Though the Scandinavian region has produced distinctive jewelry since at least the time of the Vikings, the area’s jewelry industry didn’t come into its own until the late 19th century. Prior to this time, jewelry from the three Scandinavian countries—Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—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, a Nordic nation that's not properly Scandinavian, 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 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    

David Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Green Guilloche Enamel Heart Pendant 925sLot Silver Scandinavian Modernist Designer 34 JewelriesLot Silver Scandinavian Modernist Designer 20 Brooch Pin D Andersen Juhls OthersRare Vintage 70s/80s Lapponia Finland Silver Ring - BjÖrn WeckstrÖm - Erosion?Superb C1960 O.f. Hjortdahl Of Norway Solid Silver Gilt Guilloche Enamel BroochAn Antique Pair Of Georg Jensen Solid Silver And Blue Enamel EarringsVintage E. (erik) Granit Finland 1967 Modernist Suspended Sphere RingVintage Denmark Danish Signed 925s Sterling Silver Modernist Geometric EarringsVintage Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Doves Bird Wheat Pin Brooch 250 DenmarkEstate David Andersen Norway Guilloche Enamel Sterling Seahorse Pin Brooch Superb Antique Traditional Silver & Enamel Solje Brooch By Arne Nordlie NorwayModern Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver 925 Ring Size 6.5 Number # 107David Andersen Norway Sterling Lily Pad Earrings Clip On Green & White Enamel Vintage Jacob Hull Denmark Sterling Silver Modernist Rare Ring Mid Century David Andersen Norway Sterling Black Enamel Flower Design 7 3/4" Long Vintage Estate Early Georg Jensen Modernist Sterling Silver Circle Bar CufflinksFlora Danica Vintage Sterling Silver Shell Pendant W/chain, Denmark, 10.8 GSterling Silver Norway White Enamel Necklace 15" Signed C.o. 3d Vintage Norway D-a David Andersen Sterling Blue Enamel Leaf Brooch PinGeorg Jensen #116a Sterling Silver EarringsAarikka Finland Vintage 1957 Era Sterling Silver Ring, Lg Scoop Design, Sz 6.5Sterling & Tiger's Eye Ring And Brooch. N.e. From, DenmarkVintage Hans Myhre Norway Sterling & Guilloche Enamel EarringsVintage Danish Silver Bernhard Hertz Brooch DenmarkVintage Scandinavian 830s Silver & Guilloche Enamel Lily Of The Valley Earrings Vintage Danish Silver Hermann Ole Jacobsen Brooch DenmarkVintage Antique Danish Silver K.g Brochner Brooch DenmarkGeorg Jensen #363 Sterling Silver EarringsDavid Andersen Norway 925s Norwegian Silver & Enamel Large Butterfly Brooch PinVintage~volmer Bahner~denmark~sterling~guilloche~white Enamel~heart BroochBirger Haglund Sweden Hand Made Hammered Copper Modernist Rose Quartz Brooch PinGenuine Danish Pandora Silver Blue Bubbles Charm 790329cz Ale 925 Boxed David Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Chandelier Screw Back EarringsOpro Sterling Norway Enamel Bracelet Red With Tag And Box Vintage 7 1/4" Vtg David Andersen Earrings Red Enamel Leaf Norway Gilt Sterling Silver PiercedDenmark 925 Sterling Silver Vermeil Eggert Flora Danica Stylised Brooch /pinVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver Floral Brooch RareGeorg Jensen Sterling Silver Bird Brooch/pin #316 C Denmark-fully HallmarkedVintage David Andersen Norway Blue/white Sterling Enamel Bracelet. Vintage Danish Silver Anton Michelsen Brooch DenmarkVintage Modernist Knots Sterling Silver Cufflinks By Randers SolvvarefabrikVintage Sterling Silver Björn Weckström Lopponia Finland Ring ~ Size 7.5Vintage Sterling Silver Aksel Holmsen White Enamel Pin NorwayVintage Engraved Tiffany & Co. 925 Sterling Silver Skeleton Key Pendant No ResDavid Andersen Sterling White Enamel Salt Cellar With Spoon And Pepper Shaker MiVintage E&m Eiler & Marloe 830 Silver Open Link Bracelet Denmark 7.5 Inches #118Vintage Signed Brdr.bj -denmark Handmade Sterling Silver Pin "nice"Vintage Hroar Prydz Oslo Norway Guilloche Enamel Sterling Butterfly Brooch PinJemax Denmark Sterling Green Guilloche Enamel Multi Leaf Brooch & Earring DemiDavid Andersen Norway Vermeil Sterling Silver Enamel Butterfly Pin BroochNorwegian Ivar Holt Quality Blue Guilloche Enamel 925 Silver Brooch NorwayAntique Silver? Nordic Viking Norwegian Scandinavian Neklace Puffy Rattles BellsVintage Bent K Denmark Sterling Stone Cufflinks - #34David Andersen Norway Vermeil Sterling Silver Enamel Small Butterfly Pin BroochVintage Denmark Danish Signed 925s Sterling Silver Small Etched Elf Shoe Charm Vintage Georg Jensen Silver Bangle. Norwegian 1890's Henrik Moller Trondheim Silver 830 Broach David Andersen Saga Viking Copy Sterling Silver Necklace, NorwayGeorg Jensen Jordan Askill Oxidized Sterling Silver Butterfly Bangle Bracelet MEstate N.e. Niels Erik From Sterling Denmark Sterling Jeweled Brooch