Christofle History and Its Art Deco Revival
The Christofle name is synonymous with both innovative manufacturing and elegant design in the world of silversmiths and antiques. Christofle has spanned many artistic movements and has a wealth of items that can show the variations in style and design as fashions changed and artistic movements progressed. Christofle covered many artistic movements such as Historicism, Naturalism, Orientalism, Japanism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and will continue to adapt their designs to suit the latest artistic styles and fashion demands.
Beginning in 1830, when Charles Christofle entered his family business, a small jewellery workshop in Marais, Paris. Charles developed and expanded the business to manufacture impressive, quality metalwork.
Christofle held the patent for electroplating which gave the business an advantage with their technologically advanced practices. This helped to steer the Christofle name into a wider market, where Christofle not only created high-quality plated goods but also added a range of solid silverware. The combination of both impressed critics and won Christofle many important commissions. The high craftsmanship and quality ensured that Christofle was present at every table of royals and aristocrats.
Christofle is still a family run business and is now into its fifth generation, which shows how quality silversmiths can stand the test of time. However, it hasn’t always been plain-sailing for the Christofle brand. The economic depression that followed World War One was coupled with unfortunate management of the brand which meant Christofle lost their factory in Germany and almost faced financial ruin.
How Art Deco Saved Christofle
At the point of almost inevitable financial collapse, Charles Christofle’s great-grandnephew Tony Bouilhet took over the management of the business and began to revive the esteemed brand. Tony was married to Carla Borletti, who came from a wealthy industrialist family. Carla’s family invested into the Christofle business and became major shareholders of the brand.
Alongside the necessary capital that Carla provided, Carla was interested in Art Deco designs and commissioned exceptional designers, architects and sculptors to design Art Deco pieces for Christofle. Her taste in designs helped to propel the business forward and led to more Christofle boutiques being opened and the expansion of the number of Christofle shops within department stores.
The products created by Christofle in the Art Deco period were varied; from flatware services to candlesticks and furniture mounts. The modern taste of these pieces not only attracted collectors but also led to large commissions such as the items made for the Normandie, a luxury ocean liner.
The Use of Gallia Metal
Gallia metal was used extensively during the Art Deco period, although Christofle had been using a similar metal earlier than this when they bought ALFENIDE lock, stock and barrel.
Gallia is a brand name of a copper-tin alloy, and using the patented technique of electroplating, it was possible to be covered with silver. Gallia was used by Christofle to appeal to a wider market as Gallia was cheaper, but also sustained the highly decorative and fashionable designs.
Although Gallia was used as a less expensive alternative in order to appeal to a wider audience, Christofle Gallia products can often fetch a much higher sum at an antiques market compared to other originally higher-end products made during the same period.
In recent years the artistic quality of Gallia has declined, however, the Christofle brand is still thriving. Christofle are still leading the way with their imaginative and elegant designs coupled with their traditional methods that ensure the highest quality.