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    

830 Silver P. Orsnes Enke Amber Denmark Eneret Brooch Pin 21.5gr Art Nouveau Beauty! David Andersen Norway Sterling Enamel Purple Pansy Pendant!!Vintage Navajo/fred Harvey Sterling Silver 5"cuff Bracelet, Thunderbird/stampingBeautiful Sterling Enamel Norway David Andersen Butterly Brooch PinMid Century Modern Abstract Signed Juhls Norway Sterling Silver Magic Ball No 10David Andersen Sterling Silver, Red Black Enamel Bracelet Norway GuillocheVintage David Andersen Blue Pansy Enameled Brooch 925s Sterling Norway Beauty!Gorgeous Mid-century Sterling Angel Skin Coral Floral Earrings N.e. From DenmarkVintage Sylvsmidja J Large Handmade Solje 830s Silver Voss Norway Beauty!Gorgeous Mid-century Sterling Angel Skin Coral Floral Bracelet N.e. From DenmarkVtg David Andersen Norway Sterling Purple Enamel Pansy Flower Figural Brooch PinVintage Blue Porcelain Sterling Butterfly Pin - Norway David Andersen Blue Pansy Enameled Charm Pendant Necklace 925s Sterling NorwayVintage Aksel Holmsen Norway Sterling & Guilloche Enamel Butterfly BroochVintage Blue Porcelain Sterling Butterfly Pin - NorwayStunning Vintage David Andersen Norway Enameled Sterling Blue Pansy EarringsVintage Solid 830 S Silver & Guilloche Enamel Bracelet Ohr Norway Sterling Norway Aksel Holmsen Red Enamel Mid Century Modern Sterling Silver Flower Pin**volmer Bahner Denmark Sterling Green Guillouche Enamel Pin & Earrings L@@k**Gorgeous Mid-century Sterling Angel Skin Coral Floral Pin N.e. From Denmark Vintage Sterling Silver David Andersen Modernistic Signed Ring 925sVintage Old Scandinvian Danish Black Enamel Flower 830s Silver Earrings SignedVintage Hans Hansen Danish Modernist Sterling Silver 925s Brooch Hearts DenmarkVintage Karin Og Asse Denmark Pin & Earrings Pottery Fox Dog Modernist Signed GcVintage James Avery Signed Sterling Silver Heart Door Knocker EarringsGeorg Jensen / Anton Michelsen Daisy Flower Clip Earrings Enamel Sterling SilverDavid Andersen 925 Sterling Silver Red, White & Blue Enamel Brooch Pin NorwayNorway / Norwegian Nils Elvik Sterling BraceletNorwegian Modernist Pendant Necklace David Andersen Bronze Unn TangerudDa Sterling Silver Brooch Pin David Andersen Norway VikingVintage David Andersen Norway Colorful Sterling Enamel ButterflyHopeakeskus Oy Finland Vintage Lily Of The Valley Silver Plated Spoon Ring Adj.Aksel Holmsen Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Tie Bar With Viking ShipVtg Designer Signed Sterling Norway Ivar Holth Guilloche Enamel Necklace Good Co David Andersen Blue Leaves Enameled Clip Earrings 925s Sterling NorwayVintage Modernist Kva Denmark Sterling Silver Bracelet 1980'sModernist Bronze Necklace - By Owe Johansson, 1970s, Made In Finland *rare*Vtg George Jensen Mid Century Modern Sterling Silver Tie Bar Clasp 61 DenmarkVintage James Avery Signed Sterling Silver Hammered Cross Pendant Retired James Avery Signed Sterling Small Hoop Earrings With PostsNorway / Norwegian Antique Wedding Brooch - Ga 13 1/4Viking Ship Pendant, Sterling, 925David Andersen Norway 1950s Sterling Yellow Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Brooch NrAntique 830 Sterling Silver Long Nose Troll Pendant From Norway - Very Rare!Vintage Yellow Guilloche Butterfly Necklace Pendant Meka Denmark Sterling? McmVintage Danish Modern Pewter Bangle Bracelet Beni LarsonDavid Anderson, D-a, Leaf Broach And Earing Set, Enamel Blue On 925 Sterling Aarikka Finland Modern Design Wooden Bead Nccklace - Multi-colorsKalevala Koru Bronze Pendant - Heart From Euro - NibVintage Norwegian Aksel Holmsen .925 Silver Enamel Butterfly Pin/brooch NorwayCub Denmark Danish Midcentury Modern Ceramic Bird Pin BroochGorgeous Vintage David Anderson Norway Sterling Silver Enamel Ring Rare Red!!Vintage/antique Sterling Silver Enamel Flag Pin From Finland - Very Rare, L@@k!Vintage "norway" Sterling Silver Red Guilloche Enameled Flower BroochLovely! Denmark Sterling John Lauritzen Set- Brooch & Earrings- Vintage!!Fine Vtg Sgd Karin Og Aase Danish Scandinavian Enamel Art Brooch Mcm Mid-centuryModernist Vintage Sterling Silver Earrings 925 Rare ? Goebel ? Danish ? Norway ?Sterling Silver Leaf Pin H S Denmark 7 GramsDenmark Sterling Bowl - Volmer BahnerVintage Sporrong Sweden Skansens Restauranter Snake Serpent Pewter Pendant Cord