J. Tostrup (Est. 1831 – ) Jacob Ulrich Holfeldt Tostrup (1806 – 1890), a Norwegian goldsmith founded this company in Oslo in 1831. Tostrup was born to an infantry captain and his wife in Hjelmeland, in Rogaland County, Norway.
Tostrup was the fourth of eight children in a family that could only afford to send the oldest child to University. He apprenticed as a goldsmith in Bergen between 1823 and 1828. . It was during this time that he received an education in all aspects of the jewelry trade under the tutelage of master goldsmith Christopher Desingthun. Tostrup spent some time in Saint Petersburg working on projects for the Russian imperial court, then a little more in Copenhagen.
In 1828, he received his journeyman’s certificate and relocated to Christiania (now Oslo) where, in 1831, he founded the jewelry firm that bears his name. It wasn’t long before the business outgrew his small workshop and, in 1838, he opened a larger, mechanized workshop.
The firm became renowned for its innovative, decorative jewelry designs that combined silver with other elements such as glass and enamel. Most notable of these are the beautiful “champleve” and “plique a jour” enamels.
Jacob held several positions in the goldsmith’s guild and artisan associations. In 1848, J. Tostrup made the original enameled insignia for the Order of St. Olav and was later in charge of all the Order’s production.
J. Tostrup received the title, Royal Court Jeweler and the founder received the Norwegian King’s Medal of Merit for gold. Later, he was appointed a Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav for his work as a goldsmith.
Jacob’s son, Oluf Tostrup (1842.-.1882) entered his father’s business early on in his life. Oluf was among the pioneer’s in the revival of ancient Norwegian enamel techniques. He was granted sole ownership of J. Tostrup in 1881, but died very shortly thereafter.
Subsequently, Jacob Tostrup’s grandson-in-law, Torolf Prytz (1858 – 1938), one of the firm’s leading designers was promoted to co-owner and inherited the business in 1890 when Jacob died. In addition to being a master filigree designer, Torolf was also a skilled architect who ultimately designed a monumental new building, the Tostrupgården, (Tostrup Yard) next to the Norwegian Parliament. When the building was completed in 1898, he moved the business there.
Torolf Prytz was one of Norway’s foremost designers of the Art Nouveau era. He artfully employed the Viking revival style known in Norway as the Dragon style. When the 19th Century drew to its close, many designers were inspired by rich archeological finds at Norway’s many Viking sites. Prytz also began incorporating traditional Nordic motifs and forms into his designs for J. Tostrup.
In 1900, Torolf received a gold medal for his designs at the Paris Exposition Universelle. This style continued into the beginning of the 20th century especially when, in 1905, Norway and Sweden dissolved their union and the dragon became a symbol of the free Norway.
Torolf Prytz’ son, and Jacob Tostrup’s great-grandson, Jakob Tostrup Prytz also became a notable goldsmiths for the firm. Among other notable designers who created jewelry and other pieces for J. Tostrup were Grete Prytz Kittlesen and Gudmund Elvestad.
Kittlesen, who was the great granddaughter of Torolf Prytz, designed for J. Tostrup in the 1940s and 1950s. She elevated the Norwegian art of enameling on precious metals. From the beginning of her career and into the 21st century, her innovative approach led in new and rewarding directions. Kittlesen’s designs are sought after by collectors for their unique, modern forms. She died in 2010.
Gudmund Elvestad became a goldsmith’s apprentice for the firm of David-Andersen. In 1954, he received the Oslo Craft and Industry Association’s medal for a piece of his gold jewelry. From 1959 to 1960, Elvestad studied in America and, in 1960, was appointed chief goldsmith designer for J. Tostrup and remained in that position until 1968.
Elvestad worked in many different media. He is best known for his J. Tostrup silver work characterized by modern, elegant designs. He also designed silver salts and other Eucharistic pieces for a wide variety of churches, including two in the United States.
As a teacher, he played an important role in the education of metal artists, first in Norway and later in Sweden. From 1969 to 1972 he was head of the jury at the Norwegian Design Center.
It is rare to find a designer’s mark on Norwegian jewelry. However, some of Elvestad’s creations are marked: “STERLING, TOSTRUP, NORWAY,” and “GE.” Usually, the mark is simply, J.TOSTRUP.