A brief history of silver through the ages…

…Via 5 silver objects you’ve probably never heard of

 

Since it’s as precious as materials get, silver has historically been reserved for nobility, religious ornament, and the most exceptional examples of artistry around the world.

We took a virtual browse through the treasure trove of objects in the collections of London’s V&A Museum to come up with 5 (relatively un-famous) pieces that tell part of the extraordinary history of silver design and artistry.

The V&A is one of the greatest repositories of design objects in the world, a must-visit for jewellery lovers, decorative arts aficionados and designers everywhere. (That said, this list is far from comprehensive, so treat it as a journey along an unbeaten path of silver discovery and inspiration.)

1.      Bowl, China (Tang Dynasty), 800-900

A remarkably modern-looking design in chased silver, this five-lobed bowl reflects the tendency of Tang Dynasty craftsmen to reproduce foreign shapes and manufacturing techniques of objects imported on the Silk Road from Iran and Central Asia. Until the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty, silver was not as common in China as it was in other ancient civilisations, so this piece represents silver’s newfound popularity in the country.

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2.      Chalice, Spain (Lérida), 1525-1550

A fundamental and sacred object of Catholicism, the Chalice is traditionally made of the most precious materials to reflect the revered status of its contents. Equally functional and decorative, this is a masterful example of the silver craftsmanship in religious artefacts.

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3.      Calverley Toilet Service, London, 1683-1684

Imagine the life of the lady who would have had this on her dressing table! Elaborately decorated with a scene from Ancient Greek mythology and embossed acanthus leaves in fine silver over a wooden frame, this mirror is part of ‘toilet service’ of silver objects which would have been used for to keep and apply make-up and hair accessories in upper-class England.

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4.      Beaker, Sweden (Karlstad), 1744

This trumpet-shaped beaker with its scrollwork motifs, leaves and punched dots is inspiring in its simplicity of shape and whimsical style, typical of Scandinavian silver of this period (which continues to strongly influence NAJO designers).

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5.      Bracelet, Denmark, 1915

Designed and crafted by Evald Nielsen, a contemporary of Georg Jensen, this bracelet is noteworthy for its organic-shaped, hand-beaten links. Each is inspired by the shape of a flower bud, features a central cabochon amethyst, and exemplifies Denmark’s skønvirke-style, another major influence for NAJO.

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6.      NAJO’s “forever” sterling silver jewellery

We had to sneak in a few contemporary silver designs to complete our timeline, and where better to end than NAJO’s own future classics? Distilling the organic curves of Scandinavian design, the sculptural simplicity of early objects and sterling silver’s natural bright white beauty, our forever collection builds upon the long legacy of silver craftsmanship and brings it into the 21st century in clean, timeless style. Shop our favourite future heirlooms here: