As company legend has it, German-born Klaus Stenzhorn built his eponymous brand forty years ago on the banks of the Rhine River. He was guided by an unerring passion and boundless enthusiasm, not just for jewelry but for the world at large. Klaus was instructed by his father from a very young age to throw himself into everything he did. If he was going to do anything, Klaus was told to always put his heart and soul into it. His ardent spirit continues to inform the family-owned company to this day. “My uncle’s vision to make the finest jewelry in extraordinary designs, while always improving them, is the DNA of the company,” says Chris Stenzhorn, head of Stenzhorn’s worldwide sales and brand-building. “His creativity and interests are—in every detail—exceptional.”
Fueled by wanderlust and a deep love of nature, Klaus created the Stenzhorn brand not simply to produce lovely baubles, but to painstakingly recreate the beauty he found and admired in the world around him. Stenzhorn is known to this day for lifelike pieces, inspired by French and Italian design, and made with a perfectionism Germans are known for. Ruby-encrusted butterflies rest convincingly atop fingers, diamond bellflowers bloom eternal around ears and necks. In this world Klaus dreamed up, perfect moments need not end, and colors never fade.
Four decades since its inception, Stenzhorn has expanded well beyond its roots. The brand, working from its three factories, continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, in both design and production. Chris, along with three other family members, handles the business side of the brand. Together, they help bring Stenzhorn’s remarkably meticulous jewels to women the world over. Their pieces have been featured in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and is carried in exclusive shops like Latest Revival.
Below, Chris was kind enough to chat with LR about floating jewels, trading color for texture, and a bit of advice from Klaus he has long taken to heart.
Did you always know you would join the family business?
Yes, it was, actually. Though after university, I held a few jobs in banking and pursued other experiences first. That was a good thing. I wanted to be confident that jewelry was my real passion.
Klaus himself traveled often and widely. What trip, if any, has inspired you yourself?
I was very lucky to be able to travel so much all my life. As a European, I grew up with historical and beautiful buildings, traditions, and lifestyles. Paris and Florence are amazing, but I remember the first time I came to New York City. It was lifetime dream come true. I immediately fell in love with the power of the city. Its mix of cultures makes it amazing.
What is it about French and Italian design that appeals to you the most?
The romantic and feminine touch. It’s delicate and always on the spot.
How does German perfectionism elevate Stenzhorn’s designs?
That is one of the key points to our success. We love a design that is technically challenging to us. It’s very satisfying to do things that aren’t easy to do. It’s a pleasure when people ask me, “How did you do this?”
The “natural” inspirations—butterflies, flowers, frogs, etc—feel enormously lifelike. How painstaking is the process of making a piece of jewelry that must mimic reality so closely?
This is indeed tough to do, and requires centuries of experience and a great team. Luckily we have all of it, and enjoy the work it takes to make the animals and flowers look alive.
What is the most complicated piece of jewelry Stenzhorn has ever made?
We recently created a new collection called UNA. It has a unique and new way of setting the stones. We started the project back in the mid-1990s, but it was very complicated at that time. Three years ago, we took it back out of the drawer and started developing again. The design sets round stones in a kind of invisible setting. The stones are set from the back and arranged in different layers. You don’t see any gold holding the stones; they look like they are floating in the air. Very impressive.
Even Stenzhorn’s most simple of pieces have a wonderful complexity to them. In your Ice Age-inspired collection, the combination of brilliants, baguettes, and carre-cut diamonds create texture in the place of color.
Yes, indeed. Very often the simple things are the hardest to do. ICEZEIT is definitely one of them. The sparkling look of the different diamonds set together is spectacular. It gives a completely different point of view to the jewelry.
The invisible setting technique Stenzhorn often uses gives a lovely “second skin” quality to some of its pieces. How difficult was that to perfect?
The development took a few years. The collection is designed to be extremely flexible, very light, very shiny, and—most importantly—100-percent handmade. One single piece wasn’t so complicated to do, but creating a full collection using the same technique for different models was a bit more challenging. A three-row or seven-row necklace, made with different stone sizes and in varying lengths, must still possess those same qualities: flexible, light, strong, and handmade.
How would you describe the Stenzhorn woman?
Like every woman: unique. She is self-confident, elegant, adventurous, and successful in what she does. The Stenzhorn woman always knows exactly what she wants and is enthusiastic about things that are new, exciting, and beautiful.
Your favorite lasting quote from Klaus himself:
A very personal one. He always said this to me as a child and I continue to apply it to many areas of my life: “Do not ask what it costs, just ask what it brings you.”