Admired silver designer boasts definite following
One hundred years after Danish silversmith Georg Jensen (1886-1936) first introduced a new concept in silver designs, it continues to attract buyers and collectors. Much of the appeal can be attributed not only to the sculptural styling of his work but the talents of the other designers who worked under him.
An early dealer in Jensen silver was “The Silver Fund” gallery that opened in New York in 1996. It is still a premier dealer in Palm Beach as well as in New York.
Jensen began as a sculptor but began working in silver designs and opened his small silver shop in Copenhagen in 1904. Danish socialites began buying his unique, hand-crafted designs. He ignored the current popularity of Art Nouveau designs and decided to create distinctly contemporary pieces based on natural forms and motifs that included fruits and berries in a sculptural form. He also created a matte finish of his own design that reflected light in a different way.
For the first time he exhibited his jewelry in 1913 at the Paris Salon d’Autonne. At the time Denmark was enjoying an economic boom and more Danes had the opportunity to acquire luxury goods than ever before. This meant that the emerging middle class could afford luxury items, such as sterling flatware and jewelry. Before long his work caught the attention of collectors around the world. By the 1920s the firm had won virtually every Grand Prix. Stores began to open in many world Capitals displaying his products. He employed as many as 300 craftsmen, among them women.
Jensen gave them all full credit. As a result collectors have come to know many of them by name and the style of their work. In 1979 the Smithsonian Institution held an exhibition of Jensen silver titled “77 years and 77 artists.”
A piece signed or attributed to such names as Johan Rohde, Herald Neillsen,
Sigvard Bernadotte and Henning Koppel can sell for thousands of dollars.
Today, Koppel (1918-1981) is one of the best known and sought after of the Jensen designers. In the 1940s he brought a new look to Jensen hollowware. The biomorphic forms of his pitchers, platters and wine jugs can be recognized without even seeing his signature, by their fluid lines. His 1956 pitcher was also made in stainless steel.
Equally collectible are the Koppel 1960s, and 70s pieces with their post-modern look. Many of his brooches were abstract designs set with blue-black enamels.
Herald Nielsen (1892-1977) was a close colleague of Jensen’s. In 1931 he created a covered fish platter that is one of the most-in-demand pieces. His stylized dolphins and pared-down functionalistic style made him a favorite designer in the 1930s.
Also, highly collectible are pieces done by one of Jensen’s sons, Soren Georg Jensen (1917-1982). He apprenticed at the Jensen silver smithy and completed his training in 1936. His designs express a sleek, strong and sculptural quality that attracts today’s’ collectors.
Even so, Jensen pieces made from 1904 to 1925 can be affordable for a beginning collector. It is possible to pay $200 for a piece of flatware, brooches and pins. Many serving pieces are in the $500 to $1,000 range.
That follows Jensen’s’ concept of creating silver jewelry anyone could afford. He purposely chose what was considered a modest metal (silver) and semi-precious stones such as amber, lapis, citrine and moonstones. However the rare centerpiece bowls, candelabra and tea services can cost five or six figures.
Most fascinating to collectors and most interesting are the rare and sometimes one-of-a-kind hollowware pieces that were created on commission or as presentation pieces for celebrities, royalty or state officials.
A favorite pattern, the “Bernadotte” flatware was designed in 1939 by Sigvard Bernadotte (1907-2002), a son of the King of Sweden. It was after attending the Stockholm Exhibition of silver in 1930 that he decided to become a designer of silver. He contacted Jensen and spent the next 15 years, designing 150 pieces of hollowware as well as presentation pieces for Jensen.
Hollowware created by Jensen himself is easy to recognize. It elevated the status of what had been considered a craft to a new and distinctive art form with spare, sensuous forms drawn from nature. For collectors it offers the careful balance between form and ornament. A good example is the “Blossom” tea service he created in 1904.
Some of the Jensen designs were considered to be so ahead of their time that they weren’t put into production until years after they were created. An example is Rohde’s iconic silver pitcher. Today it can be seen in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art
Over the years many of the original Jensen patterns that have been reproduced, 23 are no longer made.
Always important in any collecting category is faking. There are some companies who take impressions of Jensen marks and apply them to other silver. However, those marks end up being reversed. This happens with hollowware and jewelry.
To learn more check out the several books on Jensen Designs.
Visit one of the “Silver Fund “galleries at 330 Worth Avenue, Palm Beach, Florida. Check out auctions and dealer offerings on the internet.