Georg Jensen: Icon of Scandinavian Design & Decorative Art
As one of the greatest icons of Scandinavian design, Danish silversmith Georg Jensen developed an exquisite brand at the dawn of the 20th century that dazzles collectors around the globe still today. Featuring a body of work that encompassed elegant holloware and flatware pieces as well as fine jewelry and watches, Georg Jensen silver shared in the spirit of the contemporary designs of both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras that punctuated early 20th century decorative art. As a result, Georg Jensen silver takes on a timeless quality that remains as refreshing today as it was a century ago.
Who was Georg Jensen?
Born in Denmark in 1865, Georg Jensen moved to the capital city of Copenhagen in his early teens to train as a goldsmith. His love of art and design carried him into studies at the Royal Academy of Art. He graduated in 1892 with a focus in sculpture and set out for a career as a ceramicist. His initial efforts were promising; his collaborative piece, “The Girl in the Jar,” jointly created with painter Christian Joachim Petersen, was praised at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It was around this same time that Jensen found a new fascination in the organic styles of the Art Nouveau movement. He began to envision a workshop where creations celebrated elegant yet functional design and channeled elements of nature. In 1904, his vision became reality when Georg Jensen opened his own shop in the heart of Copenhagen.
Establishing the Georg Jensen Silversmithy
Demand for Jensen’s pieces grew rapidly, such that by the end of that year he had transformed from a fledgling start-up to an established designer. He excelled in part because, in addition to collaborating with other leading artists of the day to generate novel designs, Jensen eventually teamed with colleagues to open auxiliary shops across Europe.
By 1916 Jensen established his corporation, the Georg Jensen Silversmithy, and transitioned from being the head of the company to focusing on his new role as artistic director. With the influx of capital from his new partners he was able to grow his brand exponentially, and though economic turmoil struck in the early years of the 1920s, the Georg Jensen Silversmithy persevered. It was downturn, in fact, that encouraged Jensen to enter the American market. His first store in the United States opened in New York in 1923 and was met with praise. American elites fell in love with the simple yet sophisticated Scandinavian design of Jensen’s wears; so much so that many of the pieces sold out quickly.
Jensen continued to play a role in the Georg Jensen Silversmithy until his death in 1935, but his name has endured as an icon of Scandinavian design. Designers still sought to collaborate with Jensen’s legacy well into the 1960s, but in the early 1970s the brand was sold to a conglomerate of other Scandinavian designers. Although quality remained high with the reproduction of classic pieces and patterns, demand for Georg Jensen silver often lies in earlier works, which are some of the most coveted of the popular collecting categories.
Georg Jensen Silver
Today, the name Georg Jensen is synonymous with silver, and that is in part thanks to the sheer volume of creations developed by Jensen and his team. One of the company’s most prolific categories is that of holloware, which encompasses all of the vessels needed for a properly set table beyond flatware. These wares, which include bowls, vases, and other servingware, exuded the spirit of collaboration and the clean design of Georg Jensen silver. These collaborations and partnerships carried on well past Jensen’s lifetime. One of the best examples of the success of Jensen’s collaborations was the January 2005 sale of the silver centerpiece designed by Greek innovator Minas Spiridis, who only began working with the Georg Jensen brand in the 1960s.
Maker’s Marks and Grade of Silver
For collectors who are curious to learn more about the creator and dating of Georg Jensen silver holloware, there are two methods that might help. One is a search for the maker’s mark, as the major makers of the studio had their unique monogram with which they stamped their work. Another is the grade of silver. Jensen adopted sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver, as the primary medium of his designs in 1933; before that point he often relied on a slightly lower grade of medium of only 82.6% silver.
Image 1: A Silver Centerpiece Designed by Minas Spiridis, mark of Georg Jensen, 1999
Christie’s New York, New York (January 2005)
Price Realized: $45,600
Image 2: A Danish Silver Tea Tray, Designed by Georg Jensen
Christie’s New York, New York (October 2010)
Price Realized: $22,500
Image 3: A Danish Silver Wine Coaster Designed by Georg Jensen
Christie’s New York, New York (May 2007)
Price Realized: $15,600
Image 4: Henning Koppel pour Courtesy of Georg Jensen
Piasa, Paris, France (April 2010)
Price Realized: €9,294
Image 5: Georg Jensen: Oval, hammered sterling silver centerpiece
Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen, Denmark (June 2012)
Price Realized: DKK89,181.602
Georg Jensen Flatware
Complementing Jensen holloware are the popular Georg Jensen flatware patterns that echo both contemporary styling and his love for collaboration. One of the brand’s most iconic flatware patterns is the “Acorn” pattern, which was introduced in 1915 as a creation between Jensen and long-time collaborator Johan Rohde. A popular painter and designer in the Danish art scene at the end of the 19th century, Rohde brought his fascination with modern trends to Jensen’s studio in 1904. The “Blossom” pattern, introduced by the company in 1919, is also a favorite, as is a service truly fit for royalty: the “Bernadotte” pattern, which debuted in the 1930s as the product of a collaboration between Jensen and Prince Sivgard Bernadotte, son of King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden.
Image 1: Georg Jensen 170-Piece Silver Flatware Service in the “Blossom” Pattern
Stair, Hudson, New York (October 2012)
Price Realized: $90,000
Image 2: A Silver Flatware Service Designed by Johan Rohde
Christie’s, New York, New York (January 2005)
Price Realized: $66,000
Image 3: A Danish Silver Flatware Service designed by Georg Jensen
Christie’s, New York, New York (May 2010)
Price Realized: $50,000
Image 4: Gundorph Albertus & Georg Jensen MÉNAGERE ” BITTERSWEET ” MODELE CRÉÉ EN 1940
Artcurial, Paris, France (November 2015)
Price Realized: €19,500
Image 5: Danish Silver “Bernadotte” Pattern Flatware Service, Sigvard Bernadotte for Georg Jensen
Waddington’s, Toronto, Ontario (December 2010)
Price Realized: CAD14,400
Georg Jensen Jewelry
In the early years of Jensen’s studio, jewelry was a primary focus of his production in part because it required fewer materials and thus was more friendly to the budget of a blossoming designer. The brilliance in early designs of Georg Jensen jewelry was in his use of silver – uncommon for luxurious jewelry – and his selection of gems. Soft silver arabesques, often combined with rich stones like amethyst, amber, and opal, conjured tantalizing pieces that are just as tasteful today as they were when they were originally created.
Image 1: Georg Jensen, Copenhagen. Belt Buckle, 1909-1914
Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen GmbH, Munich, Germany (October 2009)
Price Realized: €15,000
Image 2: A Longchain Necklace, By Georg Jensen
Christie’s, London, UK (November 2017)
Price Realized: £8,125
Image 3: A Silver Necklace and Bracelet Suite, by Søren Georg Jensen for Georg Jensen, 1963 and 1967
Chiswick Auctions, London, UK (May 2018)
Price Realized: £6,500
Image 4: Rare 1930s Georg Jensen #1086 Bracelet
Burchard Galleries, St. Petersburg, Florida (November 2016)
Price Realized: $6,500
Image 5: Georg Jensen Moonstone Demi Parure
Butterscotch Auction Gallery LLC, Bedford Village, New York (March 2018)
Price Realized: $2,100
Georg Jensen Watches
Production of Georg Jensen watches did not begin until after the patriarch of the brand had died. In 1969, the company introduced the “Vivianna” lady’s bangle watch, so named after Swedish master silversmith Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, the watch’s designer. The Vivianna became a massive success and encouraged the development of a men’s wristwatch – designed by Henning Koppel – which was introduced the following decade. The brilliance of both designs is that they echo the central credo of Georg Jensen styling: blending function with simple yet sophisticated form, exuding effortless taste.
Image 1: Georg Jensen ‘Vivianna’ Stainless Steel Lady’s
Strauss & Co., Cape Town, South Africa (October 2012)
Price Realized: R12,254
Image 2: A Gold Bangle Watch by Georg Jensen
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, Australia (March 2015)
Price Realized: AUD5,500
Image 3: Georg Jensen Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube – A Lady’s 18ct Gold Cuff Watch
Sotheby’s Australia, Sydney, Australia (December 2013)
Price Realized: AUD4,270
Image 4: Sterling Silver Bracelet Watch, Torun Bulow-Hube, Georg Jensen, designed as an abstract hinged cuff with conical rutilated quartz
Skinner, Boston, Massachusetts (September 2011)
Price Realized: $2,133
Whether it’s the organic curves of a moonstone parure, the clean lines of silver holloware pitcher, or the streamlined styling of Vivianna bangle watch, Georg Jensen silver can speak to all aesthetics. Its universal appeal is thanks in large part to the company’s namesake and the bevy of collaborators who worked so closely with him to create a diverse range of wares. These exceptional pieces still resonate with collectors today as capstones of early 20th-century silver luxury.
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