Silver and twentieth-century design

Silver and twentieth century design
Silver and twentieth century design

The impact of silver metal technology has driven the development of modern furnishings throughout the 20th century. The transformation of a chair into a sculptural statement, for example. Within a multi-function, interior metal objects have not always been at the forefront of modern design. With the emphasis on warmth and comfort in the home, the scope for a wide range of metal products for this domain is not there.

The great silver workshops’ traditions continued in the 20th century, supported by patronage and the desire to offer and receive precious objects. Art Deco’s context allowed French workshops of the 1930s to rediscover the monumental and grandiose, albeit with an angular styling that distinguished it from its organic and belle époque predecessors. After WWII, silver design became less formal – mirroring society’s changes with the workshops of Georg Jensen in Denmark at the forefront of this movement towards a more amorphic range of shape and forms.

The other great theme in 20th-century design has been in the streamlined aesthetic of machines-age production. This has been used to root products in a Functionalist tradition that embraces the speed and the efficiencies of modern life. These products are generally full of contradictions – static objects made to look faster, a streamlined fridge, for example, but they are all the more interesting for that.

This period’s sculptural traditions were probably at their height in the 1930s when the combination of contemporary styling and taste allowed many fine commissions. The monumental quality of this work, even in miniature, has tended to make it very much of its time. The most enduringly popular sculptural objects remain those of dancing girls and animals.


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Rennie, P. (2003). Miller’s 20th-century design buyer’s guide. Miller’s.

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