“It is wonderful to do work which it is sad to sell.”
The Danish silversmith Evald Nielsen was born in Stubbekøbing on the island of Falster in the southeast of Denmark in 1879. At 14 he was apprenticed to the workshop of Aug. Fleron in Copenhagen where he learned the art of chasing and engraving, with a focus on steel and silver. He finished his training in 1900 and spent some time travelling and working in Germany, Switzerland and France. In Paris he was exposed to all the innovations in jewellery design and production and his earliest work shows the influence of contemporary German jewellery.
In 1905 Nielsen returned to Copenhagen and started his own business with the help of his old master. He devoted a huge amount of time and effort to his ventures and showed great determination and enthusiasm. He would regularly visit all the Copenhagen goldsmiths’ shops with his sample box and try to sell his jewellery. To help support himself, he also worked as an engraver for several shops. Within a few years he was successful enough to be able to buy his own workshop at which point he gave exclusive selling rights for his jewellery to a company called S. L. Jacobsen. They distributed his work in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden which called for a large production so he employed other craftsmen to help facilitate this. His focus was very much on quality of design and craftsmanship and his work soon equalled the best that Denmark had to offer with the ‘Nielsen style’ considered as being on a par with the ‘Jensen style’. His distinctive and opulent forms were applied to jewellery, flatware and hollowware, and although mimicked by contemporaries, no other workshops mastered the techniques in quite the same way. Nielsen was one of the jewellers most instrumental in spreading the Skønvirke or ‘aesthetic work’ which was Denmark’s equivalent of the Arts & Crafts style.
In 1918 he helped in the planning and teaching of the first courses for gold- and silversmiths at the Danish Technological Institute. He was also appointed Master of the Goldsmith’s Guild in recognition of his dedication to his work and the importance he placed on helping and educating others; he held the position for thirty years. In 1927 Nielsen’s oldest son, Aage (1902–1986) joined his father’s firm and remained working along side him for ten years until he left to open his own silversmith’s workshop. Nielsen’s second son, Bjarne (1906–1988) completed his training as a chaser in 1929 and started working in his father’s firm.
During the 1920s and 30s Nielsen exhibited his work at several World Fairs where he was regularly awarded the ‘Grand Prix’. Nielsen died in 1958 but his work, which remains highly collectible, can be seen on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Koldinghus Kunstmuseum and the Designmuseum in Denmark.