Nurturing Nature

April 1998

From the Vault


Nurturing Nature

Art and craft combine in Georg Jensen's exceptional silver

Noble in its simplicity, silver has been used for jewelry and jeweled objects in many cultures throughout time. While it projects elegance, silver retains an earthy, approachable quality. Suitable for formal occasions, it also lends itself to casual wear.

We commonly associate silver jewelry with the Arts and Crafts movement that began in England in the late 1880s. The movement's philosophy was to reverse the dehumanizing effects of machinery on society by a return to making simple objects entirely by hand. Silver was the preferred metal for Arts and Crafts jewelry, which was often embellished with inexpensive cabochon cut gems and or enameling.

Sculpted silver brooch and earrings set with moonstones are made from original Georg Jensen designs. Hallmarks show the brooch was made about 1920, the earrings after 1945. Jewelry courtesy of Christie Romero, Anaheim, CA.


The Danish expression of the Arts and Crafts movement was called Skønvirke, which translates literally to "beautiful work." Skønvirke differed from the British Arts and Crafts ideal in that it allowed hand and machine to work together, as long as high artistic and technical standards were maintained. The Danish goal of producing beautiful and useful objects that would be long-lasting and affordable fit with the universal Arts and Crafts ideology.

Georg Jensen is one of the most recognizable silversmiths from the Danish Skonvirke movement. Born in 1866 in rural Raadgard, he moved to Copenhagen in 1880 to train in the fine arts and silversmithing. He dreamed of being a sculptor and at first worked as a silversmith only to pay for his studies.

The death of his first wife in 1901, however, forced him to give up his ambition of being a sculptor and turn to silversmithing full time as a way to provide for his small children. He worked for Mogens Ballin, a prominent Danish silversmith who promoted Jensen and encouraged him to create his own designs in silver. This brought Jensen recognition and gave him the confidence to open his own workshop in 1904.

He started out creating small pieces of jewelry and soon added flatware and hollowware. Jensen ran an egalitarian workshop, treating his workers like extended family and encouraging them to make up and sign their own designs. This collaboration built unity in his workshop and gave the company strength that has sustained it to the present day.

The remembered pleasures of his rural upbringing show in Georg Jensen's work. His design idiom is a stylized interpretation of plant life: coiled tendrils, curling leaves, drooping buds, ripe fruit, full-blown flowers and, occasionally, streamlined birds and fish. Sculpted in hammered silver, Jensen jewelry balances design and texture. Color is added sparingly with cabochon labradorite, opal, amber, coral, moonstone, chrysoprase, carnelian, turquoise, lapis and malachite. Silver beads, called "silver pearls," also appear in bezel-settings, and synthetic sapphires occasionally are set with moonstones.

As interest in Jensen's jewelry grew, he opened workshops in Germany, France, England, Spain and the U.S. The tremendous loyalty that his coworkers felt for him carried the company through financial hardship during World War I, past Jensen's death in 1935, over the lean years of the second World War, and into the present. Georg Jensen's silverwork transcends time; while his original work is sought after by collectors, his designs are still reproduced faithfully, making them accessible to the discerning patron of today.

by Elise B. Misiorowski

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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