by Jacob Thage
(This article is a summary based on the English text found within this book.)
Jewelry making in Denmark has existed since well before the time of Christ, the first of which utilized such materials as amber and bone. Up until the 19th century, Denmark was a somewhat poor country, and didn't have the bountiful resources in silver and gold that other countries had access to, though, by records of the time, apparently most families had scraped together enough enough extra money to purchase some small item of silver.
Most early jewelry was imported from other countries at the time, and even the little jewelry created by Danish gold and silver smiths was often designed on foreign models and illustrations, and even still, the materials used to create these pieces often came from melting down old jewelry, which essentially erases the small traces of history that give us a definitive view on the evolution of jewelry in Denmark. Another difficulty in tracing the past of Danish jewelry comes from the lack of definitive marks, denoting the craftsmen and countries of origin, on many pieces, making them nearly impossible to trace. Though the jewelry of some of the common folk of various times exist, the greatest documentation of Denmark's jewelry comes from the records of transactions by the Royal family, and the royal jewels that were preserved.
By the 1840's, however, the materials for jewelry had become more plentiful, and with inspiration drawn from Old Nordic Museum which was founded in 1807, Denmark would finally start to establish a style of jewelry all of its own.
The periods of design previous to what would be called "Old Nordic" often came from the styles of other countries, such as the Classicism of France, which preceded it. As the name "Historicism" implies, much of the style of of this period comes from the designs of periods much prior, including the Bronze and Iron Ages, and though richly ornamented, many of the shapes and designs mirrored the tools of the previous times. Viking motifs and ornamental axes came together to form brooches, and reflected nationalist feelings of the time. The Old Nordic Museum was instrumental in the formation of this style, and would not have existed without the interest of King Frederik VII's interest in archeology and mythology. Even though this would be the first truly Danish style, the goldsmiths and silversmiths of Denmark had developed quite a bit of skill through the ages, and this was reflected in the difficult to copy stylings of this new jewelry. Partially due to this, its popularity caught on in other nations and soon after, in 1869, one of the first stores to sell Danish jewelry outside of the country had opened on New Bond Street in London.
Unfortunately, few designs were actually produced in Old Nordic. The craftsmen had much talent in reproducing works, however, few had much interest in creating new designs of their own. The late 19th century had created foundation of what would come though, and craftsmen would start to collaborate with a number of artists in order to advance the field. Also helpful would be the influx of gold and silver from the Americas, greatly increasing the raw materials for the public consumption. Also discovered during this time period was the art of galvanoplasty, a form electroplating, which would allow for works to be reproduced cheaper and heralded in part the arrival of industrialism.
Also present during this time were the neo-baroque and neo-rococo stylings, which would supplant the less popular classicism of France. Utilizing natural themes in a freer manner, and often making use of big flowing leaves, the style would have its influence upon Danish jewelry, the greatest of which might lie with Countess Danner, who was wed by King Fredrik VII, whom, according to legend, gave her a piece of jewelry ever morning. Regardless of truth in the legend, upon her death, almost 700 pieces were sold at auction. A number of the pieces King Fredrik VII bought had been from the best goldsmiths in Denmark, Including Bernhard Hertz, whom was one of the first danish craftsmen to specialize in jewelry, and competed with foreign importers. Also a notable worker in the neo-rococo style was Julius Didrichsen, whom created the Dagmar necklace, with a copy of the Dagmar Cross for Fredrik VII to give to Alexandra the daughter of his successor, Christian IX on her wedding. Gold and silver set with pearls and diamonds decorate this piece, and the Dagmar cross, which rendered beautifully in enamel also contained a piece of the True Cross from the Old Nordic Museum, and a piece of St. Canute's pillow within its hollowed center.
A number of the well known workshops were also founded during the 1800's. Anton Michelson opened his first shop in 1841, and employed a number of artists, being one of the first and last silversmiths working within the Old Nordic style. Also during this period Peter Hertz, relation to the aforementioned Bernhard Hertz, which became one of the largest jewelry manufacturers of Denmark with exports to many outside countries. Vilhelm Christesen also made a name for himself during this period, and with the Old Nordic style, where he was oft imitated by English goldsmiths, and Arent Nicolaj Dragsted, whose company with P. Hertz and A Michelsen would continue to influence trends and create many styles of jewelry for generations to come.
The very end of the 1800's and the beginning of the 20th century saw the birth of many new decorative styles in Europe. Reacting against the poor quality of the industrially produced jewelry of the time and looking for something new and different from the historicism that preceded it, each country reinvented their styles in their own ways.
Skonvirke was unique in its own right, and like the other styles of the time, both influenced and was influenced by each other. Like England's Arts and Crafts movement, emphasis was placed upon the craftsmanship of the creator, and many of the motifs borrowed from the French Art Nouveau's motifs. Skonvirke was unique however, as the period made great use of enamel, something known but not often used in periods prior, as well as semiprecious stones to give bright and vibrant color to the pieces created. Skonvirke craftsmen also developed a unique texture for the pieces they created, a hand hammered effect creating a play of light and softness unique to itself, and setting it apart from the machined surfaces. (Though this too was later duplicated by machines using special molds.) Skonvirke also had its own ethic behind it, much of which is owed to Mogens Ballin, and the silversmiths he influenced many artists wanted to create not just works of beauty, but also wanting something affordable to the every day person. Another unique quality to Skonvirke was the incredible collaboration between artists and craftsmen. Many of the silver and goldsmiths at this time had been trained in the field of arts. Bindesboll had worked with ceramics for example, Georg Jensen being a sculptor, as well as Just Andersen and Siegfried Wagner. Mogens Ballin, whom Georg Jensen had worked under, also had his own unique artistic training, having been a painter.
Also helpful to the movement was the establishment of the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, which supported many Danish artists by purchasing and reviewing their works, and organizing exhibitions to provide inspiration. Some of the more "inspirational" purchases made included the works of C.R. Ashbee of England, and French Art Nouveau artist, Rene Lalique, whose influences were apparent with certain Danish designers to come, in particular, Erik Magnussen.
Harald Slott-Moller was one of the first artists to work with jewelry's decorative elements and usher in some of the fundamental elements of the Skonvirke movement. Having the formal training and working his entire life as a painter, Harald Slott-Moller also took his ideas towards the decorative arts, and in particular jewelry. Utilizing enamels and precious metals, as well as ivory and semiprecious stones, he would create piece of jewelry which often told of stories through pictorial means. His use of stones was also quite unique, using diamonds for stars, pearls for shells, and many other creative elements, often took on many of the same themes as the Renaissance artists of the past, which of course can be traced back to his travels with his wife, Agnes Slott-Moller, to Italy, where the artists of the Renaissance captured their eyes and inspired. One of his most notable piece of jewelry, the famous "Helen of Troy" necklace,demonstrates this. Utilizing ivory and enamel to bring color and form to the piece, he depicts the lovely Helen, daughter of Zeus and Leda, with Troy burning in the background as well as battling soldiers to each side. The piece was considered quite beautiful although its heavy reliance on enamel for color, which may hearken back to his artistic roots, is too colorful for a piece of jewelry, and contrasts too greatly with its graceful forms. Critics were quite aware of this at the time, however, it was also noticed that he worked on the piece himself, (with the exception of some of the more difficult settings being handled by A. Michelsen's silversmithy), and the craftsmanship shown through. In this too, the necklace had shown the artist's affinity with the English Arts and Crafts movement that was going on at the same time, and whose emphasis on the craftsman working on each piece from its inception to its final creation. Many of his works shared these similarities, and unfortunately the tastes of the Danish public didn't necessarily agree with his designs, not to mention their one of a kind nature and their high prices.
If anyone is responsible for the definitive look of Skonvirke, it is Thorvald Bindesboll. Trained as an architect, he did much more to establish his name through the decorative arts, and in particular, that of jewelry. Inspired by virtually everything from Celtic knotwork to Japanese tsuba, he developed the unique abstract, nature inspired designs that would construct the majority of his work. In the beginning of his career, he designed in the Old Nordic style common at the time, though it wasn't long since he began working on his own designs in clay. Bindesboll was extremely prolific throughout his lifetime and as Svend Hammershoj had once described him, "Bindesboll simply hand to produce", and created a great number of illustrations and in depth drawing profiling his many ideas. The biggest issue of which was the disconnect between artist-designer and craftsman and Bindesboll himself did not work with silver, but with pottery, and his "living clay" style of ornamentation and design with organic forms were unusual and difficult for silversmiths to understand. This in turn gave a simpler and mostly misunderstood translation of his sketches into silver, where part of the impact was lost. It wasn't really until 1904 when he started working with Holger Kyster that his designs were interpreted as he intended, and his jewelry started to take off. Over 5000 designs were created during this period, and the Skonvirke idiom started to gain its distinctive look. (Click HERE to learn more about Thorvald Bindesboll)
Mogens Ballin was born in 1871 to a well off family in Copenhagen, and at the age of 17 began his training as a painter under Viggo Pedersen and by 1889 had gone to Paris where he joined a number of symbolist painters around Gaguin. From there he went traveled to Brittany where he had a religious experience and converted to Catholicism in 1893. A deeply religious man, he first joined a Benedictine monastery and then later a Franciscan. His travels to Italy had also inspired him to create a new school of art based on his impressions of early Italian art. Unfortunately, the monastic life was too rigid for him, and the sacrifices it demanded too great, so in 1899 he married and with his own money, he started his workshop in 1900. He wrote of the experience to one of his superiors at the monastery in Beuron, "I want to make everyday objects with a lovely form, of bronze, pewter, polished copper, and other cheap metals. It is my intention to make things which even the smallest purse can afford. Art for the people and not refined art for rich parvenus. As you see, I am building on some of the ideas of the English: William Morris, John Ruskin and their fellows have shown me the way..."
It is truly Mogens Ballin that was formative in promoting the ideals of the movement and just like his English counterparts in the Arts and Crafts movement, he produced a number of his own designs, despite his lack of formal training as a craftsman. On a number of his pieces, one can also see the hammer marks that were definitive of the style. Drawing his artistic inspiration from Bindesboll and working with his colleague Siegfried Wagner as well as a number of other well known Danish silversmiths, he created jewelry that did its best to serve his ideals and produce jewelry that common folk could afford and which could compete with foreign imported goods. After his wife died, he sold the workshop however its impact on Danish jewelry was far longer lasting.
In fact, the workshop of Mogens Ballin itself was the site where many names were first made. The workshop had sold a number of decorative items when it first opened, including lamps, writing sets and hollowware along side the brooches, clasps and buckles and other jewelry items mentioned. From the start, Siegfried Wagner, the sculptor, had been employed and worked alongside Mogens Ballin creating and designing a number of models himself. Wagner had been trained at the Royal academy of Fine arts and also worked two years at Bong and Grondahl Porcelain Manufactury, an experience whose influence could be seen. Though his work and Mogens Ballin's designs were sometimes indistinguishable from each other, Siegfried often displayed a more ornamented style compared to Mogens' more simplified lines. Also from the beginning was the work of Gudmund Hentz whom contrasted greatly from the other two artists, and his roots in book illustration can be seen in his highly illustrative designs. Also notably employed by Mogens Ballin was perhaps one of the greatest names in the history of Danish jewelry, Georg Jensen.
Georg Jensen (learn more about Georg Jensen HERE) had his first experiences working with fine jewelry in 1880 when he apprenticed to a goldsmith named Andersen on St. Pedersstaede in Copenhagen, where upon completing his apprenticeship, he trained as a journeyman and attended a technical school in addition to his training as a sculptor, making him one of the first Skonvirke designers with training as a craftsman.
Originally Georg Jensen wished to pursue the career of a sculptor, and after showing a bust of his father done in his youth to professor Theobald Stein, he began down the path of training towards his goals and afterward enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1887. after graduating he found mixed success, and then took to modeling for Bing and Grondahl before starting his own ceramics workshop with Joakin Petersen, which was well received, though financially Georg Jensen could not make ends meet.
Between 1901-02 he began working in Mogens Ballin's workshop as a journeyman, where he himself made and produced a number of designs in the new style. One of his more well recognized earlier pieces, a buckle depicting Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, is typical of the early style, however, it was truly working with Mogens Ballin and Seigfried Wagner and under the influence of their ideals: to create affordable jewelry for the people, utilizing less expensive stones and materials, and offering the best quality possible. The change could be seen in his exhibits as well. His 1902 exhibition at the Kleis Art Gallery, only a year after displaying his sculptures, had a new focus on jewelry, which became his new sculptural medium and not only was a piece purchased by the the Museum of Decorative Arts, but also gained positive reviews. It wasn't long after that Georg Jensen opened his own workshop, and in 1904, he started what would be one of the most famous silversmithies in Denmark.
The very first year in business he exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts as an independent silversmith to much praise. "Even in the smallest button costing a crown or two, all the wealth of form that can be elicited from the material was melted out of the silver itself." The very next year he exhibited at the Folkwang Museum in Westphalia, and then other museums, giving rise to his name in Germany. By 1909, art dealer Carl Dyhr opened a shop with the Georg Jensen line, and shops in London, Paris, and Barcelona soon followed. In 1910 Georg Jensen had won a gold medal at a world exposition in Brussels, and soon his shop employed over 60 workers and had moved several times. By the time of the WWI Georg Jensen had become a famous world name in silver jewelry.
The Georg Jensen silversmithy, like Mogens Ballin's before, also worked with a number of exceptional artists of the time. Gudmund Hentze and painter Kristian Mohl Hansen are responsible for some of the most iconic Georg Jensen designs in the earlier years, and artists such as Bindesboll, Joakim Skovgaard, Anton Rosen, and Harold Slott-Moller also contributed to the workshop's success through commissioned designs as well works they had commissioned (such as the silver for the Palace Hotel, done for Anton Rosen by Georg Jensen). Another great help to Georg Jensen and the success of his workshop was his friendship with Johan Rohde, who designed a great number of pieces for the silversmithy, and also advised him to not expand at the rate business increased, lest the shop lose its artistic view and Georg Jensen himself lose his influence as outside financiers were brought in which, the latter tragically would happen, causing Georg Jensen to start anew in Paris from 1924-26.
Much of his success can be attributed to the fluidity and detail of his designs, combined with his exceptional craftsmanship and expert use of materials. He breathed life into the silver, and contrasted the stark whiteness of the silver with warm richly colored amber, coral, and other stones, as well as contrasting surfaces. His designs often had more detail than, say, Bindesboll, yet never as highly stylized as Rene Lalique or others whom might have inspired the formation of his own particular idiom.
Erik Magnussen, first debuted in 1901 at the age of 17, at his uncle's gallery, Winkel and Magnussen, to positive review. Mostly self taught, he also studied chasing for half a year under painter and silversmith H.C. Viggo-Hansen, as well as modeling with sculptor Stephan Sinding, however his fiercely independent and willful nature prevented many from taking him on as an apprentice. He went abroad to also study in Berlin, for two years, and when he returned in 1909, he opened his own workshop, having sold one of his masterpieces, the grasshopper brooch, to the Museum of Decorative Art. He also produced a number of other jewelry pieces in gold and silver as well as starting to make a number of pieces using porcelain plaques with settings experimented with Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactury as well as developing his own crystal glazing. Many of his best works had insect motifs, and his own incredibly high standards for the art is reflected in his works. Author Herman Bang wrote once, "From the earliest years, he set a goal for himself: in gold and silver and in all precious metals he wanted to create art... But Denmark's land is little, and all honorable paths narrow. The land was especially little for Erik Magnussen's art in particular. We are too poor to cultivate what most would call luxury." and for those reason he soon left Denmark to seek out his fortunes in the US in 1925, having signed on as the artistic director of the Gorham Silver Company.
As soon as Erik Magnussen arrived in the U, he found success with Gorham, and began a tour of a number of major cities in the United States, whilst developing a unique style he would call, "skyscraper style". All of this; the tours, the exhibitions, the advertisements, the interviews; did much to promote him in his new home, however in Denmark, it had created a bit of criticism, pointing out that he had finally compromised his artistic talents. Soon after followed the 1929 stock market crash, and with it, Erik Magnussen's good fortune. Traveling across the country, by 1933, he opened a workshop in Los Angeles in 1933 that supplied a number of stars with jewelry. Six years later he would return to Denmark and during the second war, developed a line of jewelry in a Nordic style.
Although a lifelong artist and painter, Johan Rohde (Learn more about Johan Rohde HERE) is perhaps most well known for his designs in both furniture and silver. In particular his jewelry is perhaps the most original of the Skonvirke artists. Johan Rohde's designs were produced by a number of companies including A. Dragsted and A. Michelsen, but perhaps most famously Georg Jensen.
Johan Rohde's designs first began as something of a necessity for him, as the first furniture he designed was for his own use, and it was the same with his first flatware designs, which was first made at Mogens Ballin's workshop in 1903, and then later at Georg Jensen's. Georg Jensen and he had actually been acquainted for some time before this however, as Rohde was one of the founders of the Free Exhibition where Georg Jensen had exhibited in 1897. As such a close friend, Johan Rohde's influence on the Georg Jensen Silversmithy was monumental. His jewelry, as well as his other pieces have a very logical design to them, often building on the simplest of forms, and often utilized gemstones as well as the other materials to form an overall "whole" whereas other artist often focused on the gems themselves,and everything placed in a well thought out manner. Most of his jewelry has a floral motif, and often made in gold and utilizing traditional filigree or tendril acanthus like leaves, (the flatware pattern, Acanthus, also by Johan Rohde, gives a decent understanding of this style of motif), which hearkened back to more neoclassical Danish roots.
Evald Nielsen originally applied to apprentice under A. Fleron in Copenhagen to make flatware, however the goldsmith had trained him as a chaser and an engraver, working with silver and steel in particular. By 1898 he became a journeyman and on the side earned money designing flatware for other workshops such as Frits Heimburger's. In 1903 he applied for a travel grant and started off by traveling throughout Germany and finally Paris, studying the jewelry of the times. When he came back to Denmark in 1905, he started his own business, and started working immediately, up 18 hours at first. Evald Nielsen's father had failed at business and his had made him relatively cautious, despite his successes, and even caused him to pass up on collaborating with Erik Magnussen in lieu of safer ventures. Originally he sold his jewelry to other goldsmiths via a blue felt lined "sample box" but it wasn't long till he owned his own workshop in 1907, and collaborating with S.L. Jacobson, who was given the exclusive rights to sell his designs in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and gave him access to one of the largest productions in Denmark, and by World War I, the "Nielsen style" was on par with the "Jensen style". Most of his designs utilized a bold opulent forms with stones that emerged tightly from flower buds like new blossoms. It was a technique no one else at the time could master, and is perhaps one of the few notable Skonvirke designers that was not trained as an artist. His craftsmanship however, was impressive, and from 1918-48 he was chosen as a master of the goldsmith's guild.
F. Kastor Hansen
F. Kastor Hansen was trained as a sculptor originally at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts after being a painter's apprentice in his home town of Fredericia. As time went on he became more interested in working as a goldsmith and in 1908 he started working as a silversmith.
Much of his work has a sculptural aspect to it, and his training as a sculptor is quite evident, and uses such motifs as birds and other animals such as a fox or a deer, often rendered in a magnificent form, often without sharp edges in favor of more rounded shapes. His use of stones are also rounded and very smooth, and ornament his jewelry in a very natural manner.
Mogens Ballin's death in 1914 set the stage for Just Andersen in a rather unusual way. In his will he stated that Andersen was to be responsible for the execution of a giant alter which was to be given to the Catholic Church of the Holy Sacrament on Norrebrogade as a parting gift from Mogens Ballin. The monumental project took three years, but by the time he had finished, Just Andersen was able to open his own workshop a year later, in 1918. Although Just Andersen was relatively unknown at the time, Mogens Ballin had employed his wife at his workshop and through her Mogens, and Just had met.
Born in Greenland, Just Andersen had originally trained under H.H.C. Lamberg-Petersen whose business ranged from the traditional works of a sculptor to work in both stucco and silver, which Just Andersen would follow in his footsteps when he opened his shop, doing both stucco and silver work before focusing on working with various metals. In 1910 he attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the painting department, but only stayed a year before transferring to what's now the School of Arts, Crafts, and Design, where he continued to be trained in a broad array of studies. Combined with his wife Alba's skill as a chaser, he had begun to take on business as early as 1915, though it would be three years before he officially gained his trade license and could employ an apprentice. Despite this, he had already prepared a number of gold jewelry piece and started to gain a reputation.
At first, each piece was one of a kind and due to the costly nature of both the metal as well as the stones used, it had limited to a specific customer which, unfortunately, after World War I, had little interest in, and despite its highly artistic and sculptural nature, could not support the young goldsmith. He soon switched over to a number of different metals including silver, pewter, and his own creation, an alloy he called "Disko", which he never revealed the formula to. At first he designed vases and bowls and other pieces of hollowware, alongside small sculptures, which found greater success outside of Denmark,and in particular, in Sweden.
Kaj Bojesen was born in Copenhagen in 1886, and started as an apprentice shopkeeper before leaving to apprentice for Georg Jensen's workshop in 1907. He became a journeyman in 1910, before training in both Germany and France for a few more years, and then in 1913 came home to employment with A Dragsted and then later Oscar Dahl's workshop, which his father bought and then made him partner. The company then started to create a number of hollowware pieces that were designed by Kaj Bojesen himself as well as a number of other sculptors including Kai Nielsen, Hans Tegner, Gerhard Henning, and others. During this period of time he also made a number of jewelry pieces, which although not numerous, made up for it in their originality. The high quality of the designs, combined with the bright vibrantly colorful arrangements of stones made them truly unique. He also was one of the first silversmiths of the Skonvirke period to stop using the hand hammered look of the time and later would develop silver designs for the functionalist period beginning in the 1930's. Oddly enough however, is perhaps most well known for his wooden animals and other toys, such as monkeys and trains, starting in 1922.
1920's and 30's
By the mid 1920's styles had changed once again, and as is typical, each generation's style is often a reaction against the styles of the previous generation. Such was true again, as Functionalism and Art Deco embraced the sleek modern look of polished metal over the handcrafted, nature inspired works of Skonvirke that preceded. It was really during a major exhibition for the decorative arts held in Paris in 1925 that functionalism was brought to light. Focusing on "giving each object a logical, harmonious form which is carefully suited to the demands made by modern times and executed with exemplary skill." Whereas Skonvirke showcased an artist's skills and vision through decorative means, often turning each simple object into a work of art and craft, functionalism rejected this notion, eschewing any and all extraneous decoration altogether. In functionalism, the object's form was in and of itself decorative, handles taking on graceful, yet highly functional curves, the lines of a bracelet being simple and graceful in shape and in and of themselves a work of beauty.
One major aspect to the growing trend towards functionalism was the improvements in mechanical manufacturing, which towards the end of the Skonvirke period, was starting to improve to the point of being able to replicate many of the more "craftsman created" pieces, and even the hammer marks that defined the pieces were replicated through the use of special molds and punches. Manufactured silver was starting to come into its own right, and the lowered production costs it brought with it not only allowed for a broader group of people to have access to jewelry, and with it, to a degree, a change in philosophy, (though, this philosophy, was perhaps not that radical from Mogens Ballin's school of thought with Skonvirke, when he and his students tried to produce jewelry for the middle class rather than the elite).
The improvement of machinery also impacted other fields of the decorative arts as well. In addition to the fine jewelry manufactured at the time, Costume jewelry started to make its way into a larger share of the market, most of which was manufactured overseas, though a few Danish companies specialized in it. In particular, Astrid Wessel, a student of the sculptor Anne Marie Carl Nielsen was successful at this with her jewelry which was made with nickel, brass or steel with colored stones and also successful were Ingeborg Molsted's silver wire and gold plate pieces.
Costume jewelry is unique in itself that it was originally incredibly inexpensive and worn only with a particular dress or outfit, which it was specifically purchased for, and in some cases, the bright colors brought out in glass were more appealing than natural materials, and the same could be said of the look of more inexpensive metals. Critic Gudrun Egebjerg in fact wrote of this saying, "It has understood, and then brutally exploited, the primitive girlish love of all that is bright and jingling and shiny and colored." Costume jewelry was "imitations with all the false glory of the parvenu until people came to the conclusion that the semiprecious and completely non-precious materials, stainless steel, nickel, wood, glass, looked better – the slogan was more modern – without camouflage". While not specifically part of the functionalist movement, this costume jewelry often looked similar and was produced similarly, and, at the time, the term "Funkis", abbreviated from "Functionalism", was applied to these pieces and the true functionalism, in its philosophy and impact, which they mimicked.
The switch from Skonvirke to functionalism wasn't immediate however, and during the transition, a number of Danish silversmiths had taken to designing in a more international style, reflecting trends of the time. A number of jewelers and manufacturers also started producing works in the Art deco style present in the world, including A. Dragsted, whose works were comparable with Paris's Cartier, though the clientele wasn't in as great numbers in Copenhagen as were in Paris and New York. Georg Jensen had designed at this time as well, though he had gone separate ways with the company in 1926, and started working again in Paris. The time he spent there was short however, and at the very beginning of the change towards more functionalist designs, so although his "Parisian style" works display the beginnings of a transition towards a new style for Jensen, they still bear a strong resemblance to the pieces he designed prior. At the workshop in Copenhagen, however, new designers were starting to fill the ranks, and the company started to embrace aspects of manufacturing over the traditional handcrafted methods.
Harald Nielsen was one of the names to lead the way towards the new style undertaken by the silversmithy. Harald Nielsen started off as a chaser's apprentice when he started at the silversmithy in 1909, and later became the artistic director. Much of his work has an early functionalist design, (especially ring design #46, with its various sizes and stones), and the majority of his works from the 20's and 30's reflect this timeless design style. Gundolph Albertus, also a brother Harald Nielsen and Georg Jensen's wife, Johanne, followed a similar path, first training as a chaser under Thyra Vieth, and then as a silversmith in Paris and Munich, had joined the firm in 1911, and worked with Harald Nielsen in this new style.
Jorgen Jensen was Georg Jensen's second son, and after travelling abroad early on, he trained as a goldsmith in Munich before working at the workshop from 1914-23. He then spend a number of years as an independent silversmith in Stockholm till he returned to company in 1936.
Joining them was also Oscar Gundlach Pedersen whom trained and worked as an architect before joining Georg Jensen in the 1920's, and continued to work in the field whilst designing for the workshop. He, like Harald Nielsen, was on of the first to design towards a functionalist aesthetic. The Swedish Prince, Sigvaard Bernadotte also joined as a Georg Jensen designer at the age of 23, the same time he exhibited his first flatware design. Primarily designing hollowware and flatware, the few pieces he designed in jewelry exhibited a great restraint in design, with simple forms and a timeless aesthetic. With them came Henry Pilstrup whom was both foreman and director of the Georg Jensen goldsmithing department. Over the years he was employed, he designed an number of pieces in both gold and silver.
Also new to the group was Arno Malinowski, whom was hired in 1936, and through his designs, influenced the direction of Danish Silver for years to come. Arno Malinowski was originally trained as a medalist, after which, he studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the sculpture department before being employed at the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactury, creating porcelain figures. His jewelry included a number of brooches, much with a naturalist motif, and through its sparsely decorated style, one can see influence from his former training. He was also one of the first to start working with such motifs since the Skonvirke period. Also notable are his works with iron (Click HERE to see all iron pieces in stock) whilst supplies were short due to war efforts.
Just Andersen took rather quickly to functionalism, and rejected Skonvirke's handcrafted look in support of the sleek look of more machined pieces. It was during this period, he collaborated with Guldsmed Aktiebolaget, a Swedish company, to produce his designs and thus causing a "Just Andersen wave" to occur in Sweden. Unfortunately, Denmark's duties made his work too expensive to catch on natively. Much of his inspiration came from antiquated Nordic sources, to which he has said, "I am striving to base my work on our old Nordic culture, and I do not mean the 'dragon style,' but rather the simple functionalist time when the axe was both lovely and excellent for cleaving the enemy's skull."
Hans Hansen had opened his shop in 1906, after training at C.M. Cohr's in Fredericia, however, it wasn't until the 1920's that they started their own production line based on his own designs, as well as those by H.F. Gross, and primarily focusing on flatware it wasn't until 1931 that Hans Hansen started designing jewelry. He started with some pieces he considered "modernized Bindesboll", however it wasn't til a year later when he asked his son, Karl Gustav Hansen, to design a jewelry collection that the silversmithy truly started to produce jewelry. It was to be called the Future collection, and consisted of approximately 50 pieces including a number of brooches, rings, earrings, and other. Most of the designs were highly original and of the functionalist school and established Karl Gustav Hansen as a jewelry designer. Perhaps more amazing was his age at the time. Future was designed when K.G. Hansen was only 18.
Frantz Hingelberg was founded in 1897, but like Hans Hansen, did not really come into its own until 1928, with the hiring of its artistic director and workshop manager, Svend Weihrauch, whom had previously been at Georg Jensen for a number of years, and due to his unique talents and incredible versatility, managed to establish Frantz Hingelberg as one of the leading workshops in Denmark in a relatively short period of time.
By the 1920's Ib Lunding had replaced Kaj Fisker as the designer of artistically oriented productions at A. Michelsen. Primarily an architect, Ib Lunding had designed a number of trolleys, including a design introduced in 1930, and around the same time he started to design a number of jewelry pieces which featured simple enamel floral designs, starting with a snowdrop in the 40's, of which a number of others followed. Before this, Color was primarily introduced into jewelry designs through the use of stones or the play of light upon different metals. A. Michelsen had used enamel in the past however its use was very limited, and though the best enamelers were from the smithy, most of its use was in the realm of insignia making. It was Ib Lunding's use of the process that transformed Danish jewelry in the 40's.
1940's and 50's.
During the 1940's and 50's, many new developments had started to take place in the realm of Danish jewelry. The cheap costume jewelry that was available during previous years had exerted its own pressure upon the design of jewelry, and the functionalist movement itself had grown beyond jewelry to encompass other decorative arts, including the design of more every day items and hollowware.
Another key factor was the second World War, which had created a shortage of many materials, redirecting supplies towards war efforts. This also meant shortages of the necessary gold and silver for jewelry production, as well as both precious and semiprecious stones, which started in earnest with the German occupation of Denmark in April of 1940. Jewelry production, however was not completely halted due to this. Instead a system of trade and barter was introduced, where an equal amount of old silver and gold were traded for new, and like system in place over 100 years ago, some old silver and gold jewelry was melted down again in order to create newer pieces. The shortage also meant that silversmithies and silver manufacturies had to economize. Hollowware and flatware were the first to be halted during this time, as the amount of silver the pieces demanded were far greater due to their size than smaller jewelry items, and businesses were restructured to reflect this. To further reduce the amount of silver needed in designs, new materials were sought out.
As often, adverse conditions often force out the best in innovation, and Danish Jewelry reinvented itself once again. Georg Jensen, A Michelsen, and others started to utilize steel, iron, bronze, and even bog oak started to to be used as the primary medium for their lines, with silver and gold often regulated down to use in inlays and settings. Enamels supplemented color in place of the shortage of stones, which gained in popularity as it hadn't in years prior, and some silversmithies started using porcelain and other ceramics to fill out aspects of their designs. Other stones such as nephrite, rhodonite and crystal quartz also started to fill in for less common gems, as well as glass and amber.
As mentioned before, enamel jewelry really came into its own during the war, and A Michelsen did much to make it widespread. Designed in 1940 was the notable Marguerite line for A Michelsen, launched in the year that Princess Marguerite was born and featured a beautiful daisy design in silver gilt and white enamel. Also, it was during the company's centenary anniversary competition in the category for "jewelry in a reasonable price range" that defined a new style. Tove and Edvard Kindt-Larsen, a couple trained as architects, created a series of pieces, with four brooches, a necklace, two bracelets and a clasp which consisted of primarily enamel surface in bright vibrant colors covering abstract shapes on silver. Erik Lassen had spoken of it as, "a redefinition of the concept of decoration within this field through the transference of the asymmetrical figures of abstract painting." Both Edvard and Tove Kindt-Larsen had attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture, and were married and started working together in 1937. By the 1940's they started designing for both A Michelsen and Georg Jensen, where as Ib Trier Morch wrote that their jewelry "can almost stand as a symbol of the recognition of the 40's that simple, attainable, and ordinary things can possess high artistic quality and beauty." and its success encouraged A Michelsen's success. Ib Lunding's "Moon" collection soon followed in 1941-43 and Ole Hagen also created a number of pieces. Eigil Jensen and Erik Herlow. Herlow had been trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture and graduating in 1941, began designing in gold as well as silver and enamel pieces for mass production.
It was also during the 40's (1940 specifically) that Arno Malinowski designed the "kings badge" for Georg Jensen in honor of Christian X's 70th birthday. It coincidentally also became a national symbol of Denmark during as Germany's occupation of Denmark occurred the same year. In a matter of only a few years, 1.3 million badges were sold.
Iron Jewelry and Other Materials
Iron jewelry had existed in Denmark since the 18 th century, although it was in Germany until now that the artistic merit of iron jewelry was recognized. As only a single percent of the 15 tons of silver annually consumed was allotted to Georg Jensen, the company had to become innovative. Luckily, Arno Malinowski had been familiar with use of silver inlay on iron jewelry. Centuries old traditions of the craft existed in Japan, a source where he drew much of his artistic inspiration. In fact, a number of his designs have similar forms to Japanese sword hand guards, or tsubas. Filigree and designs utilizing open space also saved on metal, and started to resume their long Danish tradition.
This was not to say that silversmiths simply abandoned working with silver because it was prohibitively expensive. During this period time, Karl Gustav Hansen had taken over for his father at Hans Hansen and produced his "Egyptienne" line, based on ancient 3000 year old forms and making Hans Hansen one of the most prominent silversmithies in Denmark.
Evald Nielsen had started to experiment with using silver solder to join together chunks of raw silver to form a new form of jewelry, as well as his smithy creating a whimsical series, "Mood", which featured a series of basic bent wire forms utilizing silver balls to create a number of very animated and upbeat human figures. Svend Weihrauch was working with enamel and silver, and like Arno Malinowski, designed a series of brooches with nature inspired themes utilizing pierced silver and open spaces, which was popular at the time. Hugo Liisberg used similar themes while designing brooches for Georg Jensen, utilizing a sculptural style developed from his time modeling animal sculptures as an apprentice for Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactury. After the war, many of the same designs that had done well during the 30's had continued to find success in the 40's, and often utilized precious and semiprecious stones.
It wasn't until the coming of Henning Koppel that Danish jewelry would reinvent itself over again. During the war, Henning Koppel had fled to Sweden with his family. During his time he had started to design a number of jewelry pieces, which had led to his partnership with the Georg Jensen Silversmithy when he returned to Denmark in 1945 and begun to work with silver. Developing his own style, often using abstract freeforms that had an organic amoeba-like design. His designs went further than those of Tove and Edvard Kindt-Larsen, and truly merged sculptural arts with jewelry, as well as art with craftsmanship.
Whereas the 40's had spurred an experimental investigation into materials, the 50's had experimented with form and shapes, as artist and designers broke the barrier again between artist and craftsman. Jewelry started to become an art in itself and the Danish Jewelers' Association began to hold annual competitions starting in 1950, which helped encourage the development of newer designs. This new competition had actually drawn its inspiration from a similar furniture design competition, that had been successful for a number of years, as well as the previously mentioned competitions by A Michelsen in the 40's. Competitions of this sort did much to give the necessary criticism and inspiration to the medium, and perhaps also inspired those abroad as well. The Danish College of Jewelry and Silversmithing was founded in 1952, and helped the industry by instructing and training younger gold and silversmiths in the traditions of Danish jewelry. A number of the instructors had been artists working in the field in previous years, including Erik Herlow, Arno Malinowski, Olaf Staer-Nielsen, and Ibi Trier Morch, all of which had great influence on the development of the art during their respective stays at A. Michelsen and Georg Jensen as well as the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The teachers themselves had benefited from the development of the functionalism during the 20's and 30's and their own free exploration of materials during the 40's had helped developed the work of the 50's with its highly sculptural roots and deep beliefs in utilizing the materials for their own inherent beauty and properties.
Nanna and Jorgen Ditzel were trained at the School of Arts, Crafts, and Design, and some of the first to dive into the realm of jewelry in the 1950's. At first primarily focusing on the competitions, however as they became more well known, they started collaborating with a number of the silversmithies. First working with A. Michelsen and then later Georg Jensen, their designs often had a geometric sculptural aspect with a natural fluidity that characterized the best of 50's jewelry. Simplicity in design and in materials often give their work a sense eternity and serenity.
Bent Gabrielsen was on of the first graduating from the Danish College of Jewelry and Silversmithing and had also designed a number of pieces in the 1950's, mainly for Hans Hansen, but also for Georg Jensen, and designed with a combination of metals and enamels as well as ebony and ivory, and said of his works that he was influenced by "older things or compositions in nature." This can be seen in one of his more famous designs, a necklace whose individual links resemble the form of sycamore seed pods, and although not all of his works had made use of this effect, highly figurative individual links repeated to create an overall unity, it is present in a number of pieces. Bent Gabrielsen also designed a number of hollowware pieces for Hans Hansen creating unique surfaces which would play with light in many new ways.
Bent Knudsen had been employed by Hans Hansen since 1946, and after 10 years had started his own smithy in 1956, and having been trained at Cohr he was one of the few during the 50's to have a craftsmanship based training. Much of what he and his wife, Anni Knudsen, designed had a simple and very clear style to it, often utilizing straightforward forms in silver accented with semiprecious stones.
Much was also developed at the workshop of Just Andersen during this period. Arje Griegst had also worked with simple forms, culminating in the simplest of forms with his Gold Egg necklace, a simply formed golden egg hung from a simple bent wire neck band. Although eventually breaking with the style, his jewelry won a price at one of the Danish Jewelers' Association's competitions, and attracted much attention early on. Ellen Schlanbusch had also apprenticed at Just Andersen's during the 20's and during the 50's carried on his ideas about form and function in her designs.
Also during this time, Soren Georg Jensen was starting to follow in his father's footsteps, first training as a silversmith at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and graduated as a sculptor in 1945. In 1945 he returned to the silversmithy and, though his works bear little resemblance to his father's, there's a sculptural aspect to them nonetheless.
As time progressed, much of the work set forth by these artists was improved upon and other artists would take their place further refining and developing the art.