Design & Decoration S04 ep18 : Emiel Esther, Aardewerk Gallery, [STATE]

Interview with Emiel Esther

Founded by Abraham Aardewerk in 1970, the family has now entered its fourth generation of antiques experts. With its traditions firmly rooted in the city of The Hague, the company’s history goes back to the turn of the 20th century, when Abraham’s grandfather started his own antiques shop on the Paviljoensgracht. Abraham’s parents later established their firm in the Lange Poten. In November 1970 Abraham and his wife Magdie opened their own showrooms at the Jan van Nassaustraat in The Hague. Emiel and Esther, having been raised amidst antiques, joined their father in the business in 1995. They are continuing to expand the firm’s expertise in antique Dutch silver and have been instrumental in further adding a department of fine jewellery.


Aardwerk is a firm that specializes in Dutch silver from the 17th and 18th century and antique period jewelry. The firm is run by
my sister and me. We are the 4th generation in the family of antique traders.

The Dutch pronunciation is “AARD WERK” which actually means pottery.

The first generation was all antiques. The second generation was specialized in jewelry. The thirdgeneration introduced silver.
And the fourth generation re-introduced jewelry because the thirdgeneration was focused on the silver.

We do everything together. The vision for my sister were expertise lies in the jewelry section and for me, it’s in the silver section.

We like Dutch silver best. The shapes are more plain,more delicate, more refined than for instance, German, English or French
silver. And we find that Dutch taste is still very strong among our Dutch clients. The other reason why we do it is because it’s a
very small market and we want to operate at the top of the market.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

If you look at the top quality English silver are top quality French silver and you look at those prices, then they are way higher
than the top quality Dutch silver. That’s because they are a lot more people collecting English silver for instance also in America.

The main designs all come from France. Those influences were so strong because they have large courts which attracted the best
craftsmen. And those models which were invented there spread across Europe.

The most famous silversmiths in Holland have been the Vianen brothers in the 17th century, which can easily be compared to the
painter Rembrandt. From them the silver is extremely rare, and therefore expensive.

Then in the 18th century, they are quite a few well known silversmiths from Amsterdam and Haig, but those are from other cities.
In Dutch silver, we don’t look as much to the maker but to the quality of the peace. So the quality of the piece is more important
than the person who made it.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

We have had some very important pieces here in Maastricht . For instance we had a huge urine basin from the end of the 17th
century completely executed with cut-card technique, which is a technique where the decoration has been cut out from a
separate sheet of silver, and then soldered on to the piece. We’ve had the 16th century drinking horn from the Dordon fish
traders Guild. And now we have a fantastic urine basin here and a pair of beautiful Turines[17:24], which are also very rare.
Because those large pieces are the first pieces that we melted down because there were a lot of silver.

There weren’t any bank accounts in the 17th century. So if one would have ainaudible [17:44] full of silver coins, he would take
them to the silversmiths and commissioned a urine basin for instance. And everyone who saw the urine basin when they arrived
knew that the person was a serious business trader. He was very absolvable.

My name is Esther Aardewerk, I’m a sister of Emile. We both fell into the business because one day my father said “Well I don’t
think you’re interested so maybe it’s best I get some outside help”. And then I thought now is the time, if I want to join, then it’s
now, now is the time. So I said “I would love to do something with jewelry”. He is a jeweler too and he has cut diamonds with
his uncle in Amsterdam. He said you “You will have to learn it somewhere else”. So I did and I came back and I love doing it.
They don’t necessarily have to have large stones or large diamonds, but the design is the most important thing.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

In Holland you have a special school in Sconehob [18:58] where you can learn about the profession of jewelry, to be a good
jeweler. That’s on modern jewelry of course and then you have a special course in gemology. So I’m also a gemologist and then
you have to read, read, read. And I went to a shop in Amsterdam, but they have a lot, that was my apprenticeship. Then my
father said “Okay is fine if you start with jewelry but it has to be on the same level as the silver”. So I skipped the whole first
stage and started at the top.

That vitrine that’s over there is also from a private collection. Those are pieces made by Louis Marira a Spanish designer. Marira
himself is just a nice story because he went to the Exposition Internationale in Paris in 1895. He saw the work of Lalique [19:56]
and he was flabbergasted. He was “Oh my God”, that really impressed him and he went home to Barcelona. He closed his shop,
and melted down on all his traditional works and started works in the Art Nouveau style. These are the pieces he made.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

When I started nobody wanted to have "JAR" . JAR was very cheap. I came across some pieces and I said no you have to decide
what period you want to deal in. My father said “So restrict yourself”.

My brother is part of the team of a program which you can compare with the antique roadshow, in Holland is called Tussen
Kunst & Kitsch [20:49]. Emile does the silver and Martine Akremande [20:53]does the jewelry. There was this lady with a lovely
broach and she said “Well my mother thought it was very impractical, because it’s so three-dimensional and was a LALIQUE
[21:05]“and then she said “I don’t know what to do with it”. She wanted to sell it and it was in the Dutch press “Impractical
broach for sale at TEFAF [21:16]”.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Emiel Esther, Aardewerk Gallery, Holland