By Claire Roberts
Hemmerle's Tarantula brooch is so lifelike it's enough to give an arachnophobe nightmares, which says so much about the craftsmanship involved in each "Art of Nature" creation. A series of one-off jewels, handmade over an 18-year period (1979-1996) as a tribute to the natural world, the venomous spider is one of a series of original pieces that together form one of the most unique collections ever created by a contemporary jeweller.
Designed by Stefan Hemmerle - the fourth-generation jeweller at the helm of the avant-garde German brand - the animal and plant kingdoms are brought to life in precious pieces that look like they might flutter, crawl or slither off when not being worn. Stefan used only extraordinary materials in the construction of each piece. The 117.76ct dark brown conch pearl that forms the back end of the tarantula is one of the largest and rarest conch pearls in the world, while the turtle shells are crafted from gemstones of an exceptional size and quality: a 100.47ct yellow sapphire and a 71.93ct emerald, surrounded by more than 130ct of both sapphires and emeralds.
With each piece, Stefan sought to capture the grace and flexibility of the animal or creature in the wild in a style that became increasingly naturalistic over the years. The tarantula - created in 1995 and one of Stefan's later pieces - is perhaps the most realistic of them all, right down to the tiny hairs on its legs, each of which has been individually sculpted out of gold. The carapace - the shield-like plate that protects the front of the spider's body - has been lavishly recreated using natural coloured fancy cut Umba sapphires, a technique also used to create the scaly back of the crocodile.
After 1991, fancy cut stones - the upper part of which is cabochon cut; the lower part faceted - became an integral part of the "Art of Nature" series. Avoiding the hard edges and sharp corners found on gems cut in the traditional way, Stefan was able to more closely mimic the anatomies of animals and plants, like the plumage on the parrot brooch, made entirely out of fancy cut spessartite garnets.
The "Art of Nature" series has been captured in a book by Stefan Hemmerle of the same name, which charts the rise of nature as a source of inspiration across the artistic disciplines before introducing both the collection as a whole and the pieces individually. The coffee table book is a fascinating introduction to Hemmerle and its extraordinary creations - to read more about the publication, and to purchase a copy, please click here