Georg Jensen Jewelry
edited by David A. Taylor
The following is a summary of the text found in the book “Georg Jensen Jewelry” and its collected essays.
The Georg Jensen Silversmithy has had a profound influence over the realm of Scandinavian Design and the styles of the times. From the early days when Georg Jensen himself was responsible for designing all of the pieces in his line to today's collections, the idea of a singular thread of “Jensen style”has been recognized, especially in the silversmithy's jewelry lines. The quality and consistency of the work has often been of primary discussion of “Jensen style”, however this alone does not account for the overall style of Georg Jensen silver, which can in itself be broken down into a number of time periods and represents a variety of highly skilled designers.
The first period that can be defined, would, of course, be Jensen's own style. Typically using naturalistic designs, it is obvious that he pulled inspiration from his own rural background as well as the Skonvirke trends of the time, as well as its sister movement, Art Nouveau, which was prevalent in one of his favorite cities, Paris. Jensen himself, has admitted to having been influenced by Renaissance styles, however upon closer inspection, his stylistic leanings are more current. There's a specific restraint to his designs, and his designs often reflect a more impressionist style rather than a realism in the way his floral designs do not necessarily reflect a particular piece of flora, and often appear mixed, and in as such, he creates his own naturalistic motifs. His use of a variety of semiprecious gemstones, (almost entirely cabochon cut) has provided him a wonderful variety of color and nuance to accent the pieces rendered entirely in silver, as well as utilizing hammering and shading techniques to bring his pieces to life. The ability to offer similar pieces with varying stones has also given each piece of his jewelry a certain uniqueness. He also often reused the same motifs and decorative elements, in some cases to create sets, but also in pieces which would not match. A scalloped design, or acanthus leaves, or a cluster of grapes might appear on a brooch as well as a belt buckle or a necklace or perhaps a pair of cufflinks. This isn't to say he was limited in his designs. Far from it! Jensen was incessantly drawing on the back of envelopes, napkins, or whatever paper might be lying in arm's reach, which would be later redrawn as usable schematics for the shop's goldsmiths to use. By 1914, approximately 483 designs were in production, most of which were Jensen's own. This speaks more of his own creativity, rather than of a desire to design all the pieces himself. Jensen would frequently encourage others with good design sense as well, to which Johan Rohde and Kristian Mohl-Hansen were perhaps the earliest and most influential participants.
The craftsmanship, however is also not be be scoffed at. Georg Jensen would often easily reject piece that were not up to the level of craftsmanship that he desired, and each piece was hand made by himself and other highly skilled employees at the time, and later on, when manufacturing techniques were introduced, this high level of quality of the original shop was still maintained, with many of the pieces hand finished. Jensen was not averse to machine stamping, as this would save time and labor for his goldsmiths, however much of the careful detail and refinement in the finishing still demanded a skilled hand, of which this is a standard of which the silversmithy still lives to this day.
See the second part in the series: "Georg Jensen: A Man of His Times"
See the fourth part in the series: "Braving the Modern: Georg Jensen Jewelry, 1925-1970"
See the fifth part in the series: "Building an International Reputation: The Georg Jensen Phenomenon in the United States, 1915-1973"