The Wolfers family had long been involved in the gold and silversmiths trade when brothers Edouard and Guillaume decided to leave their home in Germany to pursue their careers in Belgium.
They opened a business in Brussels in 1812 creating innovative silverware and tableware and the Wolfers name gained recognition throughout the country as producers of fine quality. Their brother Louis Wolfers (1820-1892) arrived in 1842 and in 1850 established the company that would achieve fame throughout Europe in the 19th and 20th Century.
Louis’s son Philippe (1858-1929) joined his father in the business after studying at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Under his father’s tutelage he learnt both the artistic and business sides of running the firm and whilst initially he worked largely in a Rococo-revivalist style by the 1890s he was fully immersed in the Art Nouveau movement. His father passed away in 1892 at which point Philippe became the artistic director of Wolfers working alongside his brothers Max and Robert together with their cousin Albert. His designs for both silverware and jewellery reflected the influence of Japanese art, naturalism and the fluid forms that were becoming progressively popular. During the ten years either side of the turn of the century, Wolfers Frères became the most prestigious of the Art Nouveau jewellers working in Belgium. Examples of Wolfers jewellery from this period can now be found in important private and public collections such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum which displays an extraordinary plique-à-jour enamel orchid hair ornament.
Around 1905 Philippe moved away from jewellery and turned his attention to sculpture. Over the coming years his son Marcel (1886-1976) took on more responsibility at the firm and it was he who created many of the beautiful Art Deco designs the company produced. In 1925 they designed a critically acclaimed dining room suite for the Belgian Pavilion at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Their own display was highly regarded, in particular the platinum and diamond jewels and the lacquer and mother of pearl bangles designed by Marcel. Like his father, Marcel also pursued his love of sculpture and developed a great affinity for the medium. He became highly regarded as a sculptor and works by him include Victoire à la Couronne de Laurier, an Art Deco style figure carved from ivory and widely considered one of the best of its kind. He was also well known for his beautiful lacquer work including painting on bronze and his work was frequently exhibited.
The firm continued successfully during the mid-20th century until 1975 when production ceased. Today the name Wolfers is most closely associated with the beautiful Art Nouveau jewels of Philippe who, whilst never achieving the levels of fame enjoyed by his Parisian counterpart Lalique, never the less contributed significantly to the jewellery of this period.