Jewellery by three great Scandinavian designers

Specialist Raffaella Goffredi introduces three revered pioneers from Sweden, Denmark and Finland whose work was offered in our October 2016 Design sales 

  • 1
  • Vivianna Torun Bulöw-Hübe

Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004), A wristwatch, designed 1969. 2⅜ in (6 cm) wide, watchface 1½ in (3.2 cm) diameter. This lot was offered in Design Online, 18-27 October 2016

Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004), A wristwatch, designed 1969. 2⅜ in (6 cm) wide, watchface 1½ in (3.2 cm) diameter. This lot was offered in Design Online, 18-27 October 2016

Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004), an early collar and pendant, 1951. 6¼ in (15.5 cm) high; 4⅜ in (11 cm) diameter. A necklace and an eight-drop pendant. 9⅝ in (24.5 cm) high; 5¾ in (14.5 cm) wide; 6 in (15 cm) deep. These lots were offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004), an early collar and pendant, 1951. 6¼ in (15.5 cm) high; 4⅜ in (11 cm) diameter. A necklace and an eight-drop pendant. 9⅝ in (24.5 cm) high; 5¾ in (14.5 cm) wide; 6 in (15 cm) deep. These lots were offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Vivianna Torun Bulöw-Hübe (1927-2004), known simply as Torun, was a leading Swedish silversmith and jewellery designer whose striking, modern creations earned her international acclaim. Her elegant jewellery, worked in silver and semi-precious stones, created spare, sculptural forms that remain highly sought after by collectors today.

Torun progressed rapidly from designing jewellery in her teens to studying with a master silversmith in college, before opening her own studio in Stockholm in the 1950s. She then moved to Paris and the south of France where she got to know artists such as Picasso, Calder, Brancusi and Matisse. In 1958, Picasso arranged a solo exhibition of Torun’s silver and jewellery at the Picasso Museum in Antibes. 

Through her third husband, artist Walter Coleman, Torun kept company with many in the Paris jazz scene, including singer Billie Holiday, who often wore her jewellery.  Other notable patrons included Brigitte Bardot and Ingrid Bergman. 

Simple and sculptural, Torun’s necklaces, bracelets and rings often employed hanging stones and other natural elements. Versatility was another important characteristic — pendants of her neck rings could be worn at the front, back or side, and could be switched out to create a dressier look for evening.

Torun’s formal relationship with Danish silversmith Georg Jensen began in 1967 and continued for the rest of her life. The firm produced both her earlier workshop designs as well as new pieces. Several designs by Torun, including her watches, bangles and necklaces, are among Jensen’s most popular items.  

  • 2
  • Nanna Ditzel

Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005), A rare cuff, designed 1954. 2 in (5 cm) high; 2½ in (6.5 cm) wide; 3 in (7.5 cm) deep. This lot was offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005), A rare cuff, designed 1954. 2 in (5 cm) high; 2½ in (6.5 cm) wide; 3 in (7.5 cm) deep. This lot was offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Nanna Ditzel is revered as one of the most versatile and creative female designers to have emerged from Denmark in the 20th century. Innovative in her approach, she experimented with techniques and materials including fibreglass, wicker and foam rubber.

Ditzel was born in Copenhagen in 1923 and trained as a cabinetmaker before studying at the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where she graduated in furniture design in 1946. Over the course of her long career she designed furnishings, tableware and jewellery — with many of her designs still in production today.

Some of Ditzel’s most famous work was produced in collaboration with her husband Jørgen Ditzel, with whom she opened a design studio in 1946. In 1956 the couple received the prestigious Lunning Prize for Scandinavian design, established by the owner of the New York agency for Georg Jensen. Jørgen died suddenly in 1961, but Nanna would continue to produce designs for everything from furniture to textiles until her death aged 81 in 2005.

Nanna Ditzel became the first woman to design for Georg Jensen, creating some of the most striking jewellery designs of her era.

  • 3
  • Tapio Wirkkala

Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), A necklace, 1971. 11 in (28 cm) long. This lot was offered in Design Online, 18-27 October 2016

Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), A necklace, 1971. 11 in (28 cm) long. This lot was offered in Design Online, 18-27 October 2016

One of Finland’s best-known designers, Tapio Wirkkala became famous for his work in glass, creating utilitarian objects that resembled beautiful and functional sculptures of organic forms. 

Wirkkala’s unique glass-blowing technique is said to have taken thousands of hours to perfect, and resulted in pieces unlike those of any other maker. Besides working with glass, his designs encompassed stoneware, jewellery, ceramics and furniture. One of his most notable projects was the design of the Finnish markka banknotes, introduced in 1955.

Wirkkala was born in the small port town of Hanko 130 kilometres west of Helsinki, and his designs reflected an attachment to his roots: much of his initial production was carried out using a traditional Finnish carving knife, known as a puukko. By the 1970s, he had designed his own version, The Tapio Wirkkala Puukko, which was marketed across the United States. He designed glassware for Iittala and Venini, and cutlery for the German company, Rosenthal.