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Jewellery Museum Pforzheim (Germany)

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Address: Jahnstrasse 42, 75173 - Pforzheim, Germany

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      06.08.2013 15:43
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      the only jewellery museum of the kind worldwide

      Pforzheim** is a city of about 118.000 inhabitants in the south west of Germany situated between Stuttgart (37 km away) and Karlsruhe (25 km away). Its sobriquet is 'City of Gold'. 75% of the jewellery made in Germany comes from there. It's the northern gate to the Black Forest and hiking paths start here leading south up to Basel in Switzerland. But the landscape was not what made me visit, I wanted to see the Jewellery Museum, the only museum of its kind worldwide.

      From the train station it doesn't take more than half an hour on foot to get there. You cross the street in front of it and find the Bahnhofstraße to the right and the Schlossberg to the left. Both lead to the centre. The tourist information is on the Schlossberg. I didn't choose this street, however, because I didn't know that. It had only just moved there and the net still showed the old address. It wasn't a problem for me, however, because I know the language of the natives and could ask them. Later I found enough leaflets in the museum.

      I was apprehensive what I would see on my way through the centre. The last city I visited which was badly destroyed during the WW2 was Darmstadt. I was shocked by its ugliness. The fate of Pforzheim was even worse, so I was prepared for an even bigger shock. WW2 ended on May 8th, 1945, yet a short time before the end three towns were bombed into near total annihilation: Dresden on February 13th, Pforzheim on February 23 rd and Würzburg on March 16th. After an air raid by 368 RAF bombers lasting 22 minutes the centre of Pforzheim was destroyed by 100%, the surrounding areas by 80%, 17.600 people were dead (out of a population of 79.000). Why Pforzheim? Fuses for bombs used to be made there, but the production had by then been moved outside. It's assumed that the town was chosen because of the flammability of the many wooden structures in the centre. The air raid was part of the so-called moral bombing strategy.

      From the city's homepage, "The reconstruction during the Fifties and Sixties has developed a unique architectural cityscape which has been characteristic for this city up to the present." I love this sentence. Typical ad speak which sounds good and says nothing. Translated into normal speech it means: "Unimaginative box like concrete structures everywhere". Yet, to my great surprise and pleasure the overall impression isn't one of ugliness. The many shops on the ground floors of the buildings draw the visitors' eyes away from the grey facades above. Besides, the whole centre, which is a pedestrian precinct with shops, restaurants and cafés, is full of big containers with flowers. On one side of a bridge crossing a small river there's a construction in the shape of a U looking like a gate into which lots and lots of flowers have been planted. I can only congratulate the Pforzheimers!

      The Jewellery Museum which got its present shape in 1961 looks out into the city park. Its architecture is inspired by the Bauhaus style of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. (It must be mentioned somewhere so I'll put it here: the building has a lift, clean loos, also one for the disabled.) On two floors it houses permanent collections as well as special temporary exhibitions. Some 2.000 exhibits covering a period of 5.000 years show breath taking artefacts. Treasures from Greco-Roman antiquity, the Renaissance, Art Nouveau and contemporary jewellery are on display. I can stand a long while in front of a show case trying to imagine a craftsman hammering, chiselling, framing or whatever a goldsmith does with gold, silver and precious stones. The aesthetically pleasing designs, the dexterity, the patience can only be admired. If I could, I'd carry some of the artefacts home with me.

      One room shows the history of the jewellery industry in Pforzheim together with typical specimens, another shows a private collection of ethnic jewellery. In matters of taste, there can be no disputes. One man's diamonds and rubies are another man's wild boar teeth and cowry shells! The current temporary exhibition is dedicated to the depiction of landscape in jewellery, fascinating stuff here as well.

      A café offering good cake (not surprising in Germany) and lunch from 12 to 2 pm has tables outside overlooking the park. It was good to sit there and rest for a while before the tour went on. My next stop was the Schmuckwelten=Worlds of Jewellery which I had already passed on my way through the pedestrian precinct. It's a shopping centre, a 'showcase for jewellery, clocks and watches, the only one of its kind in Europe' (from a leaflet). Furthermore, there's a collection of minerals in the basement and an educational show on the top floor on the origin of gold, its processing and manufacture into jewellery, the cultivation of pearls and some information on the clock and watch industry. There's also a real Porsche covered all over with gold foil. I didn't find it, though, maybe it was lent to an exhibition somewhere. I had seen it already in the town where I live as part of an exhibition. It sets one thinking, lively discussions are sure to ensue when people see it.

      There are no gold seams under Pforzheim, why is it the City of Gold at all? It's due to Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden who about 240 years ago founded first the watch industry and a bit later laid the foundation for the gold industry. Nowadays there aren't only the two places dedicated to gold and jewellery I've described. There's also the internationally renowned university of design, the training centre for the designers of tomorrow. I had seen some pieces made by students of the fourth term in the Jewellery Museum and was quite impressed by their originality. One could think that after 5.000 years one had already seen it all in the field of necklaces, brooches, pendants, earrings , rings and bracelets, but this is not the case.
      For visitors with more stamina than I had there's also the Technisches (Technological) Museum where they can learn how clocks (the Black Forest is the home of the coockoo clocks), watches and jewellery were made in the olden times and how they're made today.

      Included in the ticket for the show and the mineral collection was also a glass of champers. One could get it in one of the jewellery shops on the ground floor of the building. It isn't just any cheap champers, oh no, tiny flakes of gold foil float in it! I got into talking with the shop-assistant and she told me that gold was also used as medicine and was injected intramuscularly for some diseases. I smiled politely and thought that maybe when there were no tourists to serve she was at the champers bottle herself. Yet, what she had said stuck in my mind and when I was back home I googled it. Indeedy! As gold as medicine isn't my topic here, I'm only giving you this short piece of information, "Gold (trade name Myocrisin) is a type of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug. These drugs dampen down the underlying disease process, rather than simply treating your symptoms." If you want to know more, go google yourself.

      After having the champers I decided to skip the collection of minerals and call it a day. I had become tired from looking at so much gold and so many riches and also from the alcohol. The weather was fine, the sun was shining when I visited Pforzheim, the perfect day for a touristy day out. With all the gold and glitter I can imagine, however, that the city is also worth while visiting when the weather is drab.

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      *pronounced: pfortshaym

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