Jewelry is a cultural symbol – a visit to SKREIN the jewelry workshop

Jewelry has a special aura – some pieces are passed down from generation to generation – new ones are added for special occasions. There are a number of family companies dedicated to this activity in Vienna – the jewelry workshop SKREIN is such an establishment, which has developed a reputation for these types of specialties. I arrange to meet Alexander and Marie Skrein at their address in Spiegelgasse, close to Stephansplatz, to find out more about this. Father and daughter have both designed and produced some wonderful items. The shop window already gives away the affinity these entrepreneurs have for design — there are passionate aesthetics at work here that display their products in an exciting fashion.

As soon as you enter the store with its adjacent workshop, you start to feel at rest – this place is focused and relaxed in equal measure.

When you run a family jewelry business in Vienna, you are in good company. I am interested in knowing whether Alexander Skrein’s career as a goldsmith was already predetermined at a young age and he says: “The topic beauty and culture has always been part of me from my earliest days. My grandfather designed materials and manufactured textiles. My brother has a film production company and is a director. The whole family – especially on my mother’s side – has always been creative.” He describes himself as a “passionate jeweler” – he stems from a dynasty of lawyers on his father’s side.

 Alexander Skrein founded his jewelry workshop in 1990 via several detours. Exceptional pieces of jewelry have been created in Spiegelgasse since that time – particularly ones that have a special connection to the wearer.

“Jewelry has an unbelievable closeness – also in terms of its symbolism – such as a favorite ring, the necklace that you have always wanted for your wedding anniversary or that special birthday – this item is more than just a piece of jewelry. Jewelry is a cultural symbol,” says the company owner and you start to get the feeling that this passion for precious metals and stones is catching.

Everyone is hard at work in the workshop area – design drawings detail individual rings, a multitude of tools are in use to shape the precious metal.

The origins of the raw materials are particularly important to the Skreins’ — only fair gold is used here. Alexander Skrein is a pioneer to a certain degree when it comes to the sourcing of gold and diamonds and, in the meantime, many goldsmith firms in Austria have begun to follow his example.  

 Marie Skrein is also in the workshop and is currently working on a piece of jewelry. I would like to know whether it was a logical step for her to join the family company and what part she plays in the firm.

“It was really important to my father to give his daughters a free hand in deciding their career choices. I never had the feeling I had the responsibility for continuing the family business,” says the qualified goldsmith and you realize she really likes her job. Her father adds with a smile: “Marie likes jewelry and beautiful things, to talk with people and get into deep discussions with them. Someone who makes jewelry for a family has a relationship with these people. We are the ‘house’ jewelers for many people – basically, like a family doctor. Marie is increasingly defining the design of our jewelry.”

Engagement and wedding rings are symbolic pieces of jewelry for couples — SKREIN offers couples the chance to design their rings together with them.

The future married couple may also be invited to finish each other’s wedding or partnership ring together with the goldsmith. I imagine that this could be very emotional and ask both goldsmiths about trends in the design of wedding and engagement rings.

“Couples’ expectations often reflect the times – general fashion trends are transferred to wedding rings. We tell people that partners often want to wear their wedding rings for their whole lives and that fashion is secondary, during their consultation in our store. This is how we find individual rings that both partners like. The relationship is more important than trends and the opinions of other people are less important because personal taste is paramount,” say father and daughter.

I imagine it must be very inspiring to work surrounded by such beautiful things and just before I say goodbye, Alexander Skrein mentions something that is also important.

“Jewelry is the world’s second oldest cultural asset after cave paintings. Goldsmiths have always been the craftsmen to whom society has given its highest level of trust. That is still true today and we are grateful to be part of this trustworthy group.”

These words stay in my head for a long time after I leave the jewelry workshop of the SKREIN family. One thing is for certain – the quality of this hand-made jewelry is well worth a walk to Spiegelgasse.