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Christofle is a symbol of refined luxury and elegance. It is an internationally recognised brand and one of the finest producers of silver giftware and flatware in the world.
Thanks to its creation in silver, Christofle is a symbol of luxury and elegance. Since its founding in the mid-19th century, it has been a continuous innovative force and has infused each era with a new art of living. Thus, over time, this prestigious company has revolutionised styles, techniques and methods for the production and distribution of silver plate and the decorative arts.
Christofle was founded in 1830 by Charles Christofle (1805-63). Born to a family of manufacturers specialising in precious metals, he was 15 years old when he was apprenticed to his brother-in-law Hugues Calmette, a jewellery craftsman with a small family firm. In 1830, Charles Christofle took over the family business. He registered his master’s stamp for the fabrication of gold jewellery at the Garantie de Paris in 1832. Far ahead of his time, he relied upon exports, especially to South America, for the growth of his company. Just 10 years later, this enlightened man found himself at the helm of one of the largest jewellery makers in France.
Growing silver business:
To expand his business even further, Charles Christofle changed the destiny of his company by moving toward silversmithing. He acquired patents that allowed him to carry out industrial silver- and gold-plating with electrolysis, which had been done by hand until then. His master silversmith stamps were registered in 1845, the date of the first silver-plating factory. At the end of the 19th century, the house of Christofle began to produce silver-plated metal objects that were as beautiful and opulent as solid silver. “Le Christofle” became a generic name for silver-plated metal. Synonymous with the French art of living, Christofle became a reference for everyone from princes to the bourgeoisie.
In 1851, King Louis Philippe’s successor, Emperor Napoleon III, ordered all of the Empire’s official table services from Christofle. The now famous house’s titles of “Silversmith to the King” and “Purveyor to the Emperor” led to orders from foreign sovereigns, including the Emperor of Mexico and the Tsar of Russia, allowing Charles Christofle to successfully conquer the wealthiest foreign markets: the Kaiser’s Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. In the second half of the 19th century, Christofle also became the supplier not only to ministries, embassies and parliaments the world over, but also to French and foreign luxury hotels and maritime and rail companies. Today, the company that perpetuates this tradition of prestigious orders is also the supplier to the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris. Like all the major historical luxury brands, it has managed to preserve its fame throughout the world by reaching out to new markets.
A symbol of luxury and elegance thanks to its basic material, silver, Christofle revolutionised the style, techniques, and production and distribution methods for silver products and the decorative arts over the years. One of the ways in which Christofle distinguished itself was by developing the industrial use of the galvanoplasty (electroplating) process. This revolutionary technique made it possible to reproduce any object identically as many times as desired, using a rubber mold. Electrolysis is used to apply metal to the cast of the object, which becomes a conductor. This improvement in gold- and silver-plating processes allowed Christofle not only to produce magnificent silver objects in series, but also to successfully undertake the production of monumental décors. Thanks to this technique, Christofle was able to take on new projects such as the decoration of Pope Pius IX’s pontifical train coach (1858) and the realisation of the statues for the roof of the Opéra de Paris (1868), and the one on the Eglise Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille (1869), the world’s largest example of galvanoplasty. At the dawn of the 21st century, Christofle continues to make use of this unique savoir-faire, which guarantees a superior level of quality for its products. As the company’s founder Charles Christofle liked to say, “Only one quality: the best.”
In the same way as the Haute Couture, Christofle perpetuates the tradition of Haute Orfèvrerie. This silversmithing consists not only of reproducing prestige pieces that are part of the house’s heritage, but also, and above all, creating unique and customised objects whose production is a technical and aesthetic challenge. The Haute Orfèvrerie workshops, located at Christofle’s production site in Yainville, Normandy, continue to produce entirely handmade objects using ancestral techniques (spinning, embossing, planishing, chasing, engraving etc.). Each part of the process is time-consuming and complex, and requires many long years of apprenticeship and experience. Limited and numbered, all of these exceptional pieces are true works of art, prized by collectors all over the world because they are unique.
Christofle and designers:
Beyond this exceptional production, Christofle remains loyal first and foremost to the spirit of its founders, who cherished modernity and innovation. With the soul of a pioneer, Christofle has always associated its name with major creative movements and with famous artists like Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, avant-garde architects like Gio Ponti, modernist silver designers like Lino Sabattini and Christian Fjerdingstad, today’s designers, such as Martin Szekely and Andrée Putman, and, more recently, Richard Hutten and Ora-Ïto. As the years pass, Christofle continues to distinguish itself through the spirit with which it imbues all its collections.
In 2005, Christofle returned to its roots as a purveyor of fine jewellery with a series of glamourous and elegant sterling silver collections. These new pieces reflect the brand’s signature sense of design and command of style. Christofle worked with talented and acclaimed designers like Adeline Cacheux, Ora-Ïto, Peggy Huyn Kinh, Andrée Putman and Arik Levy to create the brand’s 20 distinguished collections.
Christofle exhibits an elite sense of style and knowledge of current trends, which is infused into the brand’s home, table and jewellery creations. A perpetuating symbol of French lifestyle, Christofle renews its historical heritage by collaborating with artists and renowned designers to create stunning new pieces and to reinvent and modernise collections from its lauded past. Christofle has a Silver Spirit that reflects the brand’s exceptional knowledge of silvercraft and the meticulous and loving attention to the creation, quality and timeless elegance of all its pieces.