Georg Jensen (1866-1935, often misspelled George Jensen) was a Danish silversmith who started the Copenhagen-based company that still bears his name in 1904. Although he trained as a goldsmith from 1880-1884, Jensen was initially intent on being a sculptor and ceramist. That pursuit occupied him until 1901, when he took a post with acclaimed Arts and Crafts silversmith Mogens Ballin.

Ballin encouraged Jensen to follow his instincts, which shaded to the natural order and balanced, organic embellishment of Art Nouveau. Jensen had profound respect for his chosen material, so much so that he insisted on creating not just stunning pieces (rings, brooches, cufflinks, earrings, pendants, bracelets) but an entirely new tradition of silver craftsmanship. In that respect, he appears to have learned a thing or two from Ballin.

Most of Jensen’s first silver jewelry pieces featured flowers, bunches of grapes, birds, and other animals. Jensen’s silver was hammered to create a pebbled surface, then oxidized to give his designs depth and distinctive tints. Semi-precious, often locally quarried stones such as agate, amber, opals, and malachite were also used, but sparingly. Some pieces were formed from 18-karat gold, but for Jensen, silver was his main medium.

For collectors, an important aspect of Jensen’s earliest work is the fineness of the silver, which varied from 826 to 830 to 925 (sterling). It wasn’t until 1933 that sterling silver was used exclusively at Jensen, which gives fans of his early work a clear way to date a vintage piece.

The Jensen silversmith shop, which also produced cutlery and hollowware, quickly made a name for itself throughout Scandinavia and Europe. Jensen had a growing following in the Unites States, too. His first North American exhibition in San Francisco, in 1915, generated several gold medals — newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst even bought a couple of pieces.

But it was not until 1924, when Frederik Lunning opened a branch for Jensen in New York, that he became more widely known in the United States. Lunning introduced Americans to some of the most sought-after designers from Jensen’s pre-war years, including Sigvard Bernadotte, a Swedish prince, whose geometric and abstract designs marked a shift from Jensen’s Art Nouveau preferences.

Johan Rhode was another important early Jensen designer. His mathematically rigorous forms have been described as serene and sensitive, a logic-driven counterpoint to Jensen’s na...

Although Lunning was one of the company’s greatest champions, he was also briefly one of its most troubling competitors. Silver shortages in Denmark during World War II had prompted Jensen designers to create a line called jernsølv, which means iron silver. To save their precious reserves of scarce silver, they used patinated iron for the body of a piece, with silver or gold as an inlay.

Lunning responded to the 1940s silver shortage in Copenhagen in an entirely different way: He hired designers such as Laurence Foss, Alphone La Paglia, and Joan Polsdorfer to create pieces for a new company called Georg Jensen U.S.A. This made the folks back in Copenhagen none too happy. Indeed, they disavowed any association with the American line, and from 1945-1951 marked their pieces "Georg Jensen & Wendel A/S Denmark" to ensure that the separation was abundantly clear to customers.

In fairness to Lunning, he was not the only one trying to profit from the Jensen name and the silver shortages across the pond. Even vintage costume jewelry company Coro got into the act, making cheap, die-stamped copies of Jensen designs.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 18ct Gold Georg Jensen CufflinksBeautiful Pair Georg Jensen Silver Offspring Drop Earrings #433Vintage Georg Jensen Denmark Bracelet, Dove Motif. Heavy & Rare, *authentic*Fine Vintage 925 Sterling Silver Georg Jensen "abstract Heart" Ring Boxed Rare!Vintage 1966 9ct Gold Georg Jensen Ltd St Christopher On 20" ChainVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Earrings, Dove Motif. Beautiful & Rare, *authentic*Georg Jensen Cufflinks Sterling Silver Mid Century Modern No Reserve Mens+ Rare Vintage Georg Jensen Joan Polsdorfer Jopol Modernist Sterling EarringsVintage Solid 9ct Gold Mouse Charm Ruby Eyes Gj Georg Jensen Bracelet 5g 2cm Vintage Sterling Chunky Georg Jensen Designer Andreas Mikkelsen Toggle BraceletVintage Heavy 9ct Gold Gj Georg Jensen Teddy Bear Mouse Ruby Eye 3.4g Charm 1" Vintage Georg Jensen 9ct 1/5th Rolled Gold Bangle 31 GramsSolid 9ct Gold Gj Georg Jensen Miniature World Globe Charm 2.2g 1" TallRare Antique 1930's Denmark Georg Jensen Dove Brooch Pin .925 Silver #70Georg Jensen Sterling Silver CufflinksGeorg Jensen Mobius Bangle Brand New Size Medium 925 SilverBeautiful Georg Jensen Silver Offspring Anklet Ankle Bracelet Chain #433Vintage Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver Pin - Leafy Swirls 192!Georg Jensen Sterling Silver CufflinksA Good Sterling Silver Georg Jensen Money Clip.369. Georg Jensen Mobius Bangle Brand New Size Large 925 SilverGeorg Jensen 236Vintage Heavy Georg Jensen Gj Solid Gold Boot Opens Wedding Charm 4 Bracelet 3.7Vintage Georg Jensen Denmark Pin/brooch - Quatrefoil Tulip 305!Vintage George Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver Pin - Dove Design 165!Georg Jensen Artist Heart Ear Clips 2006 - Brand New Original Georg Jensen BoxAntique Georg Jensen Cufflinks And Tieclip Set1970s Sterling Silver Georg Jensen Travel St Christopher Pendant Necklace LondonGeorg Jensen Silver Vintage Cufflinks In Excellent Condition Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Modern Brooch #391 By Vivianna Torun Bulow-hubeVintage Rare~ Georg Jensen, Usa ~sheaf Of Wheat Circle Brooch~ Sterling #1 Vintage Georg Jensen Sterling Dolphin PinVintage Georg Jensen Pin Brooch Sterling Silver 925King Christian X Of Denmark Pin By Georg Jensen Sterling