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 Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Georg Jensen Sterling Silver " Dove " Bracelet #32 W/ Green AgatesSterling Silver Georg Jensen Dolphin Pin #251 David Andersen Enamel Bracelet RdrGeorg Jensen Sterling Silver " Dove " Pin #70 W/ Green AgatesVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver No 325 Amoeba Brooch Georg Jensen Heavy 18k White Gold Elegant Abstract Band Ring Size 5.5Rare Georg Jensen Bonfils 365-bo Stainless Steel Automatic Men's Watch Vintage George Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver Cufflinks 925 Raised PhoenixVintage Georg Jensen .925 Silver Brooch [to Repair]Vintage Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Heart Locket And 925 Silver ChainVintage Georg Jensen Vivianna Torun Modernist Sterling Silver #155 Abstract RingVintage Sterling Georg Jensen Denmark And Albert Scharning Norway BroochesGeorg Jensen Denmark Abstract Pin Brooch Sterling Silver Designer Mark 325Georg Jensen Sphere Pendant 473b (amethyst)No Res Georg Jensen Danish Art Deco Kneeling Deer Sterling Silver Brooch 256Georg Jensen Denmark Dolphin Pin Brooch Sterling Silver Designer Mark 312Vintage Georg Jensen #150 Denmark Sterling Silver 925 Cuff Bracelet Sterling Silver Vintage Heart Locket G J Ltd (georg Jensen Ltd?)Nice Ornate Vintage Georg Jensen Silver Double Photo Locket & 925 Curb Chain Georg Jensen Sterling Silver 925 Horseshoe Cufflinks #123 By Arno MalinowskiGeorg Jensen JewelryVintage Solid Silver Child's Bangle - Hallmarked Georg Jensen Ltd, London 1963Georg Jensen RingVintage Georg Jensen Sterling Cuff Links Nr!!!!Georg Jensen 0.925 Sterling Silver Ring Size 6.5 (17.5g)Vintage Georg Jensen Usa Sterling Silver Tulip Pin Brooch SignedGeorg Jensen Sterling Silver Denmark PinGeorg Jenson Silver Gilt Cross - Rare & Beautiful !Georg Jensen Sterling Pin Brooch Old Gi Mark DenmarkOriginal Georg Jensen Sterling Tie Bar #74 No Res. Free Ship Mint Georg Jensen PinVivianna Torun Brooch For Georg JensenGeorg Jensen Sterling Silver U.s.a Brooch / Pin #31 ~ VintageEstate Georg Jensen Sterling Niello Apple Cufflinks-111-925s DenmarkGeorg Jensen Usa Vintage Unusual Sterling Cuff Links Modernistic Theme Vintage Georg Jensen Sterling Denmark Rare Modernist Aviator Style #42 CufflinksGeorg Jensen BroochSilver Unusual Pierced Vintage Georg Jensen St Christopher & 925 Belcher Chain