ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
ASSOCIATION OF SMALL COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE SILVER
ASCAS
article # 205
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by Joanna Paprocka-Gajek and David N. Nikogosyan
 
(click on photos to enlarge image)

WARSAW SILVER PLATE COMPANIES: II. NORBLIN / N.B.W.

Continuing our presentation of Warsaw silver plate industries, started with the description of Fraget firm activity, we will turn now to its all-time rival, the Norblin company (see Literature 1, 2, 3, 4). Later, with the development of this foundry, its name was changed for Norblin, Bros. Buch & T. Werner, shortly, N.B.W. The founder of this enterprise, Vincent Norblin (1805-1872) was born in Paris. His life story reads like a cheap fiction. At the age of fourteen, Vincent appeared in Warsaw, where his father, Alexandre Jean Constantin Norblin (1777-1828) together with Vincent's uncles was running a small bronze foundry (founded in 1819). After the apprenticeship at his father's factory and studies abroad together with traditional wandering, in 1822 Vincent found work in the first Warsaw silver plate company managed by the French jeweller Jean Cerisy.

Jean Cerisy had married the daughter of Filip Vorbrodt, a local businessman, who moved to Warsaw from the small German principality of Anhalt. After the death of Filip Vorbrodt the wife of Cerisy, Henriette Leopoldina Augustina, inherited her father's silver plate company. However, in 1831, when Jean Cerisy died suddenly, Vincent Norblin married his widow and became the boss of this firm.

Vincent Norblin and his wife Henriette Leopoldina Augusta, born Vorbrodt

Vincent Norblin and his wife Henriette Leopoldina Augusta, born Vorbrodt.
The property of Werner family, copyright reserved.

In 1843, Vincent Norblin, together with Jan Meylert, former associate of Cerisy, organised the new company Norblin i Spolka (Norblin & Co), which also included the bronze foundry of his father. During the following decade, he permanently renewed the machinery in his factory, which resulted in a steady increase of the production. In 1853, in view of the latest innovations introduced by the Fraget firm, Vincent implemented the galvanic silver deposition in his foundry. The number of workers employed by the company reached 60 (compared with 9 in 1837).

Ludwik Norblin and Teodor Werner

Ludwik Norblin and Teodor Werner, the images from weekly Polish magazine "Klosy"
(The Ears), vol. 49, No.1258 (1889).

After the death of Jan Meylert in 1863, Vincent paid a large sum of money to his heirs and became the sole owner of Norblin i Spolka (shortly, Norblin & S-ka). In 1865, seven years before his death, he transferred the factory to his son Ludwik Wincenty Norblin (shortly, Ludwik Norblin, 1836-1914) [1/2 of the total capital] and to his daughter Albertina Wilhelmina together with the son-in-law August Teodor Werner (shortly, Teodor Werner, 1836-1902) [the remaining 1/2 of the capital] (see Literature 1). It should be noted that Teodor Werner was already a rather rich and successful businessman and owned a silversmith enterprise. Interestingly, after the dividing of the Wincenty Norblin heritage, both companions continued their own business: Ludwik Norblin produced silver plated items, while Teodor Werner made items from sterling silver. Besides, each companion used its own marks. In the current communication, devoted to silver-plate manufacturing, we will omit the sterling silver marks used by T. Werner. Some of these marks were reported before (see Literature 5). In 1870, Teodor Werner transferred his production premises to Ulica Chlodna (Cool street) No.933, where the factory of Ludwik Norblin was already disposed. In the same year, Norblin & Co. due to the high quality of their products won a silver medal at All-Russia Manufacture Exhibition in St. Petersburg (see Literature 6).

Silver-plated milk-can, made by Norblin between 1863 and 1872 Silver-plated coffee-pot together with a creamer, both issued by Norblin between 1872 and 1882

A silver-plated milk-can, made by Norblin between 1863 and 1872 (left).
A silver-plated coffee-pot together with a creamer, both issued by Norblin
between 1872 and 1882 (right). Private collection of David N. Nikogosyan.

In 1882 Ludwik Norblin (1836 - 1914) purchased a factory of the bankrupt company Brothers Buch (GebrŘder Buch in German or Bracia Buch in Polish, both names were used on the silver plate marks of Bros. Buch foundry). The original enterprise, founded in St. Petersburg in 1809, produced buttons, screws and iron wire. Besides, they made the metal ornaments for army uniforms, for this special reason (probably after fulfilling the large order for Russian army), the factory owners Agaton Buch and Karl Mau▀ got from the tsar Alexander II a gold medal "For Hard Work and Art" with their names inscribed (in 1865). It should be noted, that despite the firms name Brothers Buch, at the moment only one Buch is known, Agaton. About this time the company bought a silver-plate enterprise in Warsaw at Ulica Zelazna (Iron street) No.51/19, which was so successful that in seven years at Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition it got a gold medal for the quality of its silver plate with the right of using the image of the Russian State Coat of Arms (two-headed eagle) on its products.

obverse of medal 'For Hard Work & Skill' given to Agaton Buch and Karl Mau▀ in 1865 reverse of medal 'For Hard Work & Skill' given to Agaton Buch and Karl Mau▀ in 1865

A medal "For Hard Work & Skill" given to Agaton Buch and Karl Mau▀ in 1865,
the obverse (left) and the reverse (right). Guild bronze, diameter 41.5 mm, weight 29.7 g.
Internet catalogue of the auction No.19 held on 16th February 2013,
Auction House ZNAK, St. Petersburg, Russia, www.znak-auction.ru

An advertisement of Bros. Buch factory in three languages: Russian, Polish and German

An advertisement of Bros. Buch factory in three languages: Russian, Polish and German; it
includes the image of the gold medal "For Hard Work & Skill", received in 1865, and the image of
second gold medal given to the foundry for the quality of silver-plated products, presented at
Moscow Polytechnical Exhibition in 1872 c.; in the centre of the advertisement there is an image of
two-headed eagle, which indicates that Brothers Buch got the privilege of using the image of the
Russian State coat of arms on their products. Courtesy of Warsaw State Archives.

A few words about this privilege. It was strictly bonded to the name given to company. Once the name of company (factory) was changed, the privilege was gone. In the described case of absorbing the Brothers Buch by Norblin & S-ka, the name of the company (Bracia Buch) was changed to "Norblin i S-ka i Bracia Buch" (Norblin & Co and Bros. Buch) and the privilege was lost. Happily, the same year "Norblin i S-ka i Bracia Buch" participated in 1882 All-Russia Craft and Industry Exhibition in Moscow and won a gold medal, bringing the right of using the image of the two-headed eagle on the products of newly-united foundry. Looking forward, it should be noticed that "Norblin i S-ka i Bracia Buch" firm again lost this privilege in 1893 after the subsequent change of the company name.

A silver figurine (trophy) 'The Mowers', issued by T. Werner around 1882

A silver figurine (trophy) "The Mowers", issued by T. Werner around 1882, sculpture work by
Jan Krynski. The image from weekly Polish magazine "Klosy" (The Ears), vol.36, No.924 (1883).

Returning to 1882, we will notice that the two parts of joint company were situated under two different addresses in Warsaw: while the old buildings of Norblin i S-ka had the address on Cool str. No.933, the new premises of Brothers Buch disposed on the much larger piece of land at Iron str. No.51/19. In 1884 the both parts of the Norblin i S-ka i Bracia Buch foundry were finally reunited at Iron street. Again, all three branches of Norblin firm continued for a while to use the old marks. The number of workers employed by the company quickly grew from 112 in 1879 to 400 in 1893. In 1893 this firm was transferred to a joint-stock company under the name: "Metal Factories Norblin, Bros. Buch & T. Werner (N.B.W.) in Warsaw".

silver-plated sugar bowl, made by Norblin between 1872 and 1882

The silver-plated sugar bowl, made by Norblin between 1872 and 1882.
Private collection of Joanna Paprocka-Gajek.

In 1896, the N.B.W. company won a Grand Prix for its participation in All-Russia Fair in Nizhnii Novgorod and received again the right to print the State Coat of Arms on its production. It should be emphasized, that amongst all Warsaw silver plate producers, Norblin was the only firm, which got this privilege twice (in 1882 and in 1896). As we were lucky to notice, this circumstance was often underlined in N.B.W. advertisement material. As an example we present two photographs. One of the photos shows the fragment of N.B.W. ashtray, advertising a new-developed "new white metal" (Nowy Bialy Metal or shortly NBM), used as a base metal for cutlery silvering (since 1897). On the head of the maiden there is a band with two-headed eagle and two dates: 1882 and 1896. Another photo demonstrates the head of the receipt, issued by Moscow N.B.W. shop on 25th of April, 1914, with numerous medals received by the firm and a pair of two-headed eagles above. One eagle bears the date 1882, while the other - 1896. It should be underlined, that though the photos of these items were already published four years ago (see Literature 3), nobody paid any attention to the dates given near/under the two-headed eagle/eagles.

A fragment of silver-plated ashtray, issued by N.B.W between 1897 and 1915

A fragment of silver-plated ashtray, issued by N.B.W. between 1897 and 1915.
Private collection of Walenty Krˇlikowski, photo by David Nikogosyan.

A fragment of silver-plated ashtray, issued by N.B.W between 1897 and 1915

A fragment of silver-plated ashtray, issued by N.B.W between 1897 and 1915

A head of the receipt, issued by Moscow N.B.W. shop on 25th of April, 1914, (above), and its
fragment (below) with a pair of two-headed eagles above. By permission of Polish State Archives.

In 1908, the N.B.W. firm patented a new tin-containing alloy "VERIT" to be used as a base metal for silvering (see Literature 7). The appearance of such a base metal allowed the manufacturing of the items by a simple casting procedure, resulting in low prices of final silver-plated products. Besides, the technological advantages of new base metal ideally correlated with the demands imposed by the fashionable Art Nouveau (in German Jugendstil, in Polish Secesja) style.
In 1909 the N.B.W. company celebrated its 100 year jubilee (A reminder. The Bros. Buch company was founded in 1809). The new jubilee marks were introduced both for Norblin & Co and B.Buch divisions, see the accompanying article in Member's Window Section of the same issue of ASCAS Newsletter.

The simple comparison between the number of silver-plated non-VERIT products issued by Bros. Buch division during the two periods, marked with different signatures: a) 1882-1893, 11 years, and b) 1893-1915, 19 years {using the marks images in the possession of one of the authors (D.N.), 10 and 13 pieces for above-mentioned periods, respectively} gives us 0.9 and 0.7 products per year (in arbitrary units). That means a small decline of Brothers Buch production since their absorption by Norblin & Co, which doesn't correlate with the general success of Norblin foundry products and the increase of employees number by about three times between 1882 and 1915. More probably it could be connected with the involvement of Brothers Buch staff (and related machinery) in the creation of the newly-designed VERIT products.

A tea glass holder, made by N.B.W. company from VERIT metal between 1909 and 1915

A tea glass holder, made by N.B.W. company from VERIT metal between 1909 and 1915.
Private collection of Alexander Maroutian, photo by David N. Nikogosyan.

Before the start of the World War I (in 1914), the N.B.W. firm was very prosperous. It had numerous distribution shops on the territory of the Polish Kingdom and in other parts of huge Russian Empire. A significant part of production was exported to Persia (since the period 1882-1893 and until about 1930), with an additional special mark in Persian, which referred to the place of manufacturing (Norblin, Warsaw, Poland). Recently, the export marks with the inscription in Persian, used by Bros. Buch branch of N.B.W. in the period 1893 - 1915, were discovered.

A view of N.B.W. Ltd. factory at Iron str., No.51, Warsaw, c.1900

A view of N.B.W. Ltd. factory at Iron str., No.51, Warsaw, c.1900.

After the start of World War I Poland declared its independence, and had to repulse the attacks of Russian army. In addition to the usual problems of war time, N.B.W. company lost a significant part of its market. The number of workers fell down to 120 (from 600 in 1913). Nevertheless, in the twenties and thirties, N.B.W. company increased significantly its production, with a great shift towards the needs of heavy industry. The number of workers reached 2000 (in 1937). Concerning the silver plate manufacturing, it was continually diminishing. At the same time, a large amount of N.B.W. items were produced in the fashionable Art Deco style. They received a great recognition in Poland and abroad. In 1939, due to German occupation and beginning of the World War II, the company stopped its activity.

Concluding the brief review of 130 year history of Norblin/N.B.W. foundry, we need to mention a prominent and very gifted (but yet practically unknown in the West) Polish designer of Jewish origin Julia Keilowa, born Ringel, who died in the age of forty in the Warsaw ghetto (see Literature 8). In 1933, she organised her own studio of metal design in Warsaw and created the models of about 400 items, mostly in Art Deco style, which were then realized by Norblin, Fraget, Bros. Henneberg and other Polish silver plate firms. Nowadays these pieces are very much sought after by the serious art/antiques collectors.

A sugar bowl 'The Ball', designed by Julia Keilowa and issued by N.B.W

A sugar bowl "The Ball", designed by Julia Keilowa and issued by N.B.W.
company between 1933 and 1939. Private collection of Adam Leja, photo by Michał Radwański.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Mr. Walenty Krˇlikowski for his kind permission to study the Norblin/N.B.W. pieces from his collection and make some photographs and Ms. Maria Ejchman, the curator of Wola Museum in Warsaw, for useful discussions.

Polish collector Walenty Krˇlikowski with his wife Elżbieta

Polish collector Walenty Krˇlikowski with his wife Elżbieta presents the collection of silver-
plated items, produced by Norblin/Bros.Buch/N.B.W. companies. Warsaw, Poland, 2013.
Photo by David N. Nikogosyan.

LITERATURE

[1] Joanna Paprocka-Gajek, Platery Warszawskie w Latach 1822 - 1914 (Warszawa: Muzeum Palac w Wilanowie, 2010), pp.1-375 [in Polish]. English translation of the title: Silver Plated Items produced by Warsaw factories in 1822-1914.

[2] Malgorzata Wittels, Krzysztof Wittels, "Historia," In: Fabryka Norblina. Opowiesc o niezwyklej fabryce (Warszawa: Stowarzyszenie Nasz Norblin/Fundacja Otwartego Muzeum Dawnej Fabryki Norblina, 2012), pp.39-106. English translation of the title: "History," In: Norblin Foundry. Unusual Factory Tale.

[3] Joanna Paprocka-Gajek, "Wyroby," In: Fabryka Norblina. Opowiesc o niezwyklej fabryce (Warszawa: Stowarzyszenie Nasz Norblin/Fundacja Otwartego Muzeum Dawnej Fabryki Norblina, 2012), pp.107-182 [in Polish]. English translation of the title: "Wares," In: Norblin Foundry. Unusual Factory Tale.

[4] David N. Nikogosyan, "Marks of silver-plated products used by Warsaw factories in Russian Empire," Antiques, Art and Collectibles, No.7-8 (98), pp.74-93 (2012) [in Russian].

[5] Zofia Samusik-Zaremba, Warszawskie Srebra i Platery w Zbiorach Muzeum Mazowieckiego w Plocku (Plock: Muzeum Mazowiecki, 1996), pp. 1-199. English translation of the title: Warsaw Silver and Silver Plate Items in Collection of Mazowieckie Museum in Plock.

[6] Svetlana Kaikova, "Silver Replacement Techniques in Russia," Antiques, Art and Collectables, No.1, pp.65-78 (2002) [in Russian].

[7] Elena Elkova, "European Art Nouveau Pewter," Antiques, Art and Collectables, No.12(63), pp.8-30 (2008) [in Russian].

[8] Malgorzata Czynska, "Mlecznik z Plywajacego Salonu", Wysokie Obcasy (High Heels, Weekly Supplement to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza) No.50 (705), 15 December 2012 [in Polish]. English translation of the title: A milk-can from the Ocean Liner Salon.


Information for Polish readers

The second edition of the book of Dr.Joanna Paprocka-Gajek (Literature 1 above) is on sale now.
See http://sklep.wilanow-palac.pl

go to the page MARKS USED BY NORBLIN/BROS. BUCH / N.B.W. COMPANIES ON SILVER-PLATED HOLLOW WARE

Joanna Paprocka-Gajek and David N. Nikogosyan
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