From Prism Volume I 2024: Member Opinion Letter with Shelly Sergent, Somewhere In The Rainbow

By Shelly Sergent, Curator

While Somewhere In The Rainbow (SITR) is a U.S.-based company, our collection consists of gems and jewelry from lapidary artists and designers from around the globe. One of my personal favorite groups of gem cutters hails from a tiny magical kingdom known as Idar-Oberstein-Stipshausen, Germany. For generations, our colored gemstone industry has relied on the works of these masters to create the finest gemstones and carvings in the world.

Nestled in the picturesque mountains of Germany, Idar-Oberstein was once the wealthiest city in the world due to its gem carving legacy. It drove demand for the finest specimens by retailers, wholesalers, designers, and museum curators. Idar-Oberstein was a bustling (albeit modest) global hub for the rarest and best gems, and wealth and eager buyers were synonymous with the town’s name. The name Idar-Oberstein suggested success and visibility in the colored gemstone world, a reputation that still exists today.

On a recent visit, my group was greeted with open doors, open arms, and the hospitality that the German people are known for. Our days began with coffee and lively discussions followed by—in classic German fashion—an urging to “make business,” or get to work. I was there to choose additions to the SITR collection, and my task was not easy. We visited nearly two dozen cutting houses and spent 12 hours a day attempting to choose the best of historical art and modern-day genius pieces to acquire for sharing. The experience was a feast for the eyes and heart, poring over hundreds of pieces laid out for us to examine and connect with in ways that I fail to properly put into words. I held gemstones which were cut 300 years ago and met families with 15-plus generations of experience who are still creating objects of remarkable uniqueness and whimsy.

I was shown multimillion-dollar gemstones and historical gemstones dating back hundreds of years, the latter with little monetary value yet still irreplaceable at any price. Each day ended with perfectly prepared dinners, wine, and handcrafted schnapps and a final bite for those of us with a sweet tooth—hospitality that many only read about but is alive and well in Idar-Oberstein.

The importance of sharing this article is to tell a story of Idar-Oberstein today. Riding the coattails of all who have gone before, so many of these iconic and beloved gem houses are seeing their last generations of craftsmen; many lack heirs to continue their traditions and creations. Among them are Gabi and Stefan Klein, Constantin Wild, Patrick Dreher, Sr., Erwin Pauly, the charming Manfred Wild, (the Godfather of Idar), and many others. These visits brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes, knowing their craft, stories, and ateliers will dim the lights on an era of greatness.

From Prism Volume I 2024: Member Opinion Letter with Shelly Sergent, Somewhere In The Rainbow

Thankfully, a handful of others—Munsteiner, Wild & Petsch, Lorenz, and Arnoldi, to name a few—will continue their legacies thanks to up-and-coming generations with renewed energy and an education in their families’ ancient teachings.

This trip inspired me to reflect on an industry we are all so blessed to share in, upholding its history while creating new magic for clients around the world.

May the beloved “magical kingdom” of Idar-Oberstein always flourish and may we as the benefactor raise a toast and share thanks with the masters before us. It is my greatest privilege to tell these stories and share this insight with you all. My heartfelt gratitude to SITR owners for bringing this art to the world for enjoyment and education. Jewelers are fortunate storytellers, and we look forward to sharing some of our iconic works of German gem art with you at AGTA Gemfair Tucson 2024 on the GemHall floor.

All the best,

Shelly Sergent, Curator, Somewhere in the Rainbow

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This article first ran in Prism Volume I 2024. See the flipbook by clicking here.