News & Insights

Technology & Antiques: A Georg Jensen Tea & Coffee Service

3rd May 2023.

A Georg Jensen ‘Blossom’ Pattern Tea and Coffee Service, coming up for sale in the Jewellery, Watches and Silver Sale on 13th May, posed a conundrum. The service itself is a five-piece silver tea and coffee service dating from between 1929 and 1950, each piece topped with the distinctive magnolia blossom which gives the service its name (estimate: £3,000-5,000 plus buyer’s premium).  It was Jensen’s first tea service design, made the year after he opened his workshop in 1904, and demonstrates both the exquisite craftsmanship and Art Nouveau forms for which he is renowned. 

It was, however, originally made with solid ivory handles, which after the recent updates to the UK Ivory Act of 2018 would be illegal to sell as none of the pieces qualified for an exemption. After careful consideration and consultation with the vendor, a very modern solution was found. The ivory handles were replaced with 3D printed replicas – a first for Tennants’ Silver Department.

The whole process took around three weeks. Tennants commissioned a silversmith to safely remove the original ivory handles so that they could undergo a 3D scan, which was then translated into a CAD design and sent to specialist 3D printers to be recreated in a lighter material. An ebonised finish was chosen, to reflect the ebony handles often used by Jensen’s design house for the Blossom set, and the new handles were then set on the service by the silversmith.  

Embracing new technology proved a very elegant solution to a dilemma faced by many in the antiques world, how to comply with the new regulations designed to protect endangered wildlife and reduce the ivory trade whilst not losing items of cultural and artistic merit. With methods such as 3D printing, auction houses can safely modify and handle objects that fall under the Ivory Act.

As technology evolves, and the possibilities of in-house scanners to facilitate restoration and replicas, the future for antiques affected by the ivory embargo is looking that little bit brighter.

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