Things to do

Check out the new and unique JEWELLERY BOX COLLECTION

After the official opening by HRH Crown Princess Mary, this unique collection of Danish jewellery is open to the public – and it is the new – not to be missed- permanent exhibition in Aarhus.

By Inger Stokkink     Pictures: Inger Stokkink and PR

Fragile flower petals, chunky links, monumental necklaces. These, and many more, are the designs of Danish silversmiths and designers of the 20th century. Think Georg Jensen – not only jewellery but also silverware. Think Kaj Bojesen – who started with silver but later created in wood, such as the famous Ape. Think Nanna Ditzel – who also designed the Trinidad chair, among others.

The collection is unique in both size and the way the various designs are connected to each other. As a whole, it gives an extensive overview of Danish jewellery designers. And since 8 February, they have become part of the permanent exhibition of art industry in Den Gamle By.

Den Gamle By ( = the old town) is an open air historical museum in Aarhus. One of the reasons the collection was acquired by Den Gamle By, is that it fits in well with the existing collections of Danish art and crafts the museum has acquired over the years.

You can see the jewellery collection in the newly designed small, lovely underground boxlike museum in the 1970s quarter of Den Gamle By – hence the name Smykkeskrinet (Danish for jewellery box)

Since Aarhus is European Capital of Culture this year, it was an obvious choice to open the exhibition as part of this year-long festival of art and European co-operation – certainly also because the jewellery collection has been the work of a German couple, Marion and Jörg Schwandt.

More than 40 years ago, they fell in love with Denmark while on holiday here, not only with the country but also with some silver jewellery, which, to start with, they bought as a souvenir. A life-long passion was born.

How do you build a collection –you might ask
Crown Princess Mary did the honours of opening the exhibition by switching on the lights in the display cases. Afterwards, she admired several specially showcased items, such as spiky necklaces. Silver expert Sabrina Vinther was close at hand to explain background and details.

The Schwandt’s collection has been built up carefully over the span of 40 years. Their aim was to make an overview of Danish silver jewellery, highlighting its typical design characteristics: simple, functional, the play with light and reflection, and the use of comparatively humble materials such as silver and semi-precious stones.

Apart from that, the Schwandt’s also developed a couple of other collector’s requirements. The jewels had to be in their original state.

This wasn’t always easy, since some jewels such as hair combs and clasps tend to be altered and made into brooches with the change in women’s fashion.

Jörg and Marion Schwandt also had a couple of favourite designers, such as Bent Knudsen. They made it into a game and a hunt to find out who had influenced him, whom he had influenced. And then, they would go in search of pieces of those artists.

Collecting became more difficult and expensive over the years. Where some jewellery earlier was “dirt cheap” because no one wanted them anymore, this has changed. Also one of the reasons why the Schwandt couple stopped collecting.

A collection is like a grown child: You never say a final goodbye
In the beginning, Marion Schwandt took great pleasure in wearing some of the jewellery they collected. But when the collection changed character towards a professional one, many of the broaches, rings, necklaces and bracelets moved out of their house and into a bank vault.

”Not only the material worth of the collection is high, it is also the way in which most of the jewellery is connected with each other that makes it so special. We see that as a huge responsibility. I was driving to Denmark with trembling hands, when we drove here to hand over the collection,” says Jörg Schwandt.

Asked whether they had favourite pieces, Marion Schwandt answers that this has changed over time.

”Now I like these very much,” she says and shows her brooch and bracelet. And then their enthusiasm kicks in.

”Look, this brooch is Carl Gustav Hansen’s. It is like an eye, don’t you see? The silver is folded over. And the bracelet with the pretty links was made by Bent Knudsen, do you know him?”

They haven’t said a final goodbye to all their jewellery by handing over their collection. And totally letting go of it was impossible anyway.

”The collection is a bit like your child. Even when the child has left the parental home, you feel connected. So we will be coming back to Aarhus,” says Jörg Schwandt.

A catalogue of the collection has been published, too. Here are the details for the English book: The Jewellery Box – Danish Jewellery Art of the 20th Century. Author Jens Ingvordsen, bound, 324 pages, ISBN 978-87-92949-88-2, Strandberg Publishing, Copenhagen, 350 DKK

Crown Princess Mary can be seen wearing Danish jewelry, too. Like these earrings by Marianne Dulong Also the Vindrue ring by Georg Jensen, a classic design that is still going strong, can be seen at regular intervals. And look here if you want to know what are the names of the designers of the Crown Princess’s hats and clothes.