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Danish Design: The appeal of Georg Jensen jewellery

6th July 2018. By Melanie Saleem

Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is synonymous with silver and Scandinavian design; still produced today by the company he founded in 1904, his sleek, modernist jewellery is still as fresh and appealing as when it was first produced, and vintage pieces are increasingly in demand at auction.

Jensen studied sculpture at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts before a brief spell working as a ceramicist. However, he was set on his path after he went to work for master silversmith Mogens Ballin. Taking a leap of faith, he opened his own silverworks in Copenhagen creating affordable pieces of silver jewellery (often paired with enamel or semi-precious stones) designed to be accessible to all levels of society. From the beginning his work exhibited the sleek fluidity and playful surface textures so characteristic of his brand, with an emphasis on championing craftsmanship. Incorporating elements of all the major artistic movements of the early 20th century – for example Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco – his work still managed to be executed with a distinctive Georg Jensen touch to the flowing sculptural forms.

Rapid success soon followed, and by 1924 Jensen had athriving silverworks producing jewellery and homewares with retail outlets in Paris, London and New York. As business expanded he began bringing on board artists, whose names he actively promoted, to design for the burgeoning brand, and pieces by these artists are eagerly sought after by collectors today. One such piece was sold recently at Tennants for £650 – a silver brooch with foliage, a squirrel and a kneeling deer designed by Arno Malinowski. Malinowski, like Jensen, was a trained sculptor and he designed for the Georg Jensen company between 1936-1944 and 1949-1965. He is known primarily for his natural forms and use of stylised animals in his designs.

After Georg Jensen’s death, his legacy continued and the designs produced throughout the 20th century still look fresh today. At auction much of the Georg Jensen jewellery that comes up for sale dates from the 60s and 70s, and has a feel of both the vintage and the modern about it. It is very wearable and affordable, with pieces starting at less than £100; as such it is becoming increasingly popular with younger buyers. Early pieces by Georg Jensen himself are very rare indeed and command a high price, but look out for pieces by named artists such as Arno Malinowski, Ibe Dahlquist and Henning Koppel.

Combining simple forms and bold design, Georg Jensen jewellery is a great introduction to collecting jewellery at auction and to mid-century Scandinavian design, which is at the forefront of fashion today.

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