Elisabeth Treskow: Pave Maker of Modernity

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HomeLearning CenterJewelry DesignElisabeth Treskow: Pave Maker of Modernity
By Peter HenselderMore from this author

A changed world and new perceptions of life determined the development of jewelry art in the period before the Second World War and the modern age. In addition to Eva Maschea-Elsasser and Hildegard Risch, the most important female goldsmiths that set striking standards include Elisabeth Treskow.

Elisabeth Treskow

Finger ring, gold, diamonds, chrysoberyl cat's eyes, star sapphire and pearls, 1928

Pendant (brooch), gold, brown hyacinth, faceted tourmaline, zirconium, peridot, demantoid, grey and yellowy pearls, 1960

Championship bowl used by the German Football Association, designed by E. Treskow, created by students at the Cologne School of Crafts Art. Silver, gold, granulation, green tourmaline cabochons, 1948/49

"It appears more important to me to forge gold than to talk about why and to what purpose it takes place … " This put down of the emergent rationalization of creative work by Elisabeth Treskow, which started in the sixties, says a lot about the character and the self-confident independence inherent to the artist. Her style and her crafts skill were convincing. Even the design of Germany's most important soccer trophy, the famous Bundesliga championship, also known flippantly as the "salad bowl", was created by her in 1948/49 together with students at the Cologne Crafts Academy. It was a sensation at the time in a field ruled exclusively by men.

Elisabeth Treskow was born in Bochum on August 20, 1898. In 1914, she attended the Silversmith School in Hagen twice a week. She was instructed by the Dutch silversmith Frans Zwollo in the tentative first steps of creating jewelry. After enrolling in the Crafts Academy in Essen in 1915 and one year later at the Higher State Polytechnic in Schwäbisch Gmünd under Professor Walter Klein, Elisabeth Treskow started an apprenticeship as a goldsmith under the famous Professor Karl Rothmüller in Munich. After completing her journeywoman's examination in 1918, she returned to Bochum and set up her own studio in her parents house. During this period, she was protégéd by the well-known, Bochum-based doctor Dr. Karl Brüggemann, who purchased numerous items of her work until he died.

In 1923, she moved to the artist's colony in Margaretenhöhe, a Margarete Krupp foundation, where she worked with Frida Schoy, one of the most important German book binders from the twenties to the fifties. She became a member of the German Crafts Association one year later. In the following years, she dedicated herself to experiments in rediscovering the art of granulation. In 1933, 1935 and 1936, she received the first prize from the German Society of Goldsmith Art, while also winning the Gold Medal at the Paris World Fair in 1937. In 1938, she became the first woman to be awarded the Honorary Golden Ring by the German Society of Goldsmith Art.

Brooch, gold, sapphire cabochon, fire opal, 1967

Crucifix particle relic (using a crucifix relic from the 11" century), gold-plated silver on a wooden core, granulation, wire soldering, 1956-58

Grape brooch - gold, granulation, diamonds and pearls, around 1941

After the Second World War, she was appointed Head of the Gold and Silversmith Class at the Crafts Academy in Cologne, which had been reopened two years earlier. Her reputation was so weighty that, even though she is a protestant, she was entrusted with the bitterly necessary restoration of the Shrine to the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral in the same year. In 1961, after having professed faith in the Roman Catholic Church, she continued this work in cooperation with the silversmith Fritz Zehgruber. She then retired from teaching and was awarded the German Cross of Merit and the North Rhine Westphalian State Crafts Prize for her work, along with the Jabach Medal from the City of Cologne. She donated part of her library to the cathedral city at the end of the seventies, along with her photo archive, her draft diagrams from six decades and her extensive collection of antique gems. Elisabeth Treskow died in a retirement home in 1992, into which she had moved in 1971.

Elisabeth Treskow manufactured many exceptional items of jewelry. As a professor in Cologne, she defined styles and had numerous renowned pupils. In addition, she also manufactured chains of office and liturgical objects. At the start of the fifties, she also side stepped briefly and successfully into the world of product design. She designed a 36-piece cutlery set for the firm Hugo Pott in Solingen, winning several design prizes in the process. Over the course of time, her style changed from naturalist to increasingly stylized natural forms. Customers recall that she sought purposefully for just the right form of gem-encrusted jewelry to suit their personality. She most certainly refused any form of anonymous order. She wanted to know who would wear the pieces, whereby she was particularly interested in the hair and complexion, in addition to the facial form and hands. Elisabeth Treskow's intention was to create an item of jewelry that suited the person wearing it and with which the person would find personal identity for the rest of their lives.

Necklace, gold, granulation, wire soldering, around 1935

Necklace, gold, granulation, faceted, Mexican fire opal, dark blue sapphire cabochons, sapphires, brilliants, pearls, around 1929/32

Bracelet, gold, chrysoberyl, pearls, diamonds, 1977

Necklace jewelry, gold, granulation, wire soldering, chrysoberyl cat's eyes, faceted tourmaline, yellowy green demantoid, 1958

Her multi-faceted work reveals an artistic development of significant width. The early days were defined by geometric, angular forms, with which the goldsmith entered into pioneering territory. During the thirties, her occupation with granulation was no longer focused on antique role models, but instead was targeted at the effective design of varying surfaces. The vivid, opulent compositions featuring gold and gemstone in the sixties consciously place a clear focus on the material and its decorative effects. With this, she created a clear distinction from many other designers from this period, who sought a more clear orientation with contemporary art.

The message she passed on to her students was that it is difficult to reach a level of achievement, but that it is equally difficult to preserve what one has achieved. "We should always be suffused with deep mistrust of our own performance, unless we are among those blessed with skills that the gods seemingly bestow randomly upon us in the creation of magnificent and finished items of jewelry. But I am most certainly not one of them."


by Peter Henselder

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Peter Henselder

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