It’s not at all common for an artisan to successfully shape and influence the aesthetics that come to represent an entire century - nonetheless a whole country. Each creative movement is accompanied by a talented roster of makers whom, in retrospect, either sparked the fire or achieved the pinnacle of that movements’ intentions - and they’re usually rebels.
One such craftsman who achieved remarkable recognition for his avant-garde, Art Nouveau style was Danish silversmith, Georg Jensen. In 1904, at the age of 37, Jensen established his silver smithy in Copenhagen. There, he would forge a globally respected brand based on the highest of standards - a craft-based approach with a progressive sensibility. His achievements in silver would reach a global audience and reverberate throughout Scandinavian design for generations to come. Jensen rejected the popular, overly ornate taste of the time and established a simple, sculptural style which translates across every function that silver can fulfill; jewelry, hollowware, and silverware.
An influential legacy such as this is kept alive and burnished by those who deeply admire and tend to it. Greg Pepin, owner of Denmark-based Greg Pepin Silver and previous Managing Director of Silver at Georg Jensen, is the leading Georg Jensen expert in all regards. Greg has represented Denmark as the industry's leading aficionado, traveling with Frederik Crown Prince of Denmark, as an ambassador, and overseeing bespoke pieces for prestigious clients. Greg was also the owner and operator of Danish Silver, an authorized silver dealer which expanded over ten years to house the largest collection of antique Georg Jensen silver available for purchase. In short, if one is looking to invest in a piece by Georg Jensen, Greg Pepin is the name to be engraved in mind.
Greg Pepin of Greg Pepin Silver
We recently reached out to Greg to ask how he became so entwined with the iconic, Danish silversmith and to learn more about the important items being offered in Bidsquare’s exclusive timed auction, ‘Rare & Unique Silver Hollowware, Jewelry & Gift Items from Georg Jensen and More’ available February 5 - 21, 2020.
BSQ: First things first! Your journey in becoming an authority on Georg Jensen must have started somewhere. Can you tell us where and when you first became interested in Jensen?
GP: Well, I was not brought up with silver - I came from a modest home. I met my Danish wife at a summer camp in Vermont and when I moved to Denmark in 1992, I landed a job polishing silver at a small upscale boutique called Danborg - that is where I first discovered Georg Jensen.
BSQ: You’ve had the honor of overseeing the making of bespoke pieces for high profile clients. Can you tell us more about this?
GP: Yes, actually, the correspondence with the client and user of the silver is what really excites me. When I was Managing Director of Silver at Georg Jensen, I had the honor of working with a Macau based client in the fabrication of a unique acorn silverware service detailed with mammoth tusk. I also met Marc Newson when he designed his contemporary tea service for Georg Jensen in 2014. Ten sets were made for sale - I sold a number of them. I can say that seeing the design and silver smithy process makes selling the pieces much easier.
BSQ: Buying a piece of vintage Georg Jensen can be seen as a form of investment. Can you recommend any items in your Bidsquare auction that would help steer young collectors, just beginning, in the right direction?
GP: It’s almost impossible to predict the financial future of silver because it’s a commodity and more specifically, Georg Jensen prices have varied over the years. My advice is - buy something you love, buy something that will enhance your lifestyle. As far pieces that tend to do well, many are pieces made in low production numbers. For example, during WW2 not much silverware was produced and much of it was melted or stolen while Denmark was occupied. For this reason, Art Deco pieces with hallmarks from 1933-1944 are a smart investment. Also, silverware sets, due to their weight, tend to hold or increase in value. As the world progresses, the amount of handcrafted pieces lessen, as does knowledge of said pieces. The pieces we sell are made in Denmark and I would estimate that many of them are a good form of investment.
BSQ: Like you, Georg Jensen grew up close to nature - he near the forest and lakes north of Copenhagen, and you in rural Vermont. Is there a connection between his passion for organic, Art Nouveau motifs and your love for his work?
GP: I am fascinated with nature, the woods, mountains and fresh air. It’s the place where I can find myself, think clearly and set goals for myself. So, Jensen’s depiction of nature does tend to remind me of my upbringing. I’m most amazed and drawn to Jensen’s success in business as he, like myself, had a very modest upbringing. His passion for design and handcraftsmanship set the standard and success ensued.
BSQ: There’s vintage Georg Jensen (pieces made during his lifetime) and works made by talented artists and designers after his lifetime. Can you point out any particularly exciting examples of such items currently available in your Bidsquare auction?
GP: Yes. For Georg Jensen hollowware, I choose lot 452. 'A Large Iconic Georg Jensen Five-Light Candelabrum 383A'.
And a Lidded Tureen design by Sigvard Bernadote, who started the functionalist style at Georg Jensen. Sigvard was discovered by Nils Wendel, a shareholder at Georg Jensen, in Stockholm at an exhibition called Nordisk Kompani in 1930. I also very much admire the elegance of Henning Koppel's pieces, such as lot 380, a 'Large Georg Jensen "Swan" Pitcher 1052 by Henning Koppel'.
BSQ: What was the first work by Georg Jensen that you purchased and do you still have it?
GP: Honestly, I can’t recall, but I definitely sold it. When I was starting out, I bought something and sold it to then purchase something more costly. I had limited financial resources back then.
BSQ: Georg Jensen seems to have made an incredible impression on the creative identity of Denmark and Scandinavian design. What is it about Jensen’s vintage and current works that continue to ring true after over 100 years?
GP: Jensen was not alone but he stood out because his name was internationally recognized. He did this by combining strong design with quality handcraftsmanship and, most importantly, was producing enough to fulfill demand. He also appointed designers that kept Georg Jensen at the top from the Art Nouveau period, Art Deco, Functionalism through to the Mid Century. Lastly, many clients buy Jensen due to Denmark’s solidarity with the rest of the world and the toll WW2 had on Denmark. To be successful you need passion, a goal, hard work and lots of luck!
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