Just Andersen and the secret recipe for disko metal

Disko Bay in Greenland inspired the name for the special metal mixture that Danish silversmith Just Andersen invented – disko metal. He took the recipe with him to the grave, so we don’t know the precise mix that made up the alloy. But we do know that it included certain proportions of lead, tin and antimony.

Just Andersen (1884-1943) lived the first part of his life in Greenland before the whole family pulled up sticks and moved to Denmark. After training as both a sculptor and silversmith at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts he worked for the Danish silversmiths and goldsmiths A. Michelsen and P. Hertz, before starting his own workshop in 1918. A workshop that in its time was just as popular as the famous Danish silversmiths Georg Jensen. Not that Just Andersen worked that much in silver. He’d fallen in love with golden bronze and the less expensive imitation he’d invented himself, disko metal.

Disko metal made decorative arts affordable, allowing the average person to invite Just Andersen into their living rooms. Georg Jensen’s silver was the exclusive preserve of the super rich. Just Andersen’s bronze and in particular his items in disko metal were accessible to the middle classes as well as the better -heeled of the working classes. This gave a much bigger customer base and thereby greater output.

Just Andersen was classic in his design. Many of his vases, figures and lamp bases were clearly Art Deco in form. A style that was popular in the 1920s and 30s. But also a stylized modernized form of Old Norse without too many swirls and squirls was in tune with the spirit of the times.

Even though disko metal was his favourite material, he wasn’t shy of using other metals too, like tin and silver. He mastered them all.

Just Andersen became a commercial success with shops in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and USA. He won many prizes for his design, but more often abroad than in Denmark – similar to the situation with several other of Denmark’s great 20th century designers and architects, like Finn Juhl, H. J. Wegner and Verner Panton.

Maybe Danes still don’t fully appreciate Just Andersen? In any case the current interest we can feel raising the bidding for Just Andersen’s finest things is coming from outside Denmark. In the last couple of years we’ve seen very high prices, in particular for his bronze table lamps. Prices we definitely weren’t seeing a couple of years ago. It’s Americans and Japanese who are buying up Just Andersen – possibly to sell them directly on to waiting clients or to stock their shops selling classic design at some of the most expensive addresses in cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Bid on Just Andersen in disko metal or bronze here.

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