H. Stern (Est. 1945) The ‘H’ in the H. Stern logo stands for ‘Hans’ Stern (1922-2007), who was the brand’s founder. The logo was originally created with Gothic letters to help shape the company’s image and gain international recognition.
Early life was not easy for Stern, a German Jew born in Essen. As a teenager, Stern was forced to flee Nazi Germany with his family. They obtained visa for Brazil despite having no connections there. The Sterns’ first choice for a new homeland was the United States but quotas kept them out. In 1939, they arrived in Rio de Janeiro penniless and with no idea how to support themselves in a new country and culture.
Engineer Kurt Stern taught his son Hans that honesty should always come first even if it resulted in disadvantages. Kurt also advised Hans that knowing how to deal with people is the most important part of business.
Young Hans took a job as a translator for a small exporter of semi-precious stones, the Rio based company, Cristab. It specialized in Brazilian stones and minerals such as topaz, tourmalines, and amethysts.
Hans was fascinated by these brightly-hued stones and as his work required him to travel around the country, he examined and learned more about them. When he traveled to Brazil’s Minas Gerais state as part of his job, he got to know the local miners and became familiar with many of the precious stones mined in the area. As his fascination with Brazil’s vibrant gems grew, he began to promote them internationally targeting foreign travelers. His efforts in this area gave birth to a new industry.
Just six years after his arrival in Brazil, Hans sold an accordion for $200 and used the money to open his own shop, H. Stern, which became influential in the opening of Brazil’s under-exploited gem resources. At that time, there was barely a market for Brazilian semi-precious stones. Today, Brazil boasts a world-famous jewelry industry and is the source of almost half of the world’s colored gems.
Stern attributed a great deal of his success to what he described as a combination of luck, opportunity and ethics. Adopting philosophies he learned from his father, his business tactics recognized that fair play is essential in a business where customers must trust the seller to give them good value for their money. As Stern’s company grew, he trained a large number of young Brazilian jewelers and taught them to maintain high ethical standards. He established a complaints system and personally read each one.
Stern was the first to create a worldwide warranty certificate and to offer tours of his workshops where visitors could observe the creative and production processes. He achieved one of his main goals in life when important international gemological institutes revised the old “semi-precious” definition of colored stones and began to refer to them as “precious colored stones.” Stern said, “There is no semi-precious stone as there is no semi-pregnant woman or semi-honest man.”
The first H.Stern store opened on the Rio docks in 1949 where international passengers arrived on cruise ships. The turning point in Hans’ career came in 1951 when the Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza, came into the struggling jeweler’s shop and bought a distinctive aquamarine necklace for $20,000. This jump-started Stern’s reputation as an innovative seller of high quality gems and settings.
In 1958, an in-house Gemological Lab was set up at the H.Stern headquarters for the analysis and classification of precious stones. It remains the largest lab in Latin America and follows criteria established by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), insuring the quality of each gem used in the brand’s jewelry.
In 1963, the firm opened its New York City location as its first store in the United States. Located on Fifth Avenue, the space reflected the brand’s international presence which exists today in 26 countries at high-profile addresses in major cities including London, Paris, Moscow, Frankfurt, and Tel Aviv.
The H. Stern history is highlighted, among other achievements, by awards signifying it as a major jeweler on the international scene. The first award was Geneva’s Grand Prix de La Ville in 1970 for the brand’s first watch. It was a daring design for the time, marked by bold geometric lines.
During the ’70s and ’80s, the firm received dozens of awards including the De Beers Diamonds Awards, among others. With a history of several decades in business and an established position as a jewelry designer, the brand ceased participating in contests because public recognition was its best endorsement.
A quality guarantee was always integral to the business model embraced by Hans. In 1947, Stern established an International Certificate of Guarantee, attesting to the authenticity and quality of the precious materials used in crafting every item purchased from his company, an uncommon practice at the time. The Certificate, which is still in use today, also assures customers of their right to maintenance services, such as jewel cleaning and polishing, at any H.Stern store worldwide.
Hans’ son, Roberto Stern, joined the company in the 1980s and worked in various departments until taking over the Creative area in the ’90s. He implemented a new philosophy in which H.Stern underwent a complete overhaul and brought it to a new plateau.
In this new phase, the brand eliminated the Romantic frame that surrounded its logo. In the 2000s, the Gothic logo gave way to letters with a contemporary, timeless design. The “new” curvy ‘S’ is reminiscent of the female form in honor of the women who are the main focus of the brand’s creations. Roberto also added a design concept to its creations which were previously recognized primarily for their precious stones.
From the inception of Roberto’s new business model, design became the starting point for new brand creations and stones were used to complement the designs. Jewels made exclusively of gold gained prominence and gave way to the development of new finishes and textures which became yet another distinction for the H.Stern brand.
Organic shapes, simple and elegant lines and inspiration from nature and the arts are some of the concepts used to create the brand’s more recent jewelry.
“Playing with time is the soul of the jeweler. We search the past for inspiration, but the interpretation must be current. We imagine the future, using the techniques available today. We are breaking barriers, pursuing what is new, but never forgetting our roots,” says Roberto of the current creative process at H.Stern.
Among H. Stern’s notable collections is Ouro Nobre. The ‘O’ stands for Ouro, the Portuguese word for gold, and more specifically for the exclusive Noble Gold tone of H.Stern’s 18K gold. This coveted metal was given a new look in 2001 with a subtle tone between white and yellow. It was developed by H.Stern after two years of research and was the result of over 180 test combinations of metals. The alloy and proportions of each metal remain a company secret. Noble Gold has the warmth of yellow gold and the elegance of white gold and can be worn with jewelry of other tones.
Signature collections are those designed through H.Stern collaborations, a concept launched by the brand to provide very particular interpretations. The company claims they are more than a famous endorsement: The brand’s creative team develops collections inspired by the art and lives of creative icons from other disciplines as a fresh take on jewelry design.
One can see this in the designs created by brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana, the Grupo Corpo ballet troupe creations and those of world renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, among others. With each new partnership, disciplines overlap revealing new possibilities.
International celebrities in movies and music are represented throughout the history of H.Stern. Catherine Deneuve, who starred in Belle de Jour, was the theme of an H.Stern collection in the 1980s, the first time the jeweler collaborated with a celebrity. In the ’90s, this connection intensified and H.Stern jewels were frequently chosen by Hollywood stars who walked the Red Carpet at major awards ceremonies such as the Oscars and Golden Globes. Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta Jones, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Lily Collins and many other stars have sparkled in H.Stern jewels and demonstrated the growing popularity of the brand.
Diane Von Furstenberg, the Belgian designer who achieved recognition with her famous wrap dress in the 1970s, using the slogan “Be a Woman, Wear a Dress,” was the theme of a jewelry collection first created in 2004. Diane’s personality and lifestyle inspired the H.Stern designers to create daring jewels (many in bold sizes) which became must-haves. Power rings, bracelets made of large gold links, colorful stones referencing DVF’s travels to the East, clear crystals and talismans are the heart of the collection which uses the Love Knot (a Tibetan symbol of eternal love) as its main icon.
Estrela (star) is Portuguese for the German word ‘Stern.’ It is not surprising then that the Star has become H.Stern’s signature symbol and is present in much of the brand’s jewelry. Whether as a discrete stamp inside of rings, a detail on the clasp of a necklace or bracelet, a charming mark on earring backs, or even as the main design element, as in the Iconic Stars collection, pieces with the star image are the brand’s bestsellers and frequently worn by celebrities worldwide.
The Fluid Gold necklace was launched in the late ’90s and is an H.Stern icon. This jewel has been a success because of its subtle sophistication, simple design and incredible versatility. The long version of the necklace is made of small gold bugle beads and is 3 meters long. It can be worn in many ways: wrapped around the neck various times to make it longer or shorter, wound around the wrist as a beautiful bracelet or even as a belt. It is a perfect piece of jewelry for the woman on the go who moves from work to a sophisticated event.
Characters from Alice in Wonderland by movie director Tim Burton, were transformed into jewels by the H.Stern designers. Iconic figures from the movie, such as the Mushroom Forest, the Talking Flowers, the Cheshire Cat, the Topiary Garden Bird and the Jabberwocky Monster gave shape to exclusive sculptured rings. Handcrafted in a detailed artistic process, these rings were only made to order and took around three months to complete. Produced as a limited edition in 2010, the collection is no longer available, but highly collectible.
The Xingu Collection was inspired by Roberto’s trip to the Amazon Forest of Brazil and became one of the brand’s most successful collections. ‘Purãngaw,’ a word meaning beauty in the Tupi-Guarani language, pays homage to the cultural wealth of native Brazilians, their traditions and their art. The jewels were created using small gold feathers that recall traditional feather art, precious stones that represent polished seeds, and enamel work that is reminiscent of body painting techniques used by these native people.
Yu Gardens is a Chinese garden that was used as an inspiration for an H.Stern collection. Just one of the nature themes that have inspired the brand’s creative team, the organic shapes of water, plants, flowers, grains of sand and pebbles in rivers are themes used frequently by designers under Roberto’s guidance.
“Nature has no straight lines, which is why I prefer asymmetry. Irregular shapes are more human, more natural,” says Roberto. “The H.Stern idea is to create jewels that are pleasant to the touch and comfortable to wear; that are flattering on the skin and beautiful to the eye.”
Zephyr is the Greek God of the winds and another inspiration for an H.Stern collection. The visual image of wind blowing a woman’s hair, the lightness, the softness and the freedom were the references the design team used when creating the collection. Earrings, rings, necklaces and a bracelet crafted with wavy and irregular lines in a tangle of gold and diamonds, portray the movement of hair intertwined in the wind. At the same time, the volume of thin curvy lines shows the power and delicacy of the pieces.
In September 2014, Gemologue by Liza Urla identified several new H.Stern collections including the Iris Collection. These jewels were inspired by the oceans and seas and their hidden, undiscovered treasures.
Another was the Sapphire Collection of sleek, handmade watches. H.Stern’s first Sapphire watch was launched in 1985 after years of research and design challenges. The watch’s case is crafted of sapphires rendering it highly resistible to outside damage: it is so hard that it can only be scratched by a diamond, the only precious stone harder than a sapphire.
The watch’s design is both retro and contemporary, while also affordable, with the simplest models starting at around $4000 (as of October 2017.)
H.Stern Jewelers, Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants, rings, and watches. It serves customers through over 160 retail stores, agents, and retail partners in the United States and internationally.
The company is based in New York City with additional offices in Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Mexico, and Peru. It operates stores in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the Virgin Islands. H.Stern Jewelers, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of H. Stern Comercio e Indústria S.A.
When Hans’ father died at age of 75, one of his legacies was a close-knit family which, to this day, guides every step at H.Stern. When Hans died in Rio de Janeiro on October 26, 2007, at 85, the business passed to Hans’ two oldest sons: Roberto and Ronaldo, the company’s President and Vice President, respectively. They carry on the H. Stern traditions.
Until his very last days, Hans’ business day started early. He used to say that he was semi-retired explaining why he arrived at his Ipanema office promptly at 8:30 a.m. every day, instead of 8 a.m.
In addition to his daily activities as chairman of the board, he traveled all over the world visiting as many boutiques as he could, at least once a year.
His free time was dedicated to his family. His favorite hobbies were reading, playing the organ, listening to classical music, collecting stamps, and rare precious gemstones. Often asked what to name his favorite gem, he replied by showing, with immense pride, his personal collection of more than 1,000 facetted tourmalines of every shade and color which were his prized possessions and remain on exhibit at the H.Stern museum.Sell H. Stern All Artists