Treasure-hunting in Germany

Make precious memories with Andrea Zielak, Residence Manager of newly-opened, Citadines City Centre Frankfurt, as she recommends a gemstone-studded itinerary

Issue: Mar 2014

Citadines City Centre Frankfurt, just a 20-minute walk from the Römer which is one of the city’s most prominent landmark, is centrally located and the perfect place to embark on a day trip to Idar-Oberstein
Citadines City Centre Frankfurt, just a 20-minute walk from the Römer which is one of the city’s most prominent landmark, is centrally located and the perfect place to embark on a day trip to Idar-Oberstein
Photo credit: Timothy Cheong

The Römer is a medieval building in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and one of the city's most important landmarks.

Drive a little more than an hour out of Frankfurt and you will reach the city of Idar-Oberstein, gemstone capital of Germany, where you can do a spot of gemstone prospecting
Drive a little more than an hour out of Frankfurt and you will reach the city of Idar-Oberstein, gemstone capital of Germany, where you can do a spot of gemstone prospecting

Although I have lived in Frankfurt more than half my life, I was born in a small town called Zella Mehlis. This “green heart of Germany” is surrounded by woods and the hills of the Thuringian forest; and is famous both for being a winter sports destination and for its metal and gun (for sport and hunting) production.

In many ways, Germany’s capital of gemstone industry, Idar-Oberstein reminds me a lot of home. Like home, this city on the Nahe River has a quaint, small-town feel. With its streets dotted with traditional houses, ancient forts and castles, and reputation as a gemstone centre, it is a charmingly romantic area to get lost in. If you want a day-trip out, Idar-Oberstein is truly a gem of a place. From the newly-opened Citadines City Centre Frankfurt, within walking distance of the business and shopping hub, it is just about an hour and a half away.

Idar-Oberstein, with its traditional houses and old buildings, reminds me of the little town I (right) was born in
Idar-Oberstein, with its traditional houses and old buildings, reminds me of the little town where I (right) was born in

Gemstone Trail

See the gemstones in their natural setting at the mines of Steinkaulenberg, the only European gemstone mines open to the visitors
See the gemstones in their natural setting at the mines of Steinkaulenberg, the only European gemstone mines open to the visitors

To begin at the beginning, start with where the gemstones come from – the mines of Steinkaulenberg. They are the only European gemstone mines open to the public and were once the foundation of Idar-Oberstein’s over 500-year-old gemstone manufacturing industry. Now, it is where budding mineralogists and gem-hunters gravitate towards.

You can wander the mine shafts tunnelled deep into Steinkaulenberg Mountain; take a guided tour of the galleries where you will be introduced to the world of precious stones like agate, crystal, amethysts, jasper, and smoke quartz in their original rock; and go prospecting in the fields. Precious stones and minerals are brought to the fields every day for treasure-seekers to try their luck.

At the historic Weiherschleife water mill, the city’s last water wheel-driven gemstone cutting mill, you can see how raw gems are polished into sparkling jewels
At the historic Weiherschleife water mill, the city’s last water wheel-driven gemstone cutting mill, you can see how raw gems are polished into sparkling jewels

Another place you can go prospecting for treasure is at the historic Weiherschleife water mill, the city’s last water wheel-driven gemstone cutting mill. With a sand sieve and some luck, you might just find something on the sheltered sand field that is regularly stocked with minerals from around the world. You can see how the stone crusher breaks down the gemstone geode to reveal the stone within, and how stones are cut with a hand-driven flywheel and then polished to a perfect sheen.

The Gemstone Adventure World will take you from the caverns where gemstones are mined to the stunning display of gems that have been unearthed
The Gemstone Adventure World will take you from the caverns where gemstones are mined to the stunning display of gems that have been unearthed

Then immerse yourself in the Gemstone Adventure World (Edelstein-Erlebnistwelt) house in the Gottlieb jewellery factory. The caves and caverns, with underground springs and glowing volcano, are studded with precious stones and crystals. As you journey further, you will emerge in a forested area complete with a misty waterfall. Cap it off with a light show that displays the beauty of the gems in all their splendid jewelled tones.

The light show at the end of your foray into the Gemstone Adventure World beautifully sets off the magical quality of the gems
The light show at the end of your foray into the Gemstone Adventure World beautifully sets off the magical quality of the gems

Move on down the production line and witness how the stones are turned into jewellery and accessories at the Jakob Bengel Industrial Monument, the only authentic manufacturing plant in the city. Go on a guided tour of the factory and marvel at the different technologies and many self-developed tools.

Do not leave the city without visiting the German Gemstone Museum. With 9,000 exhibits, it has all the world’s known gemstones within its halls. In their original shape, crafted into jewellery, fashioned into sculptures, you can admire these precious stones in various forms. About 70 per cent of the pieces are on loan from the old gemstone-working families of Idar-Oberstein. So, unique items not normally available for public display can be admired here.

All the world’s known gemstones are found amongst the 9,000 exhibits at the German Gemstone Museum
All the world’s known gemstones are found amongst the 9,000 exhibits at the German Gemstone Museum

Bring Home Some Baubles

When you get back to Frankfurt and want to bring home some gemstones, drop by Jewellery Friedrich at the Goethestrasse, the 5th Avenue of Frankfurt’s Manhattan, just two subway stations away from my service residence. I once had to shop there for one of the residents at a serviced residence I worked at and was impressed by the impeccable service. The shop only allows limited walk-in customers to protect the privacy of its shoppers. The award-winning jewellery is known for its exquisite designs and quality gemstones; and count European royalty and international celebrities amongst its many patrons. This is the perfect place to purchase a family heirloom.

Jewellery is one of the best ways to pass on family tradition. My favourite jewellery is a pearl and silver bracelet and matching earrings that my grandmother gave to me just before she passed away.

If you want to take home a piece of gem to remember your trip, award-winning jewellery, Jewellery Friedrich, will offer you breathtaking options and impeccable service
If you want to take home a piece of gem to remember your trip, award-winning jewellery, Jewellery Friedrich, will offer you breathtaking options and impeccable service

Have a Dazzling Drink

As you wind down your day of treasure-hunting, have a drink. I recommend a fittingly named Jewel Cocktail, a dizzying mix of green chartreuse, gin, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and maraschinos cherries.

While Frankfurt can dazzle you with its delights, if you want another kind of dazzling experience, treasure-hunting and gemstone-gawking in the quaint city of Idar-Oberstein is a fine choice.

Stay with us:

Citadines City Centre Frankfurt
Citadines City Centre Frankfurt
Europa-Allee 23
60327 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
Tel: 49 069 920385-0
Fax: 49 069 920385-99
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