewelry andaccessories, we take our inspiration from thearchives, products we once produced and try to take on them with an contemporary twist.Alwaystryingto maintain thequalityas well as the classic and timeless aesthetics. The creative process on the one hand is more about maintaining theaesthetics of the designs we already have and on the other hand to create new products based on the archives andclassic aesthetics.

Emil’s GreatGrandson |Thejewelry of Emil’s GreatGrandson is mainly inspired by journeys, tradition and family. So every journey, everyconversation has an impact on thedesigns and especially on thecommunication and aesthetics of the pictures.I travel a lot with my girlfriend, Kristina Mora, and the conversations about images we see, foods andflavors we taste and people we meet are an important, if not one of the mostimportant inspirations in general.We talk a lot and so there’s always an idea evolving or a spark flying around that we can catch and work with. So family, friends and journeys, but first andforemosttheir connection are the biggest inspirations.

Where and how do you source the products, materials and craftsmen for the projects (Emil Brenk and Emils GreatGrandson)?

For all our products we source within our network of reliable companies that we built up over the decades. Trust and loyalty are just two of our most important values that we are always looking for in our business partners. We also have ourspecialized suppliersconcerning our materials.Usually those are all companies that we’ve beenworking together for a long time so we didn’t have to source those. But for new ones, werely on research, recommendation through businesspartners.The mostimportant thing is a common view considering e.g. our values, quality standards and management philosophies. Most of those partners and suppliers are family businesses as well and in immediate proximity.We take a huge advantage from our location in the so called “Goldtown Pforzheim”. A city where craftsmanship and high-endjewelry have a deep rooted history. Luckily we have developed a network oftrustful people.This networkusually helps with products, materials and craftsmen which shows howimportant a reliable network is.

How important is it to you that you support local craftsmen in the production of your jewellery?

This is a very important fact! Not only to supporting them, but for the joint work in general.It is rather a process of give and take at both production and scientific level. To work with a local craftsmenmeans that you are able to support thecraftsmanshipandthe passing on of it.We always had a very close and personal relationship to our craftsmen and suppliers. Due to the long-time and close relationship, the conversations and discussions and the ongoing insight into the production facilities, new ideas and innovations are developed. This also enables a fasterintervention concerning problems or difficulties that ofteroccure during the initial phase of complex gold andsilver products like e.g. our bracelets. It also broadens the own horizon to actually see where and how something is made, which kind of tools, mechanisms and procedures there are. Those impressions willdefinitely fuel the next ideas andproducts.

What are you currently working on?

Emil Brenk |Currently we are strengtheningthe range of timeless and classicjewelry pieces and still maintaining a broad selection of classic and traditional silver and gold products.We arealso experimenting with traditional and contemporary forms and shapes to create new products, and especially the work with gold will be ahuge part of our work in the near future.

Emil’s Heritage is a brand of Emil Brenk that we are currently working on and that will be online andavailable soon. With this concept we payhomage and tribute to the admirable works from my great-grandfather EmilBrenk. Products that were made with pure passion andcraftsmanship that isn’t possible anymore. We’re currently selection a wide range of products from ourarchives that will represent the glory times of luxurious materials such as sterling silver, gold,enamel, precious woods, stones and diamonds. These items, up for sale once, can and will never be replicated in this form.They are limited, sometimes to a small number of remaining items,sometimes tojustone last item. Our portfolio, that we are proud of,include products like hand paintedenameland hand engraved singing bird boxes, vintage lighters, hand-engraveditems anddiamond-set goldaccessories.

Emil’s GreatGrandson |We are currently working on a new interpretation of our invisible signaturehinge and on expanding our sterling silver products in gold.We’re also working on expanding the line of the bangles to also strengthen the lower price points and making the brand accessible to a broadergroup of people.

What are some of your favourite designs from the collection?

EmilBrenk |Due to the fact that our products are so different I first have toseparate the twosegments- gold and silveraccessories & goods and jewelry. For the jewelry it would be a classic and absolute timeless piece – the wide curb and anchor chains and matching bracelets.For the second range of sterling silver and gold accessories it would be classics like acigartutor with an attached andmatching hip flask or the hip flask withincorporated detachable cup. It’s all about bringing the classics back.

Emil’s GreatGrandson|With Emil’s GreatGrandson it is hard to say, because withevery product it is all about the technique of the bracelets and chokers -theinvisible clasp and hinge – as well as the clean, minimalshapes and surfaceswhich unite the products.But I would say the range of bracelets and the choker because of the perfectly harmonious interactionofand the seamless transition between technique and aesthetic.

Emil’s Heritage|With Emil’s Heritage I surely would pick thehand paintedenameland hand engraved singing bird boxes as myfavorite products. The beautiful balancebetween the gorgeousaesthetic, the astonishing mechanism and thecraftsmanship that it takes to perfect one of them isincredible.

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