When a silversmith works on a piece of metal, he’s almost like an alchemist. So says Luc Delambre, the general manager of heritage silver maker Puiforcat. Founded in Paris in 1820, the storied brand has since expanded its offerings to include glassware and porcelain in addition to fine silverware. Though, of course, the metal is still at its core. “Silver is a very special matter,” says Delambre, “it is a metal with a soft aspect that inspires quietness.”
Surface sat down (virtually) with Delambre to learn about respecting a legacy brand’s history while bringing it squarely into the future.
Puiforcat is such a storied company. How does the design team consider the brand’s history when creating products, and what do your clients keep coming back for?
Puiforcat has always been a very creative company and our history dates back to the 1820s. In our archives, we preserve thousands of drawings. For example, we have incredible classic illustrations from Louis-Victor Puiforcat’s collection of ancient silversmithing (now kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris for everyone to enjoy) and Art Deco creations by his son, Jean Puiforcat. Jean was an avant-garde artist who reinvented silversmithing by anchoring it into modernity. Far before all of today’s well-known theories on design, he would advocate that the form of an object should be at the service of its function.
Such a strong heritage cannot go unnoticed and its abundance of inspirations always lies in the creative process of a new collection. Today, we often work with renowned designers who bring their own inspiration to the creative process. Our aesthetic is therefore quite multiple although the matter—metal—and the functionality of the object remain a common thread. The expertise of the artisans in our workshop is also an important part of the mix. Our clients recognize the excellence of the quality we maintain.
Can you tell us about Puiforcat’s newest collection?
We’re launching a new collection dedicated to the service of teas, infusions, and coffees. It’s named Phi after the Greek letter that represents the golden ratio—perfectly balanced proportions—and was designed by the French duo Normal Studio. Jean-François Dingjian and Eloi Chafaïpractice what they call “elementary design.”Specifically, they seek out the perfect shape and proportions to accentuate use, while underscoring the simplicity and elegance in the details. We believe Phi is a real chef-d’oeuvre of design and know-how, and we’re extremely excited to be able to share it.
There are so many historic pieces in the Puiforcat archive. Do you have any favorites?
My favorite is a tray designed by Jean Puiforcat, made of silver and gold-plated silver. Its handles are incredibly designed and give an awesome boldness to its balance. The piece is a real splendor all in lines, planes, and volumes perfectly balanced by the contrast of colors. And I also love the exuberance and the folly of the François-Thomas Germain tea set, which was designed in the 18th century. It’s a masterpiece of classical design and an incredible challenge for craftsmen to execute!
What sets Puiforcat apart from other silversmith brands?
Puiforcat is one of the rare silversmithing houses to preserve its heritage intact and to maintain, in its workshop, a variety of craftsmen who use all the know-how of the silversmith trade, from shaping to decoration, assembly and finally to finishing. Some of our artisans possess very rare skills. For instance, Eric Popineau is a planisher. He shapes platters and trays from a simple sheet of metal, stretching the metal and hammering the surfaces using a variety of mallets to shape the object.
For a young person starting a fine silver collection, which products are good starting points? And for collectors who feel like they’ve seen everything, what do you suggest?
A younger person should seek pieces that magnify something that they enjoy doing regularly. Let’s say drinking wine. By selecting a piece from our wine tasting collection, Puiforcat Orfèvre-Sommelier, they’ll change this experience into something both special and elegant. We also have numerous clients that enjoy our champagne tumbler, a unique vessel in sterling silver, designed to twist champagne tasting. A more traditional choice would be to start building a cutlery set. We have more than 20 different patterns, from the very classic 18th-century Royal to the contemporary stainless steel collection Zermatt.
A collector will be naturally drawn to our more exclusive pieces, either reissues from our Art Deco heritage—I’m thinking of this amazing clock Jean Puiforcat designed in 1932, and redeveloped with a Swiss manufacturer—or a contemporary creation such as our incredible poker set which stainless steel chips have been customized exclusively for Puiforcat with colors inspired by the deck of cards Jean Puiforcat designed with his wife in the ‘30s.