While in Rio de Janeiro, I was able to tour two of the biggest names in Brazilian fine jewelry: Amsterdam Sauer and H.Stern.
I knew that if I was going to Rio I would have to take a tour of the H.Stern headquarters! It’s a brand that I’m decently familiar with due to the outstanding quality of their stones and since I’ve seen the jewelry both in magazines and in person in NYC.
I set out for a day of jewelry perusing. I decided that before going to H.Stern, I should check out Amsterdam Sauer next-door. We began to walk into the store and were quickly intercepted by a security guard outside who asked if we would like to see the museum and showroom. I hadn’t anticipated a museum- but why not!
We were led in and given a brief history lesson on the company. The original owner, now 90 years old, had come to Brazil from France and fell in love with the gemstones in the region. The museum was filled with his personal collection of both rough and cut gems (mostly found in Brazil). The collection was very impressive- filled with gorgeous emeralds, tourmalines, amethysts, imperial topaz, opals, and more. The museum also included two life sized replicas of entrances to mines. It was very elaborate and looked like a small scale version of the Gem and Mineral wing at the Museum of Natural History in New York. We were then led to the showroom. In addition to making jewelry, Amsterdam Sauer also makes large semiprecious tropical birds sitting on top of huge hunks of quartz. Most of the jewelry focused on Brazil’s most abundant stones- citrine, amethyst, blue topaz, and emerald. The jewelry was impressive- all surprisingly large in scale with few pieces on display that would appeal to a modest budget. Our sales lady was a bit dismissive- but based on our attire, I’m sure she didn’t see much buying potential in us.
Next we headed to H.Stern. We were led in by a security guard once again and were paired with an English speaking representative. She brought into their tour area on a separate floor and gave us headphones for the self guided tour.
First we stopped at a panel about the history of H.Stern- another tale of an immigrant founder falling in love with the beauty of Brazilian gems. Today every step of the process happens in house at the Rio headquarters. We were led to a glass window that exposed two stone cutters sitting at their lapidary saws and grinders forming the shape of the stones. Just a few feet down from them were two more workers sitting at polishing wheels buffing the gemstones to a nice polish and giving them their finishing touches. There were a few panels explaining stone proportions and how the cut effects the light return of the finished piece. We then rounded a corner were a large team of gemologist sat in a laboratory in front of their GIA microscopes, refractometers, and other equipment. Each stone in H.Stern jewelry is not only carefully inspected by their gemologist, but the finished jewelry is also given to the customer with a certified document of appraisal. The next window that we saw was the design studio- drafting tables complete with computers, paints, markers, tracing paper etc. There was a large inspiration board behind the designer with colorful images of Brazilian landscapes. The final stretch of the tour probably brought back the most nostalgia for my days at Savannah College of Art and Design. There were a bunch of jewelers sawing, casting, soldering, laser welding, polishing, and setting stones. That concluded our tour and we were led into their showroom.
Again we were paired with an English speaking salesperson who led us to a desk. We were served drinks of our choice in nice glasses. The sales person started by showing us their signature stones and asking our metal preference. I had decided that I wanted a small souvenir and gave the woman my budget. I probably wasn’t the easiest client of the day. I had a tiny price point and expensive tastes, but she really made the experience a nice one. I didn’t want amethyst or blue topaz, and I felt that the citrine was a little lost in the yellow gold that I preferred. I really was hoping for a tourmaline (green or pink), but knew it was probably out of my range. The saleswoman made countless trips back and forth from their inventory vault to my table to try to find a piece I would like and could also afford. She was incredibly patient and ended up leading me to a beautiful petite garnet and diamond necklace in 18k gold.
I received my necklace in a discrete bag with appraisal certificate inside and we were led downstairs to exit. At the exit we were given the option to take a complimentary van from H.Stern back to where we were staying so that we felt safe and secure while transporting our valuable new purchase. The nice thing is that the company not only offers this service to people who buy jewelry- but also just to people who just take the 20 minutes to experience the tour!
Overall both were great experiences, and I’m so happy to walk away with a wearable souvenir of my travels! Now I can’t wait to head to Minas Gerais to source my own beautiful Brazilian gems for Sea + Stone jewelry!