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Vintage Norway silver guilloche enamel brooches and pins - modernist designs, timeless craftsmanship and beauty

Updated on September 1, 2012

If you're into Art Nouveau silver enamel jewellery, you'll certainly have heard of designers such as Charles Horner and Archibald Knox. Their designs - such as brooches/pins - often make a three-figure sum at auctions, and are deservedly popular because of the high level of craftsmanship and beautiful, fluid designs. But there are other, later silver enamel brooches that are just as beautifully made, but don't (yet) enjoy such a high profile. These 20th century pieces originate from Norway, and were produced by companies/designers such as David-Andersen, Aksel Holmsen, Ivar Holth (sometimes spelled Holt), Marius Hammer and Finn Jensen. The last one in the list I've just given is obviously a company name rather than a person and confusingly, so too is David-Andersen (note the hyphen), which is named after its founder who began the company in 1876 but was then passed down the family line and took a number of silver designers under its wing along the way including Willy Winnaess and Marianne Berg. There are also similar pieces by Danish designers/companies, including Meka Denmark and Volmer Bahner.

Tiny Aksel Holmsen butterfly brooch
Tiny Aksel Holmsen butterfly brooch

All of them produced guilloche jewellery made from sterling silver. The term "guilloche" comes from the inventor, a French engineer called Guillot. In order to make guilloche items, the surface of the silver is engraved, followed by application of a layer of enamel. This gives a fantastic translucent 3D effect. Sometimes this is left plain, and sometimes designs are incorporated, with roses being a favourite example.

The common theme running through a lot of 20th century Norwegian silver jewellery is that of nature - you see plenty of leaf and flower shapes, as well as fish and butterflies.

An enamel brooch by Aksel Holmsen
An enamel brooch by Aksel Holmsen

The butterfly brooches range in wingspan from less than an inch to over two inches, and some have intricate multi-coloured designs of incredible quality and detail. A lot of these pieces are covered with a light gold wash on the back. The brooches will either fasten with a plain C-clasp in the case of the older ones, or with a rollover clasp.

Hallmarks on Norwegian silver jewellery

Coming from Britain, I'm more used to the strict hallmarking rules on English and Scottish silver - a mark for the country, a mark for the city, a date mark and perhaps a set of maker's initials. Norwegian vintage silver jewellery is a bit more elaborate in its hallmarking. The box at the bottom of this page gives a link explaining it in more detail but the gist of it is that unless you're talking about really early pieces (i.e. from the beginning of the 20th century), you won't see a mark for the date or city. What you will see is a content mark (either 925 S for sterling silver or 830 S for lower grade, so-called coin silver), and a maker's mark, plus perhaps the abbreviation "inv" ("inventor") before the maker's name. If you see the word "handarbeid", it means "hand-made", while a word that starts with what looks like "monster..." means "copyright"! Sometimes you get more than one maker/company mark; jewellery made by David-Andersen, with its stable of designers, will have a "D-A" mark and then a mark for the individual designer.

Where to find it

If you want to invest in these fine examples of vintage silver jewellery, they're not that easy to come by and you may wait a long time before coming across any at your local car boot fair, auction house or antique shop. Online is probably a more fruitful place to look. Prices on eBay (which has several sellers who specialise in this kind of jewellery) range from £20 (around $30) or so upwards. There are also other sites such as etsy.com and rubylane.com. If you're from the UK, you might also be interested in the site http://www.ukauctioneers.com/, which lets you search real-world auction houses' online catalogues and find those lots that match your keywords. Happy hunting!

© Empress Felicity October 2009

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An enamel silver brooch by Opro Norway
An enamel silver brooch by Opro Norway

This page generates income for the author based on affiliate relationships with Amazon and eBay.

Comments

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    • profile image

      jinny 

      8 years ago

      GO to this site for BEST Information:

      www.effie-graa.com

      hit on JEWELRY, LIBRARY, ARTICLES-MODERN NORWEGIAN SILVERMARKS!!

    • EmpressFelicity profile imageAUTHOR

      EmpressFelicity 

      8 years ago from Kent, England, UK

      Thank you!

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 

      8 years ago

      Interesting hub, and I love the butterfly brooch.

    working

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