Niels Erik From aka N. E. From (1908 – 1986) was one of the greats of Danish modern design. Both a silversmith and jeweler, he opened his workshop in 1931 when he was only twenty-three.
Over the next four decades Niels Erik created, among other works, floral-inspired pieces often set with semi-precious stones. These works derived from the Skønvirke style, a Scandinavian development that appeared during Denmark’s Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movement period. It usually takes inspiration from natural designs like flower and foliage motifs as well as natural creatures like fish.
In the 1970s, From’s jewelry pieces morphed into more sculptural, modernist pieces as they were primarily created by other designers. These became some of N.E. From’s most well-known and recognized signature styles.
While From opened his shop in 1931 and sold some of his designs there, the N.E. From mark (a name by which Niels Erik is also known) did not appear until 1944 when it was first registered in the city of Nakskov in southern Denmark.
From’s output displays two distinct styles: the thin, wiry foliage and floral pieces made during the early years of production and the later, bold modernist pieces that From marketed in the 1960s though, as previously stated, these were primarily created by other designers.
During its history, the company used a number of different signatures.
Smaller pieces may simply be marked FROM. Others have N.E.FROM, STERLING, DENMARK, 925S in a square, and finally, many pieces bear the N.E. From signature in an italic script.
From’s production was wide-ranging. He exported his works worldwide in the 1960s and 70s. From’s metalwork is lithe and supple. It often displays the hard-to-see details of oxidation, carved out metal, surface etchings as well as the incorporation of translucent and butterscotch amber.
Overall, From’s pieces display his ability to achieve unique detail and fluidity in simple forms. For example, his Off Center Amber Ring is composed of a slightly patinated, cupped sterling silver disc with a smaller disc placed slightly askew against the larger one that serves as the setting for a smooth, round amber stone. Experts have described the ring as, “….ultra-simplistic [while] at the same time visually striking. The combination of slightly voluptuous geometric structures and large, round and flat stones like onyx or carnelian is quietly magnetic.”
From’s pins and brooches display skills that achieve unique detail and fluidity in simple forms. One of his signature styles, the oxidized cupped silver disks form the floral design.
Beginning in the 1950s, most of From’s pieces were the work of other designers and have a very different look. No longer do the pieces display detailed, romantic designs from nature. These later pieces have modernist, clean lines with abstract and geometric shapes. Occasionally the modern designs also use nature as inspiration with abstract leaf and blossom shapes. Generally, though, they follow the 1950 trend modern of spare, minimalist design.
Ever the expert businessman, From continued to manufacture some of his older, popular Skønvirke style jewelry along with the modern pieces.
In 1960, From’s son-in-law Hilmer Jensen joined the company and took over its management after his father’s death in 1982. However, the company lost its profitability and closed in 1990.
The availability of N.E. From’s output has become increasingly limited and caused prices to rise as collectors seek the modern classics and early designs.