From pre-Nazi Germany to South America to the United States, Jose Hess has enjoyed a colorful life, culminating in the creation of stunning diamond jewelry that has made its mark on the world.
From Europe to South America
Jose Hess fled with his family just ahead of Nazi rule in Germany. Settling in Colombia in South America, Hess worked in his family's bakery and restaurant. As a young man, he found employment at a jewelry factory, where he began to work his way up from sweeping floors to earning an apprenticeship. Over time, he learned to make plate, draw wire, melt gold, then how to hand-craft settings.
Off to New York
Hess moved to New York City in 1951 and studied at the Gemological Institute of America and the Mechanics Institute of New York, earning his Jewelry Design degree. Ultimately, he infused his creativity with the mechanics of jewelry making and solidified his career path.
Two years were spent in the U.S. military, after which he resumed his career, this time with David Webb in New York. There, he made models and hand-crafted jewelry, honing his skills, and began to break away from traditional jewelry design.
Confident of his talents and eager to establish a name for himself, Hess set off on his own. While he'd gained recognition by winning several awards, retailers were slow to accept his pieces. Placing his focus on branding, Hess began by getting his name into trade publications and consumer magazines. Using De Beers as his inspiration for advertising, the designer started to gain traction, receiving attention from the jewelry industry and consumers.
Although always interested in diamonds, Hess' technique shifted throughout his career. Diamonds had always been his go-to. Still, at first, his pieces were large and featured diamonds of significant carat weights, making them suitable for special occasions rather than everyday wear. Over time, the jewelry became more practical and affordable for a wider audience, making it appropriate for the office, nights on the town, or anytime in between.
As customers have become more selective when splurging on diamond jewelry, Hess has worked hard to stay on trend with the desires of his clientele, while maintaining his standards for integrity and quality craftsmanship. His efforts have earned him a wide variety of awards and accolades over the years. And his designs have been copied again and again by mainstream retailers.
At the forefront of Hess style is the sheer glamour of the designs. Celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Demi Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Candy Spelling, and Arianna Grande have been drawn to Hess' designs and their sophisticated simplicity.
Their beauty, versatility, quality craftsmanship, and timeless style ensure that Hess' pieces continue to be desirable.
Notable Jose Hess Pieces
- The Golfer Heart Pendant, created by Hess from c1990, depicts a golfer swinging a club, decorated in marquise, baguette and round diamonds with a total diamond weight of over 2 carats. An open heart of brilliant round diamonds frames the golfer to complete the design.
- A chevron necklace, showcasing a fancy pink color pear-shaped diamond of over 4 carats, beautifully accented by a cluster of five pear-shaped white diamonds with a total weight of 3.25 carats is classically Hess' style. The 18K white gold necklace boasts curved side segments and flexible backlinks.
- A stunner of a cocktail ring, created by Jose Hess, features 5 ½ carats total weight of diamonds set in 18K yellow gold. Ribbons of baguette diamonds follow a swirl that embraces a cluster of brilliant round diamonds at the center of the ring. Clean and modern in design, the piece is a beautiful example of Jose Hess' ability to create timeless objects of art.
Awards and Accolades
- DeBeers Diamonds International Award
- American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award
- Japan Jewelry Designers Association Award
- Chicago Jewelry Show: Best in Show
- Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmith of America: Hall of Fame Award
- Contemporary Jewelry Design Group: Hall of Fame Award
- Served as President of the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America
- Hess was the first American president of the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), an international trade association working to establish uniform standards for the jewelry industry worldwide.
- Founding member of the American Jewelry Design Council
Hess has served as an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, sharing with his students a wealth of knowledge on goldsmithing and jewelry design.