Georg Jensen silver and jewellery
Georg Jensen is the preeminant name in Denmark's silversmiths and jewellery designers. We discuss Danish silversmiths and jewellery in a separate article. There are equally outstanding pieces from Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is probably the most famous silver company in the world and is the subject of several large and weighty reference books such as ‘Georg Jensen. A tradition of splendid silver’ by Janet Drucker.
Georg Jensen has been and is the leading name in 20th century Danish silver jewellery design. The Jensen firm has dominated silver and hollowware markets both in Denmark and worldwide. Jensen was an apprentice goldsmith in Copenhagen at 14. He then spent several years in technical school. He put all this training to one side for 12 years while he studied ceramics and sculpture.
In 1904 he decided to sculpt in silver. He opened his own workshop and successfully exhibited jewellery in both Germany and Copenhagen. He was soon exporting to Paris and London. His international profile rose after he won the gold medal at the Brussels Expo in 1910.
Jensen was an astute businessman. He hired very skilled designers and craftsman who added their individual interpretations to the "skonvirke" style. Skonvirke means 'beautiful work' and was a Nordic offshoot of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements, with its artistic centre in Denmark. Georg Jensen and Evald Nielsen were perhaps its most famous proponents during 1910 -1920.
Jensen's treatment of silver in high relief was warm and tactile. The jewellery designs featured coral, amber, garnet, lapis or carnelian stones as contrasting elements which nestled or burst from silver leaves in sensual swirls. Most of the early pieces, designed during the first two decades of the 20th century, were designed by Georg Jensen himself. Jensen and other designers in the firm who followed after his death continually renewed the company. Their innovative designs and fresh ideas have kept the company at the forefront of Danish design. Jewellery comprises only 25% of the firm's output. They also produce hollowware and flatware. In 2004 the company celebrated its centenary, continuing to develop and innovate.
Georg Jensen serving spoon in the berry design 1929
Georg Jensen silver bracelet with London import marks for 1959 number 34
Georg Jensen 18ct ring in two sections of white and yellow gold 1990
Georg Jensen Heritage Collection 1996 from original Art Nouveau design
Koppel, Henning (1918-1981)
As a result of his Jewish background, Henning Koppel had to seek refuge in Sweden during World War II. He worked as a jewellery designer for Svenskt Tenn. Back in Denmark in 1945, he obtained a contract with Georg Jensen. a collaboration that lasted throughout the rest of his life. His designs for Georg Jensen included both hollowwares, jewellery and flatware patterns, such as Caravel (silver, 1957). In 1961 Koppel also began to work for Bing & Grøndahl. He has also designed glassware for Holmegaard and Orrefors.
Henning Koppel Amoeba design no. 321, 1973
Henning Koppel silver belt buckle design no. 428
Henning Koppel modernist silver brooch design no. 376
Malinowski, Arno (1899-1976)
Arno Malinowski was successful as a silver designer, sculptor, ceramist, engraver and medalist. He trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He designed a series of statuettes depicting mythological characters from 1921 to 1935 for the Royal Danish Porcelain Manufactory. He worked with Georg Jensen from 1936 to 1944 and from 1949 to 1965. His jewellery often included detailed designs of animals such as the kneeling deer and two dolphin brooches. He also designed the "Kingmark" to celebrate the 70th birthday of King Christian X in 1940. This was produced in great numbers and worn by Danes to show their loyalty to Denmark and their resistance to the German occupation. Malinowski won numerous awards for his designs.
Henning Koppel silver ring, design no. 154
Henning Koppel necklace design no. 270
Silver deer brooch by Arno Malinowski, rare early design no 256
Silver deer and squirrel brooch by Arno Malinowski, design no 318 c.1933
Other designers attached to the workshop produced iconic 'Jensen' pieces. They include Harald Nielsen, Henry Pilstrup, Bent Gabrielsen, Hans Hansen, Arno Malinowski, Henning Koppel, Nanna Ditzel, Regitze Overgaard and many more. Once you know the designer's style, it is easy to recognise their pieces. They are recognisable even though they do not bear the designer name, only the Georg Jensen number and company stamp. Older catalogues and publications on Georg Jensen do include the designers' names.
Arno Malinowski Art Deco silver necklace of butterflies
Bent Gabrielsen for Georg Jensen Modernist silver ‘Peak’ necklace
Silver disc ear rings by Hans Hansen for Georg Jensen c.1990
Torun Bulow-Hube, Vivianna (1927-2004)
Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube was one of the pre-eminent Scandinavian jewellery designers of her generation. Torun, as she is known and signs her work, had her own studio in Stockholm from 1951-1956, in France from 1956-58, in Germany from 1969-78 and opened a studio in Indonesia in 1969. Torun has a very distinctive style that is clean, modern, graceful and she integrated smooth stones into her designs.
Many celebrities wore her jewellery in the 1950s and 1960s including Billie Holiday, Ingrid Bergman and Brigitte Bardot. Customers included Pablo Picasso and Duke Ellington. She was the first female silversmith to become internationally known.
Torun designed 'anti-status jewellery' out of twisted silver with crystals and stones to be worn, rather than 'locked up' by husbands in bank safes. In 1960 she won a gold medal at the Milan Triennial. Torun reckoned that jewellery should marry with the contours of a woman’s body. Many of her award winning designs conjure images of the beach. In 1962, Torun was called the designer who makes jewellery sensuous. In 1992 she was awarded the Prince Eugen medal by King Carl XVI of Sweden for outstanding artistic achievement. She continued creating designs for Georg Jensen until her death in 2004.
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe handmade silver drop earrings with rock crystal drops
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe möbius silver brooch. Design no. 374 (1970s)
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe moss agate pendant design no. 133. c.1960
Georg Jensen in the USA
The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco marked the initial exposition of Jensen silver in the United States. Frederick Lunning sold nearly all his exhibits to newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, but things didn’t go so well after that.
1918 he was invited to be a salesman in Copenhagen and soon became store manager. In 1922, Jensen had another go at the American market. Lunning travelled to New York with trunks loaded with Georg Jensen silver. He staged exhibitions in posh surroundings like the Waldorf Astoria and small art galleries. His strategy was very successful so he returned to Denmark to discuss the next stage.
In 1924 Georg Jensen appointed Frederick Lunning to open the first Jensen store at West 57th Street near Carnegie Hall. The store was too small so he moved to 169 West Street 57th Street. It was known as ‘Georg Jensen Handmade Silver’. The experiment was successful so he moved to a more prestigious address, 667 Fifth Avenue. He had a loyal clientele including Eleanor Roosevelt, Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. The New York store became an important place to visit for tourists. Americans soon cultivated a taste for Danish silver.
World War II created critical problems for Jensen as silver was not readily available. The store tried other items of pottery and American handicrafts but this was not successful.
Lunning established a separate company – Georg Jensen Inc USA. He arranged for American silver manufacturers to produce jewellery and hollowware to reassemble Jensen’s pieces. This was successful but only operated for a short time. After the war Jensen pieces again became available so the store sold Danish silver alongside other up-market goods.
Regitze Overgaard 18ct gold Magic ear rings set with a white freshwater pearl and small diamond
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe amethyst pendant design no. 133. c.1960
neck ring design no 169
A bakelite and silver atomiser of black and red bakelite and a silver top.
GJ Inc, USA. Atomette NY 1940s