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Deumer specializes in the production of exclusive cufflinks, but also makes crests and coats of arms for Porsche and the King of Jordan’s Boeing 737. We visited a very special family business
It was the Titanic that showed Johan Conze the way. Seventy-four years after the liner sank in 1912, an expedition salvaged more than 4000 from the ship’s hull 3800 meters down. Among those artifacts were battered chandeliers, china, crystal bottles, silver tableware, a bronze ship’s bell – and a silver cufflink, a Deumer cufflink. “When I spotted it in the display cabinet, I knew what I had to do: get away from mass production and create jewelry for a small group of people looking for products that will last a very long time,” says Johan Conze, 53, who shares the running of the family business in Lüdenscheid with his brother Friedrich Assmann, 46.
Today, they number the King of Jordan among their customers, many of whom insist on absolute discretion and must remain nameless. As decoration for his Boeing 737, Abdullah II commissioned Deumer to cast more than 90 royal emblems. “Very exclusive,” says Conze, gesturing toward a wall plaque. Companies like de Sede and Rolf Benz order plaques for their furniture, and Porsche has the hood emblems for its Classic series made in Lüdenscheid. But for Deumer, whose 25 employees generate sales revenue of 2.3 million euros per year, cufflinks are by far the most important product and come in a wide selection ranging from simple, lenticular silver pieces for baptisms to gem-encrusted models costing 1000 euros and more.
„Get away from mass production and create jewelry for a small group of people “
It seems the sky’s the limit, in fact: One Middle Eastern client shelled out 30,000 euros for four sapphire-studded cufflinks. In great demand at the moment is an oval model in silver featuring the blue-and-white Bavarian lozenge pattern, which Deumer manufactures exclusively for the luxury Munich department store Lodenfrey. Ten pairs leave the factory each week, “and sometimes even more around Oktoberfest time,” says Conze. Deumer has recently introduced a special service through 30 gentlemen’s bespoke outfitters: When the client comes for a fitting, he can choose his own individual cufflinks from a selection of five shapes, five enamel colors, and five gemstone types – and they will be ready for him when he comes to collect his suit.
Conze, who himself wears a replica of the cufflink on display in the Titanic exhibition, explains that the price of Deumer cufflinks reflects the craftsmanship and materials that go into them: “We don’t regard cufflinks as everyday objects, but as items of jewelry.” Nevertheless, they have to be functional – even after decades of wear. That’s why Deumer eschews a rocker fastening in favor of a counterpiece resembling a shirt button with a rigid link – as was the fashion around 1900. This, Conze claims, is indestructible and easier to button into the cuff. What counts in the end is the design. Traditional British motifs include fishing rods, footballs, and aircraft, but these are out of the question for Conze. “And we don’t go in for designs featuring so many stones your arm would be in danger of dropping off.” Instead, Deumer customers always prefer a classic style: for daytime in discreet silver, for the evening, perhaps gold with some stones – just a few, but the real thing. Most of the designs originated in the early 20th century, including the above-mentioned piece from the Titanic, when Art Deco predominated. The brothers happened upon the majority of the designs in the 1990s, when they found them tucked away in boxes filled with prototypes in the storeroom where, since its founding in 1863, the company has kept the dies for every piece that has left the shop. “Even today, it is still our treasure trove,” says co-director Assman in the company’s office, which is located in a residential neighborhood of Lüdenscheid.
The cufflinks are manufactured one floor down, using almost the same methods as in the past. There is nothing luxurious about the workshop. There’s an intense odor of fumes from the plating baths in which the cufflinks are finally sealed after 25 to 30 work steps. At the start, each motif requires two dies. Before these can be stamped onto the blank, a craftsman manually engraves the pattern onto the die with the aid of hammer, gouge and scraper.
„We don’t regard cufflinks as everyday objects, but as items of jewelry“
“This is when the die really comes to life,” says Assmann. At the end of the production process, the cufflink lands on the workbench of the polisher, who sits right at the back of the workshop, wearing safety goggles. Slowly and deliberately, he moves the tiny cufflink across a felt polishing machine over and over again. One single mistake, and silver and gemstones will fly around his ears before ending up in the trashcan. If all goes well, the piece goes into a plating bath for a final silver coating. This renders cleaning superfluous, and according to Conze: “Regular wear is the best way to prevent tarnishing.”
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