Elisabeth Treskow

* 02.08.1898 (Bochum) 06.10.1992 (Brühl, near Cologne) Germany
Fields of activity: master goldsmith, artist, professor
Author: Christa Grawert-Wagner

Elisabeth Treskow

“Demokrit says it better than I will: The big pleasures blossom when you look at beautiful works.”  Elisabeth Treskow said this explaining the meaning of her life and purpose of her works.

Master goldsmith, artist, Professor Elisabeth Treskow stands for a woman who despite of a non wished for and non liked education becomes a strong, sophisticated woman. She had a pioneering role in her profession. She shaped generations of designers and artists.

Complaining about inaccessible skill

The years as apprentice were a struggle for her. She wrote that she was the clumsy one in her family. She did not like to draw or to paint, she would have preferred to study. At the age of 15 she had to visit the Hagener Silberschmiede and  the school of arts and craft in Essen. During first World War she moved to Schwäbisch Gemünd. There she studied between 1915 and 1916  at the higher  technical college. “About three times I intended to stop with it. Permanent trouble to achieve inaccessible skills!” At last, during her apprenticeship as goldsmith that she started in 1917  in Munich she loved more and more to handle precious stones. In 1918 she obtained the apprenticeship certificate.

In 1919 she returned to Bochum to her parents and installed a studio there. “Much too early with 21 years.”  In the following next four years “distress and poverty were her teachers”, she mentioned. In 1924 she passed the examination for master craftsman’s diploma at the Chamber of Trade and Crafts in Düsseldorf.

At the age of 33 she felt at last at ease with her work. “I enjoyed to grow older, each year has calmed me and my work.”  The striving to do the best should not diminish until the last  breath, because “ profound mistrust towards our own work should always fill us.”

Commissions for the Church and upper class as customers

With the beginning of the 1930er  her situation improved. Elisabeth Treskow worked for the upper classes and had municipal orders as well as orders by the Church. She was successful in international exhibitions and received a lot of  awards. When the Nazis seized power also the orders increased. However, it is said, she did not accept orders by the National Socialist Party.

In 1943 her studio in Essen was destroyed during an air raid. Elisabeth Treskow moved to the town of Dortmund where her parents lived. To earn her living in that time she had to do restoration work.

With spittle Etruscian know-how detected

During her training as goldsmith Elisabeth Treskow was fascinated by the Etruscan art of “granulation”. To granulate means “to fasten the very small particles of gold by means of a chemical solution to its background”, describes author Ana Maria Bermejo. Why Elisabeth Treskow likes the granulation so much, she explained herself: “Most striking is the effect of plasticity created by the shadows between these elements.”

After  many years of trying and experimenting, Elisabeth Treskow re-discovered the technique of Etruscan granulation. For the granulation she had found besides other ways of doing it a special trick. Amused she told that she had fastened the little particles of gold on to a brush moistened with spittle. The precondition for the success of the subsequent melting process was the use of "at least 900/00 gold.”

Shrine of the “Three Kings” and  the “salad bowl”

Besides her profound know-how about goldsmith techniques she had shown her excellent gift for creating masterly works. After she was nominated (1948) as director of the class of gold- and silversmith of the Werkschulen of Cologne (arts and crafts school) in 1954 she directed  the temporary restoration of  the shrine of the Three Kings of Cologne. This shrine is one of the most beautiful works of the medieval era in Europe - built between 1180 and 1225. In 1961, Elisabeth Treskow conducted the final restoration of the shrine, which is decorated with more than 1000 precious stones and pearls  and many antique intaglios and cameos.

One of her most popular work is the champion bowl of the German Football League (Fußballbund). In 1949 she and her students designed and manufactured the bowl, which is popularly nicknamed the “Salatschüssel” (the salad bowl). Unfortunately the most football supporters do not know, that this trophy as created under the aegis of a woman.

Professor in Cologne

Eight years after her appointment as the director in 1956 she received the title “Professor”. At this time she was busy with creating jewellery for the Church and also for prominent persons such as for example the movie star Romy Schneider and the Adenauer family, a famous family in Cologne. In 1961 she became a member of the Roman-Catholic Church. Three years later, in 1964, she retired. In 1971 she moved to a seniors' residence in Brühl near Cologne, where she installed her working place. There she died at the age of 94 on 6th of October 1992.

Already in 1977 she had made a donation of her collection of modern and antique jewellery and approx. 1300 of her designs to the Museum of applied Art (Museum für angewandte Kunst) Köln.

The newspaper Kölnische Rundschau acknowledged her after her death: “As an artist she loved to experiment from Art Deko via Cubism to the cool style in her old age.”  The city of Cologne honoured her by naming one of the public squares “Elisabeth Treskow Platz”. This square in the newly developed Rheinauhafen is situated next to her former residence.

Bliographical references and links

  • Elisabeth Treskow: „Goldschmiedekunst des 20. Jahrhunderts“, Museum für angewandte Kunst, Köln 1990; in it:
  • Elisabeth Treskow: „Über meine Arbeit und mich“,  Zeitschrift für Goldschmiede, Juweliere und Graveure, 1943 and: Elisabeth Treskow: „Über die Technik der Granulation“, Ausstellungskatalog Kunst und Leben der Etrusker, Köln, 1956
  • Ana Maria Bermejo/ Nicole Zimmermann: „Frauen im Kölner Rheinauhafen“, Wartberg-Verlag 2011
  • Kölnische Rundschau, 8. Oktober 1992 „Generationen geprägt“
  • Rüdiger Joppien: „Elisabeth Treskow (1898-1992), Goldschmiedin“
  • http://www.rheinische-geschichte.lvr.de/persoenlichkeiten/T/Seiten/ElisabethTreskow.aspx called up August 21nd 2013
  • Picture source: Portrait Elisabeth Treskow, Gold und Silberschmiedin, Lehrerin an den Kölner Werkschulen, Rheinisches Bildarchiv (RBA L 616/4.-, Köln), Reproduktions-Nr: rba_mfL007616_4 Bildnachweis: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln Permalink: www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de