Pforzheim, Germany – The Mecca of Jewelry Making

LexiHeadshotOne of the things I love most about being the President of Wubbers U is that I get to know and visit with our teachers from all over the world.  We are extremely honored to have a teacher from Germany who has studied, and still studies, at the Mecca of Jewelry Making, Pforzheim, Germany, historically known as the Golden City.   We thought you would enjoy it if Uschi gave us a tour of what it’s like to study in Germany….where some of our most used techniques and tools have originated. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did. ~Lexi Erickson

Uschi Dittmann-400Uschi Dittmann

Pforzheim – a city situated in the Black Forest in the South-West of Germany and well known as the city of gold and jewelry. In 2017 Pforzheim will celebrate its 250th anniversary of jewelry making industry location.

Since 1994 the marketing department of the municipality offers creative weeks during a year, once they started with 5 weeks during a year, now they offer 3 weeks, one in March, one in July and the last in November. Lots of people took part in these creative weeks and WSP (the today organizer) expects to welcome the 2,000th participant very soon.

The creative week starts with travelling to Pforzheim on Sunday, I normally take the train, this time, a friended couple of a city nearby is taking me by car. We arrive in Pforzheim in the afternoon and take room in Parkhotel, a first class hotel in the middle of Pforzheim, next to the theatre.P03 ParkhotelAs I take the 4th week since my start in 2010, I have the same room no. in the hotel, so it is like coming home. Unpacking the luggage, sitting down my little travelling-teddybear in the pillows and taking a first glance out of the window, yes, everything is still on its place. A nice and tasty dinner with a Pforzheim friend in the hotel-restaurant finalizes the first day in Pforzheim.

Monday morning. The alarm-clock in my radio makes the first noise at 6.00 a.m. Oh my girl, so early, but breakfast in the hotel starts at 6.30 and I will have a calm and nice one as start for the day. After breakfast my friends and I, we take our bags and trolleys with gem stones, tools, silver and gold and all the nice ideas in mind and walk to the Technical Museum, which takes us about thirty minutes (I am a three-leg runner, which means I have mobility problems and walk with a crutch, so I cannot walk fast).

The creative week starts at 8.30 a.m. First we have a look for our tool-box and our name-badge among all the boxes, then we see which master will be responsible for us and the whole group of creative and inpatient people enter the museum-hall and the goldsmith-benches.P02 Museum

Then we check the contents of the tool-boxes, if everything is included correctly. Each tool has the box-number which is also the number of our locker for the week to keep your lunch sandwich, your bag and other personell things.

P05 Tool BoxThe Technical Museum is a former watch-factory. In these premises now the museum found its home with different old machines – chain-making machines,

P04 Chainmaking machinegravity drop hammer,
P06 Drop hammera complete office, for example.

P07OfficeThe premises are full of different things and an Eldorado for technic-freaks. Furthermore you find two completely equipped rooms: a pencil-maker workshop,

P08 Pencil maker roomas well as a home-working room for jewelry workers.

P09 Home working roomAt 9.30 a.m. the responsible people of WSP – the organizers of this week – come to visit and to welcome us and wish us a successful and creative week. We have a sparkling wine and the traditional buttered pretzel, a short introduction of all group-members with their number of taken classes and then we start our work.You must know, there is one lady who had already 37 classes taken there, others have taken 10 and more, so I am so far away from these numbers with my 4th and in July my 5th class in Pforzheim.

Today I start with the bezel for an ametrin-octagon, which shall form the center of a necklace. As I am in the happy situation to have a small bench at home, I could already prepare parts of this necklace like the silver-chain-elements and the bead-elements. Dietmar – my this year master at the bench – helps me a lot with this special bezel, as it shall cover only the four straight edges of the stone but not the corners, this bezel shall not surround the complete stone. Sawing, filing, soldering, I know and master all these skills, but the delicacies of this bezel are to be in master’s hand. But I am there to learn and so I have a wide eye on all his doing.

During lunch time a lady from a gemstone-company very nearby is coming and presents lots of beautiful stones. I should play lotto to win a million to have all these stones, but some marquise-cut gemstones are enough for the next project in my mind.

With lots of fun, laughters and busy working the first day ran down the clock and at 5.00 p.m. we have to finish and leave the rooms. A short walk back to the hotel give a little exercise to the legs, because we have to sit on very small special goldsmith-chairs. A lovely dinner and a phonecall with my husband at home finalizes this first day and I fall into the pillows to have a relaxing sleep.

Ah, I forgot. I was busy at home before our trip and I prepared a jewelry-set with garnets: a ring, a pair of ear-pins and the claps resp. pendant for the necklace. I already stringed garnet-beads together with a silver-element inbetween. Sieglinde, the second master – and my favourite one in the summer class – is so kind and takes this set to Reinhold, he is our setter, who finishes our jewelry by setting the stones into the bezels. So perhaps tomorrow I shall have my first finished jewelry piece.

Good morning, Tuesday, 2nd day in Pforzheim, 6.00 a.m. get up, have the breakfast, take my things and walk to the museum together with my friends. Weather is nice and pretty, the sun is shining and we are in very good spirits. Let us see what the day will give to us today.

During midway through the morning there are visitors, three Chinese people, two girls and a man and the interpreter, a man, who knows the history of Pforzheim and the museum very well. He is showing the visitors around. And they come to our benches having a glance on our work. As I am not afraid talking English I immediately answered them to their questions. I earn great laughters upon my statement that we are no apprentices but hobby-jewelers and we pay for the allowance to work there. The two Chinese girls could not believe this and so they had to take photos of the funny German lady telling them, not to earn money there but to pay for her stay.

High noon and it is lunch time. We have to leave the benches to relaxe in lunch room, or in a small restaurant in the neighbourhood. Some of us go shopping, others urgently have to visit the company Robert-Schuett-Witwe (the gemstone-shop nearby) again. The remaining jewellers in the lunch-room are talking, discussing jewelry problems and ideas. On the table there are lots of different jewelry magazines to look through. This is my time, I take my smartphone and catch all the ideas for further jewelry pieces, as a basic idea or what ever else. After lunch we go on with our work, being busy in looking around, working, having fun. This afternoon Reinhold – the professional setter – is coming and taking the first finished parts to set the stones. I gave him my ametrin and its bezel, to set the stone. In the morning I soldered two jumprings to the corners of the bezel for connecting it later to the prepared silver- and bead-elements. Oh and my garnet-set is already finished.

P10 Garnet set
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7 comments on “Pforzheim, Germany – The Mecca of Jewelry Making
  1. Is there a website for this program?

  2. Carmen says:

    Hallo Uschi. I will be traveling to Pforzheim at the end of September. Can you tell me the address of the Jewelry museum? I would love to visit and check it out. Also, please include any other interesting locations that may offer jewelry design, shops, or places of interest. Ich danke sie sehr. Carmen

    • Hi Carmen, thanks for your comment. Well, the Jewelry Museum is called Reuchlin-Hause and is situated at Jahnstrasse. Just vis-a-vis is a gemstone-supplier named Robert-Schuett-Witwe, there you can buy gemstones, beads, pearls and you can visit their jewelry-exhibition as well. Another point of interest is Schmuckwelten-Pforzheim, situated at Westliche Karl-Friedrich-Strasse 56, it is a very tall building with lots of jewelry of wellknown jewelers as Leicht and so on. More information you will find on (click the English-button), there you can find other points of interest. You must know, Pforzheim was destroyed to a high percentage in World-War II, so you will not find so many old buildings and nice monuments. Ah, are you interested in tools? Then you should visit Karl Fischer Company, Berliner Str. 18, but keep you money in sight ;-). When I am in Pforzheim, I haven’t time to walk around, as our class starts 8.30 a.m. and ends 5.00 and 6.00 p.m, we work like skilled workers 38,5 hours a week. Afterwards you are only hungry and tired.
      Have a nice time in Pforzheim, don’t miss having a nice trip across the Black Forest and I hope I could give you some help. I would like to here from you afterwards if you like.

      • Carmen says:

        Thank you sooo much for your quick response. I will let you know how my trip was. Do you live in the US or in Austria?

      • Hi Carmen, I am a German jewelry maker living in the lower Rhine area. Duesseldorf is not so far away. I highly appreciate your reply after your Germany trip. Have fun and a safe journey.

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