SAIL ON, SILVER GIRL
FIFTY YEARS AFTER THEIR GROUNDBREAKING COLLABORATION, GEORG JENSEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE SWEDISH SILVERSMITH VIVIANNA TORUN BüLOW-HüBE.
Looking back to look forward is ingrained in the design process at Georg Jensen. The Danish jewellery and home brand uses its archives as the first source of inspiration for new products. This year, to mark the 50th anniversary of its defining collaboration with the Swedish-born silversmith Vivianna Torun BülowHübe, Georg Jensen curated a travelling collection of exquisite archival pieces and recreated her workspace in the smithy in Frederiksberg in Copenhagen. Laid out on a wooden bench are trays of pebbles like those she collected from the beach in the south of France as well as the silver spirals and twisted curves that were recurring shapes in her jewellery.
Born in Malmö in 1927 and then living in France, Germany and Indonesia, Torun was a free spirit who
chose to become a silversmith when it was a field dominated by men. Fiercely individualistic, she broke conventions about jewellery, wanting it to be “antistatus” and liberating for women, enhancing and moving with the body but also honest. Rather than conceal fastenings she accentuated them. Her pendants and neck rings sit in the hollow of the neck and bangles follow the curve of the wrist. Torun saw the möbius strip, which has one line and one surface running infinitely, as a symbol of eternal love, and she loved the energy of the vortex or double spiral.
Nicholas Manville, Georg Jensen’s senior vice president of design and merchandising, says Torun would work with raw stones that she treated as though they were precious. He says Torun is a touchstone for Georg Jensen, embodying the feelings the house has continued with to this day, the experimentation and the types of stones. The 50th anniversary was an opportunity to remember her in context – “the fact that she was a woman and the kind of person you need to be to break those barriers. Plus she was pushing it with a lot of these forms that were so advanced for their time.”
Her Möbius necklace, designed in 1959, which has a lead crystal drop that drapes over the shoulder, has been described as a “milestone in the history of modern jewellery”. The bangle watch made by Georg Jensen in 1969, now called the Vivianna, redefined the idea of a watch as a jewellery piece.
Manville says watch people are still bemused by the Vivianna with its open bangle and mirrored face, meant to give the wearer a sense of not being a slave to time. “We were speaking to some watch guys and they said, ‘your brand is very strange that you’ve had success with this watch.’ If they were to see that watch new, with any other brand, they would think it was crazy, but for us to have it as an icon is a great quality.”
In the archive, besides more than 100 prototypes and samples of the watch, are one-off necklaces and neck rings of rutillated quartz and amethysts and a magnifying glass on a silver chain.
“The first part of the design process is usually here. We just go through everything and use them actively for inspiration, so it’s a great springboard,” says Manville, pointing to the two-tiered Pendant 135 of rock crystals and amethysts, which inspired the Grosvenor African pendant in yellow gold with cabochon emeralds shown in Basel last year.
“We have every watch that we’ve ever made so we can go through what designs can be modernised or see if there’s something that we have already or have worked with before. If we are working with outside designers we can say, ‘we would like you to be inspired by this and you can be the person who is pushing it to the next life’.”
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, her recreated workspace, the Vivianna bangle watch and pieces from the Savannah collection she designed in the 1970s