Though Scandinavia has produced distinctive jewelry at least since the time of the Vikings, the region’s unique industry didn’t come into its own until the late 19th century. Prior to this time, jewelry from the four Scandinavian countries—Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland—drew primarily on early Nordic traditions. Heavily embellished bracelets, rings, and pendants featured complex knotted designs showcasing symbolic animals and signs. These pieces emphasized their metal materials, particularly silver, with limited gemstone and pearl decoration.

Near the turn of the 20th century, Scandinavian artisans looked to indigenous craft-oriented arts to inform their designs. Norway distinguished itself in the enameled metal arts, and firms like J. Tostrup, Marius Hammer, and David-Andersen adapted the basse-taille and plique-à-jour techniques for jewelry production. Most of these enameled pieces reflected the reigning Art Nouveau trends of bright colors and densely layered floral shapes.

In Denmark, the Arts and Crafts movement was known as skønvirke, or “beautiful work,” and its jewelry makers relied heavily on a sculptural quality achieved through repoussage or chasing. Skønvirke pieces were typically made in silver, sometimes set with cabochons of precious stones, and relied on motifs of flowers or birds like the concurrent Art Nouveau style.

Danish designer Evald Nielsen fashioned stunning skønvirke pieces with jewels set into floral-shaped bezels, creating the illusion that the gems were emerging like the buds of flowers. Many major Danish manufacturers like Bernhard Hertz and Hans Hansen commissioned their designs from independent artists like Nielsen, using skilled silversmiths to reproduce original pieces on a larger scale.

Possibly the most famous Danish jewelry designer is Georg Jensen, who opened his own studio in 1904 in Copenhagen after working for silversmith Mogens Ballin. Jensen was highly influenced by the natural forms of the Arts and Crafts style, and his creations typically featured graceful silver shapes with limited ornamentation. Jensen hired other well-respected designers like Gabrielson Pederson, Sigvard Bernadotte, Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel, Harald Nielsen, Henning Koppel, and Arno Malinowski to create designs for his firm.

Material shortages during the two world wars pushed Scandinavian designers to experiment with other materials such as ceramics, glass, iron, and bronze, reserving silver and gold for inlays or settings. A popular style pioneered by Arno Malinowski for Jensen’s studio was the jernsølv or “iron silver” series, which involved silver inlay designs on a patinated iron background inspired by Japanese artwork. In Finland, Kalevala Koru developed replicas of jewelry designs unearthed in ancient tombs, and the combination of ornamental tradition and nationalist pride made the company an instant success. Kalevala Koru’s imitation of the Iron Age creations also reignited a Scandinavian interest in bronze jewelry.

As the ornate styling of the pre-war period waned, enameled silver was adapted for more contemporary purposes by Norwegian designers like Bjørn Sigurd Østern and Grete Prytz Kitt...

The shift towards affordable designs made for commercial consumption following World War II led Scandinavian designers to simplify forms and adopt the cleaner lines of modernism. Swede Wiwen Nilsson’s designs relied on basic geometry to create precise pieces, including earrings in flat silver hexagons or cufflinks made from rectangular crystals. Tapio Wirkkala, famous for his glassware sets produced by Finnish company Iittala during the '50s and '60s, also developed modernist jewelry with clean, geometric forms like the “Silver Moon Suite,” a demi-parure featuring dangling pendants made from concentric silver circles. Others like Tone Vigeland, one of Norway’s most famous designers, opted to work exclusively with metals to develop her gently curving silver bangles and curled “Sling” earrings.

Meanwhile, long-held Scandinavian ideals of social and economic democracy were brought in line with the region’s artistic production. The “H55” exhibition held in Hälsinborg, Sweden in 1955 represented the nexus of this thinking, as it focused on the role of applied arts in the individual home and its effects on wider egalitarianism. Like the earlier Arts and Crafts movement, modern Scandinavian style was characterized by a return to organic forms and an appreciation for the innate qualities of specific materials. For example, Elis Kauppi, founder of the Kupittaan Kulta company in Finland, began featuring regional materials like spectrolite (also known as labradorite) set into simple circle or square forms.

Increased exposure from the Italian Triennale exhibitions of the 1950s led other Finnish designers to experiment with more avant-garde styling. Björn Weckström helped establish the Lapponio workshop with his cast-metal jewelry, which sometimes incorporated plastics. Weckström’s popularity was cemented after Yoko Ono wore a silver and acrylic ring by the designer on the Dick Cavett show, and shortly thereafter his aptly named “Galactic Tops” necklace was chosen as part of Princess Leia’s costume in “Star Wars.”

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    

Vtg. Modernist Design Denmark N.e. From Sterling Choker W/pendant & StonesDavid Andersen Vintage Norwegian Sterling Silver And Enamel Necklace And EarringModernist Ove Wendt Georg Jensen, Sterling Silver Neck Ring 11 A Choker NecklaceDavid Andersen Guilloche Enamel Bluebell Flower Pin Sterling Silver NorwayGeorg Jensen Sterling & Moonstone Dolphin BroochDavid Andersen Sterling Silver Yellow Enamel Butterfly Pin Brooch NorwayVtg Kalevala Koru Modernist Finland Knot Of Fate Sterling Silver Brooch PinVintage David Andersen Norway Sterling Blue Enamel Flower Necklace Earrings SetVtg Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver 75 Cufflinks Mid Century ModernistVtg Art Deco Denmark Danish Signed F.h. Hansen Sterling Silver Bangle BraceletVintage David Andersen Sterling 925 Gold Wash Large Enamel Butterfly BroochLarge Vintage Norwegian Solje Pin Brooch 830s Silver Norway Wedding, ExcellentDavid Andersen Da Norway Guilloche Enamel Butterfly 925 Sterling Pin BroochVintage David Andersen Norway 925 Sterling Blue Enamel Leaf Brooch & EarringsModernist Kupittaan Kulta Sterling Silver Amethyst Ball Pendant Necklace FinlandDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Enamel Purple Flower Pin Early Mark Antique RareVintage Blue Guilloche Enamel Heart Shape Link Bracelet Norway Sterling SilverDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Butterfly Pin BroochVintage Aarikka Finland Large Vintage Large Wood Dangle NecklaceVintage Norway Guilloche Enamel Sterling Butterfly Pendant 60's Vintage David Andersen Norway Saga Series Gilt Sterling Viking BroochSwarovski Bezel Set Pastel Crystals Necklace 37" Long With Swan Tag Scandinavian Enamel Brooch Gold Filigree Vintage N.e. From Sterling Silver Floral Bracelet Danish ModernVtg Kalevala Koru Modernist Finland Nordic Pierced Sterling Silver Brooch PinVintage Norway Sterling & Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Pin, Volmer BahnerVintage James Avery Sterling Silver Double Knot Post EarringsVintage Signed 830 Silver Round Circle Filigree Pendant Finland Denmark 9251960's Nd Norway Sterling 925s Signed, Modernist Swirl Bracelet With Murano BallVintage David-andersen Norway Sterling & Guilloche Enamel Pin, Willy WinnaessDavid Andersen Norway Sterling & Enamel 1 1/5" Shell Brooch 8.1 GramsVintage Norway Sterling 925s, Blue Enameled Guilloche, Pin Brooch, A. ScharningSterling Norway D A Red Enamel And Sterling Silver 4 Red Leaf Pin David AndersenSigned Vintage "david Andersen" Norway Sterling Silver Enameled Butterfly PinJuhls Kautokeino Spoon 925s Silver Scandinavian Saami Modernist Norway Sterling925 Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Brooch Pin - Ivar Holt NorwayVintage Finnish Jewelry Pentti Sarpaneva Bronze Necklace Amethyst MordernistVb Denmark Sterling Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Link 6 1/2" Bracelet 10.6 GramsVintage Modernist Sten & Laine Finland Sterling Silver Pendant And EarringsVintage David Andersen Sterling/enamel Pin -willy Winnaess "angelfish" DesignRare Vintage Vb Volmer Bahner Denmark Sterling 925 Blue Enamel Fish BraceletGreat Vintage 830 Silver "solje" RingVintage Scandinavian Denmark Danish Sterling Silver Abstract Modern Pin Brooch David Andersen Uni D-a Sterling Brooch Folkemuseet Museum Cloak Button BuckleVintage Jemax Sterling Silver Modernist Blue Enamel Leaf Pin BroochRetired/rare James Avery Signd Sterling Silver Bubble Cross PendantVintage Sterling Enamel Pin Tya Andreson & Scheinpflug NorwayJuhls Kautokeino Jewelry, Silver Magic Ball, 925s, Sterling Silver, MarkedMid-century Modernist Sterling 14k Pendant W/stone Jens Johannes Aagard Denmark.830 Silver Penannular Brooch Pin Sweden Scandanavian Celtic Penanular FastenerVtg David Andersen Sterling Silver Modernist Red White Blue Enamel Pin BroochMeka Cobalt Blue Enameled Sterling Bracelet Denmark Worlds Fair 1962 DragonJorgen Jensen Modernist Pin Brooch Pewter Red Glass Stone Denmark Mid CenturyJeorg Jensen Pewter Cameo Necklace #167a Signed /denmarkKarl Otteren For David Andersen Vintage Norwegian Silver And Enamel Brooch Vintage Koru Kalevala Style Big Bronze Pendant W/ Chain Finland, No StoneVtg John L Lauritzen Denmark Sterling Silver Modernist Flower Toggle BraceletBernard Meldah Norway Sterling & Enamel 1 2/3" Leaf Brooch 8.4gramsSigned D-a David Andersen Norway Sterling Green Guilloche Enamel Leaf Brooch NrVintage Art Deco Sterling 10k Gold Modernist Geometric Shape Lariat Necklace N/r