The elegant simplicity of the Scandinavian look dominated the design landscape of the mid-20th Century, and is now enjoying a huge revival. The region’s luxury designers are increasingly using these principles as the starting point for a whole range of inspired and inspiring new creations, which rethink and remix modernist ideas.
Nowhere is this happening more than in Denmark, a country which sees itself as the bohemian capital of Scandinavia. The country has a long history of producing high-end jewellery – the Copenhagen Goldsmith’s Guild dates back to 1429 – and with few native precious stones, Danish craftsmen have long prided themselves on their ability to work with all manner of materials.
When discussing Denmark’s top-end designers, the only place to start is Georg Jensen. The eponymous silversmith made his first piece in 1899 – a silver-gilt Adam & Eve buckle – and now the company is one of the world’s most interesting luxury brands. Both its jewellery and watches feature clean Scandinavian forms and simplified functionality, often with an eccentric twist. The latest iteration of its Koppel Grande Date Annual Calendar watch was widely hailed as a triumph of form and function. Its jewellery too combines imaginative ideas with impeccable craftsmanship, from the nostalgia of the Archives Collection to flawless one-off pieces such as the Runa necklace and its gorgeous Zambian emeralds.
WITH ITS STATUS, BY APPOINTMENT TO THE ROYAL DANISH COURT, OLE LYNGGAARD IS OFTEN ABLE TO PUSH ITS CRAFTSMANSHIP TO NEW HEIGHTS, AS EVIDENCED IN THE MIDNIGHT TIARA MADE IN 2009 FOR CROWN PRINCESS MARY – A JAW-DROPPING ROSE, WHITE GOLD AND OXIDISED SILVER CREATION WITH HAND-ENGRAVED LEAVES AND 1,300 DIAMONDS
The brand has recently opened a new flagship boutique in Mayfair, London and a concept lifestyle space called The Georg in Beijing – part restaurant, part gallery, part store. It has also entered into some high profile collaborations – creating an £82,000 silver tea set with Marc Newson.
That’s not to say that Danish luxury jewellery begins and ends with its most famous son. Shamballa Jewels – founded by brothers Mads and Mikkel Kornerup – may take its name from a mythological kingdom of spiritual enlightenment, but it has won an army of ardent admirers here on earth. Its Shamballa Bracelet, with its prayer-bead-style stones strung together by macramé, became a must-have accessory after Jay Z ordered the firstever custom version, and collectors now include Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Gwyneth Paltrow and several international royals. As befitting its name, Shamballa’s founders are inspired by Oriental spirituality, which makes for a sublime combination of east and west in their work.
Another leading Danish jeweller, Ole Lynggaard, also assimilates international influences. He spent time in Germany, France, America and Japan before founding his workshop in 1964. You can still see this open-minded creative approach in the brand’s high-end pieces, although building the business began closer to home – Ole’s daughter Charlotte is one of the lead designers and son Søren is the brand’s chief executive. With its status, By Appointment to the Royal Danish Court, Ole Lynggaard is often able to push its craftsmanship to new heights, as evidenced in the midnight tiara made in 2009 for Crown Princess Mary – a jaw-dropping rose, white gold and oxidised silver creation with hand-engraved leaves and 1,300 diamonds.
Alongside these more established names, there is an exciting younger generation of Danish designers starting to make its presence felt. Chief among these is Sophie Bille Brahe, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art now based back in her homeland. Her work fuses Scandinavian design heritage with innovative techniques, often inspired by poetry and storytelling. If Danish jewellery design is enjoying a new golden age, then its watchmakers are not too far behind. The aforementioned Georg Jensen leads the way, but there are other specialists who are helping develop the nation’s reputation for high-quality timepieces.
IF DANISH JEWELLERY DESIGN IS ENJOYING A NEW GOLDEN AGE, THEN ITS WATCHMAKERS ARE NOT TOO FAR BEHIND. ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING IS LINDE WERDELIN, WHOSE LIMITED-EDITION DESIGNS HAVE SET A NEW STANDARD IN LUXURY SPORTS WATCHES
One of the most interesting is Linde Werdelin, a company started by Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin after the latter suffered a broken back while off-piste skiing in 1996. This accident inspired him to create a new kind of sports watch that would combine “the best of Swiss craftsmanship with Danish design ingenuity and avant-garde technology”. Werdelin, a thirdgeneration jeweller, wanted to produce watches that were both intelligent and beautiful, and the brand’s limited-edition designs have set a new standard in luxury sports watches.
Going down a more traditional route, Ole Mathiesen is a brand that boasts a 170-year heritage and reinvents classics from its own historic collection in a sensitively contemporary way. The much-lauded 1919 collection released in 2014 paid tribute to its forefather Axel O Mathiesen and the ethos which continues to animate its designs to this day. In 2015, Ole Mathiesen unveiled its inaugural jewellery collection, heralding an interesting new chapter for the brand and suggesting there’s plenty more to come from Denmark’s exhilarating luxury design scene.