Silver collectables and jewellery by the renowned Danish silversmith Georg Jensen (1866-1935) can be found in the Victory Theatre Antiques Centre. A superb grape tazza /compote (an elevated ornamental or ceremonial wide shallow bowl), designed in 1918, can be seen near the entrance of the Victory Theatre in the SAGE shop.
Neo-Classical in style, rather than the modernist designs usually associated with Georg Jensen, this early design’s timeless aesthetic was recognized by the Georg Jensen Company well after his death. From 1945–1977 it was reissued in four different sizes, along with a beautiful ‘grape bunch’ jewellery range. By contrast, the 1960s/70s Jensen jewellery was sleek and minimalist in style – one design by artist Henning Koppel was called the ‘Mobius Space Age - fluid and infinite.’ Semi-abstract styles are now synonymous with the Georg Jensen label, but at its inception in 1904, his ‘silversmithy’ embraced the elegant Art Nouveau style and the Arts & Crafts philosophy of only ‘hand-made' and acknowledgement of all designers and artisans. Each item was manually-crafted, and the workshops were free of machine noise and so engendered creative environments with Jensen encouraging and overseeing all work. Early jewellery by Georg Jensen used semi-precious gems, such as amethyst, agates, jasper and garnets, appealing to the middle classes. His talent was later recognised in his ‘appointment’ to Her Majesty Queen of Denmark.
To authenticate the silver quality of an item ‘hallmarks’ are discreet stamps in the metal surface, a practice dating back some 700 years in England, when the Guild of Goldsmiths and the ’Hall’ certified the purity of the gold or silver before selling. 925/1000 silver with 75 parts copper, which is permitted for strength. In 1562 Queen Elizabeth I enacted a 7 year apprenticeship, as gold and silverwork then were regarded as art forms. French Hugenot Protestants escaping persecution in the late 1600s fled to England and their stylistic influences can still be seen today. Silver workshops expanded in number and social changes such as tea drinking and the onset of the Industrial Revolution led to the rapid growth of the middle class, with silver items displaying their new social status. The lengthy Elizabethan
apprenticeship was repealed. Silver was discovered in Australia, and North America and old deposits were revived in Europe and South America. The demand for silverware became insatiable.
Dinner sets, tea sets, flatware (cutlery), light fixtures, writing implements, dressing table items, jewellery, vestas (matchboxes for highly inflammable wax matches), liquor tags, cruet sets, vinaigrettes (engraved perfume cases), baby rattles and even first tooth holders were made. Among the lower middle-classes, one’s personal silver spoon signified that the owner was not a ‘serf’ or an escaped slave. Favoured pattern styles on cutlery handles could be ‘double-struck’ meaning double-sided.
Silver hallmarks denoted approved quality by a lion with raised paw. The cities: London - a leopard’s head; Birmingham – anchor; Sheffield - crown etc. The subtle font differences on alphabet letters signify the year made and initials of the silversmiths’ family or company, the makers. Cabinet LFH in the Victory specialises in quality Georgian (1746-1840s), Victorian (1840-1901) and 20 th Century European silverware.
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