Marius Hammer (1847 – 1927) The son of Master Goldsmith, Lauritz Hammer, Marius was born in the crafts town of Bergen, Norway and worked there until his death in 1927. Hammer was the third generation in his family of craftsmen. He trained in his father’s workshop but set his sights on doing more than running a small workshop like his father and grandfather had done before him.
During his studies in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany, he saw new techniques and production methods. He employed these soon after his return to Bergen. This helped the family’s shop grow and, in a few years, become the largest in Bergen.
The workshop made many assorted goods in addition to jewelry. These included cans, coffee tableware, cutlery, and more. Beginning in the 1880s, Hammer focused on the growing tourist market and became a major producer of high-end souvenirs and other luxury items in filigree and enamel.
Marius built a network of shops in famous tourist destinations of western Norway and also delivered goods to European businesses including London. In 1885, the Hammer firm became court provider to the Prince of Wales.
The firm’s main product was a filigreed glass mosaic in rainbow colors made up of a network of thin, gilt threads. Small and large Viking inspired pieces like teaspoons, jewelry and much more were produced in large quantities. At its peak, around 1914, the firm had 130 employees.
Marius Hammer was one of the most important silversmiths in Norway, if not the most important. A contemporary of Fabergé, Marius Hammer became world famous for its enamel work. Most of these enameled pieces reflected the reigning Art Nouveau trends of bright colors and densely layered floral shapes.
Hammer’s work is distinguished by two marks, the conventional ‘M H’ and also that of an inverted hammer on an upper case ‘M.’ Beside souvenirs, Hammer also produced objects like trays, bowls, jugs and mugs. Hammer employed superb designers and the pieces they created from about 1900 until 1920 are now considered masterpieces of the goldsmith art.
When World War 1 broke out in 1914, the tourist market largely disappeared and, even after the war ended in 1918, times were tight and the market for luxury production was severely diminished. The firm converted to a limited company in 1915 with eldest son Torolf as director.
Torolf died in 1920 and the firm’s fortunes began to fail. Neither old Marius nor his youngest son Max, who took over after Torolf, could bring harness the resources needed to restore the firm to its previous prestige. Shortly after Marius Hammer died in 1927, the company’s properties and most of the machines were sold and the firm went bankrupt in 1930.
Marius Hammer’s work tends to be delicate and refined. The combination of silver gilt, filigree and enamel is typical of Hammer, who also produced superbly crafted vessels of silver and plique–jour enamel, where transparent enamels used without backing create an effect rather like miniature panes of stained glass.
Marius Hammer jewelry is highly sought after because of its delicate beauty and fine craftsmanship.