Old Nordic – the Viking heritage

An important event in Danish jewelry history was the opening of the Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet) in 1807. The museum introduced the applied arts of the Scandinavians and inspired the jewelers to create jewelry in the style of Old Nordic, referring to the time of the Vikings. Before that time, pieces had been made according to the familiar styles of other countries, such as French Classicism.

Scandinavian ornaments reflected in the jewelry nationalist ideas of the 19th century. On this ground, a unique style was formed that is hard to copy. Thanks to this authenticity, Old Nordic gained popularity outside of Denmark as well. In 1869, a Danish jewelry store even opened in London, the first in the country’s history.

The problem of further development of the Old Nordic style was that the jewelers were repeating old motifs, but practically did not create new designs.

At the end of the 19th century, craftsmen began to collaborate with a number of artists to advance in this area. The influx of resources, particularly gold and silver from America, created favorable conditions for the work of jewelers.

Skønvirke’s beautiful work

“Skønvirke” is the Art Nouveau trend in Denmark. Literally, the word translates to “beautiful work.”

The skønvirke creative movement spans the period from 1900 to 1925. This just happens to coincide with the pan-European fascination with Art Nouveau and British Arts & Crafts. As elsewhere, the style was a reaction to industrialization and sought a return to quality craftsmanship. Skønvirke jewelers were loyal to the British movement in their desire to make beautiful things accessible. But unlike the principled British, the Danes used looms to make jewelry. The mutual influence of Danish and British art is associated with the marriage of Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward.

Skønvirke jewelry is hand-cast in silver and often with hammer marks. Chalcedony, turquoise, amber and other stones were used as inlays. Among the motifs are plants and birds.

Many jewelers working in this style are sculptors, and this is evident in the jewelry. A prime example of this synergy of the arts was Georg Jensen.

War and Modernism

In the 1920s, jewelers began to gradually move away from Skønvirke toward functionalism and internationalism. This phenomenon was connected with the improvement of technical possibilities and fascination with new technologies. Jewelry began to be made in large factories instead of small workshops. So they became cheaper and more accessible, which changed the philosophy of consumption of jewelry.

The classic art deco style is little represented by Scandinavian jewelers.

The history of costume jewelry in Denmark is interesting. As in many other countries, it imitated precious jewelry with cheap materials: stainless steel, nickel, wood, glass. So bijouterie embodied the main idea of functionalism, because of which such jewelry was called “funkis”, short for “functionalism”.

The shortage of materials during the two world wars prompted Scandinavian designers to experiment with other materials such as ceramics, glass, iron and bronze. Silver and gold were used for inlays and frames. During this period, the style of jernsølv by Georg Jensen A/S became the original solution. “Jernsølv” means “iron silver.” Silver inlays on a patinated iron background were used in the jewelry. This approach was invented by Arno Malinowski, who was inspired by Japanese art.

During the Second World War, the art of enameling developed in Denmark. In 1940, the famous A.Michelsen line of daisy-shaped jewelry was created. It came out in honor of the birth of Princess Margrethe of Denmark. They are white and black daisies with gilding in the form of earrings, rings, bracelets and brooches. The jewelry is still found in jewelry stores in Denmark.

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