The Tradition of the Victor Mayer Manufactory

Company founder Victor Mayer (1857 – 1946) embodied both talent and interests, with these passed on from generation to generation in the 130-year history of the company.

Victor Mayer was an artist and art lover. From the very beginning, his focus lay on high-quality design. He had taste, enthusiasm and passion.

For him, skilled craftsmanship was the decisive standard for quality and he had an infallible aptitude for finding the zeitgeist. His talents and experience are passed down and elaborated from generation to generation.

Display case Jewellery Museum Pforzheim, Victor Mayer in Vienna, around 1885. Sketchbook and seal of Victor Mayer, around 1890.

Artist and craftsman in the time of Bismarck (1877 – 1890)

Victor Mayer was an artist. After training as a steel engraver, in 1877 he enrolled as one of the first students at the newly-founded Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts, where he made a particular name for himself as a talented draughtsman. Three years in Vienna gave the young artist further inspiration. He financed his stay in the imperial city by working as a steel engraver and model maker, learning new, sophisticated techniques in the process: guilloche and enamelling. In his spare time he educated himself in the museums and libraries of Vienna.

Victor Mayer as bridegroom and young entrepreneur, about 1890.

Home again, Victor Mayer married Lina Niemand of Baden Baden and founded his own jewellery manufactory, in which he was responsible for artistic management.

As a successful businessman he supported talented. down-at-heel artists with design commissions, revealing himself to have a keen eye. One such artist was Anton Krautheimer, who later made a name for himself in Munich as a Sezssion artist. He kept his head above water in his lean early years with jewellery designs for Victor Mayer.

Belle Époque (1890 – 1914)

Victor Mayer completed his art training in Historicism. However, from the end of the 1890s a completely new style emerged to influence the bourgeois and intellectual avantgarde the Belle Époque. Victor Mayer absorbed the new inspiration of Art Nouveau like fresh air, interpreting it in wonderful designs for his collections. With his technical know-how and craftsmanship he developed his own finely-crafted specialist tools for his jewellery. The perfection that he invested in his artistry and craftsmanship paid off. By the turn of the century he had made a major name for himself with his opulent and precious enamel collections in particular, the radiance and artistry of which was by all means comparable to that at the court of the Russian czar. The business grew.

Art nouveau sketches and dye struck ladies head, Victor Mayer 1906.

From the early days onwards, Victor Mayer travelled in person to customers throughout Europe. This enabled him to gain first-hand knowledge of their wishes and suggestions for improvement, which he in turn incorporated and realised. As a consequence, he developed an increasingly fine feel for the zeitgeist and forthcoming shifts in style.

Baden-Baden, the “summer capital of Europe” and hometown of his wife, was a particularly important centre of inspiration for him. Victor Mayer also found delighted customers in leading metropolises such as Berlin, Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Warsaw and even Cairo, as well as in the sophisticated Swiss spa resorts such as Davos, St. Moritz and around Lake Geneva.

Victor Mayer trained his three sons to be as versatile in craftsmanship and intellect as he himself was. His oldest son, Victor Junior, he sent to Paris, London and Madrid. The twins Oscar and Julius successfully attended the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts. Daughters Marie, Else and Erna were also raised to be confident, independent women, with an excellent education.

The First World War (1914 – 1918)

The First World War brought unforeseen grief to the Mayer family, as it did to so many families throughout Europe. Whichever side they fought on – the mourning of the fallen was suffered by friend and foe in equal measure.

Nine lockets, partly with guilloché work, enamel painting, 1910s.

Victor Junior was called up in 1914. Julius volunteered shortly after. Only Oskar, who had always been a sickly child in his youth, did not have to join up. In fact, he was not allowed to do so. His father forbade him from volunteering as his twin brother had done.

Oskar was the only son to survive the war. Victor died tragically in 1915 as a consequence of being shot in the chest. Julius fell in 1918, just before the ceasefire that brought the war to a close.

With unparalleled support from the family, Victor Mayer succeeded in navigating the company through the difficult times: alongside his son Oscar, all three daughters played an active role in the company at various times. Victor Mayer designed emotive mourning and remembrance jewellery that brought consolation to the families of fallen soldiers.

Art Deco and the Second World War

After the First World War Oskar initially took on the arduous and inspiring trips to the customers. Victor Mayer – still always well-informed with regard to customer requirements and tastes soon recognised the new trend of the age: Art Deco. This was to be the third style era that he was to dedicate his artistic designs to. Now over 60 but still flexible as a 20-year-old, he seized upon the impulses and created numerous successful collections.

In the mid 1920s his daughter Maria married the economist and banker Edmund Mohr, who promptly began to manage the company alongside Oscar Mayer, expanding the range to include precious utilitarian objects to satisfy shifting customer requirements: Victor Mayer now began also making powder compacts, cigarette holders, photo frames, pill boxes and high-quality gentlemen’s articles – whilst remaining true to the principles of artistic craftsmanship: painstakingly guilloche-worked and enamelled.

The Mohr family in the Second World War, ca. 1943. F.l.t.r: Bernhard Mohr, Victor Mohr, Maria Mohr, née Mayer, Manfred Mohr, Edmund Mohr, Herbert Mohr.

The entire extended Mayer family distanced itself from the regime of the National Socialists, primarily for religious reasons. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” outweighed all nationalist and militarist slogans of the time. Nevertheless, after the Second World War brought jewellery production to a standstill, the company undertook small commissions producing military decorations for the Wehrmacht.

Victor Mayer’s religious convictions paid off in 1945. A devastating air raid left the whole of Pforzheim in ashes and rubble. The Mayer residence with adjoining manufactory was miraculously left standing, providing shelter for numerous bombed-out families and the destroyed Catholic church. The fact that it was “l’église katholique provisoir” meant that the house was spared the looting of the French occupiers.

The economic miracle – A gentleman makes jewellery for his peers (1946 – 1964)

In early 1946 production slowly started again at Victor Mayer. The company founder died in peace. Oscar Mayer and Edmund Mohr managed the company through the years of the economic miracle.

In the decades that followed Edmund Mohr made his mark on the character of the company with his distinctive persona. He was a gentleman, the like of which there were few in Pforzheim. With style, bearing and a remarkable talent for luxury, which he extended to his customers. Under his leadership the company became a leading brand for fine gentlemen’s articles, whilst remaining a manufacturer of high-quality ladies’ jewellery.

Advertisement from trade magazine Goldschmiedezeitung, 1960.

The cosmopolitan businessman made jewellery and accessories for his contemporaries, finest works in gold, silver, ebony, tortoiseshell and enamel, as well as intensifying the global contacts that his father-in-law had established with outstanding customer service.

In private life, too, the second generation continued the traditions nurtured by founder Victor Mayer: all ten children of the two businessmen Oscar Mayer and Edmund Mohr received an exquisite education.

Return to jewellery and a renaissance in the art of craftsmanship (1965 – 1990)

Hubert Mayer and Dr. Herbert Mohr succeeded their fathers in the 1960s. Once again there was a new zeitgeist, the world became more fast-paced – and more global. And, like their grandfather, company founder Victor Mayer, Herbert Mohr and Hubert Mayer succeeded in making creative use of this time of transition for new artistic ideas. After all, they could now build upon three generations of solid knowledge and craftsmanship.

And so they made the right move: they focused once again on jewellery and unique design, investing in the superb traditional craftsmanship of Germany, developing it further, where mechanised assistance did not replace human expertise but rather extended it – in the process globalising not production but customers. More and more new customers were acquired in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and even the Caribbean.

VICTOR MAYER was working in the style of Fabergé from 1986-1990. Advertising leaflet “L’esprit de Fabergé”, 1988.

After 1990 these were joined by the former eastern bloc. This was thanks in particular to a design decision that Dr. Herbert Mohr had taken long before the fall of the Iron Curtain, originally purely out of interest and not with an eye to possible profits. As a student he had discovered his enthusiasm for the artistic craftsmanship in the court of the czar during lectures in Art History – and recognised parallels to the great works of his grandfather prior to the First World War. Radiant coloured enamel, finest guilloche work, artistic hand craftsmanship, precious gemstones – at the beginning of the 1980s Herbert Mohr combined all of these elements to develop the collection Esprit de Fabergé, which one and a half decades later was to make the name of Victor Mayer famous once again all around the world.

The Mohr family at the celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary, city hall of Pforzheim 1990. F.l.t.r: Marcus Mohr, Philipp Mohr, Heidrun Mohr-Mayer, née Steffen, Daniel Mohr and Herbert Mohr –Mayer.

Because to mark the company’s 100th anniversary, Victor Mayer was officially appointed the new Fabergé workmaster. For nearly 70 years the brand name had slumbered, sold to an American company by the heirs to the jeweller after the fall of the czar. As the walls in the east tumbled, the brand was resuscitated, not least thanks to the creative expertise and quality work of the Victor Mayer manufactory, which has nurtured the crafts of enamelling and guilloche like scarcely any other in the world, and continues to master them to this day.

Jewellery and art are timeless – today and in the future (1990 – 2090)

After the premature death of Hubert Mayer the company passed into the sole ownership of the Mohr family. Herbert Mohr-Mayer led the company to major international success with the renaissance in craftsmanship that he promoted. Now over 60 years old, he poured great energy into developing new creations, as well as enhancing the image of the company with international events and presentations. In the process he repeatedly succeeded in uniting craftsmanship and the fine arts. From 1999 onwards he began to transfer central tasks in the further development of the brand to his son Marcus, before retiring from management functions completely in 2003. Herbert Mohr-Mayer has composed several books relating to the company, including two on the history of VICTOR MAYER.

Two generations of Mohr. F.l.t.r: Dr. Marcus Mohr and Evelyn Mohr with Heidrun Mohr-Mayer (†2014), Dr. Herbert Mohr-Mayer.

The craftsmanship, the artistry and the feel for the zeitgeist have also been inherited by great-grandson Dr. Marcus Oliver Mohr, who is now the fourth generation to manage the company. He, too, enjoyed a broad and comprehensive education, studying philosophy in addition to business management skills, lending a distinctive note to his view of the significance of jewellery.

Marcus Mohr is also responsible for the creative management at Victor Mayer which, still located in Germany, continues to count on intelligent and timeless design in the VICTOR MAYER style, superbly-trained craftsmen and personal connections to customers all around the world.

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