Bonebakker since 1792
Portrait of Adrianus Bonebakker by Adriaan de Lelie, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
A golden birth
Adrianus Bonebakker has played an important role in the history of the silver and jewellery trade in The Netherlands.
He was born in the town of Tiel, where his father ran a subsidiary of ‘De bank van Lening’ ( the bank of loans) in the municipality of Buren en Tiel. Bankers like his father also traded in gold, silver and coins and so the love for these precious metals comes naturally to Adrianus. The young Bonebakker doesn’t stay in Tiel, however, and in 1792 he settles in Amsterdam where he starts courting the daughter of saddle maker Jacques du Pré. He also proofs himself as a master before the city’s Silver Guild.
It doesn’t take long before Adrianus Bonebakker is rewarded important commissions like those from the board of the city of Amsterdam, the bourgeoisie and later also from the royal family. Besides his love for the craft of silver and jewellery making, Bonebakker has a keen interest in art and around 1820 he becomes a member of ‘de Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten’ (the Royal Art Academy).
Adrianus Bonebakker dies in 1824. The legacy he leaves behind consists of a company that, even today, has a tremendous influence on the silver industry and the jewellery trade in the Netherlands and abroad.
Trial of the Pyx in the Guild’s Chamber. Adrianus Bonebakker is the man on the right.
Watercolour painting by Andries Graffelman, 1807
Portal to the future
In the days of Adrianus Bonebakker starting a trade was not for every-one. Only as ‘Poorter’ of the city one could become a member of a Guild and start a trade. This s0-called Poorterrecht (the right to live and trade) was much sought-after.
On the 15 June 1792 Adrianus Bonebakker procures this right and becomes a Poorter of the city of Amsterdam. That same day he appears before the dean of the high-counsel of the Amsterdam Guild for Gold and Silversmiths and asks permission to take the master exam in order to become a member of their Guild. His request is granted and for the mandatory exam Bonebakker has to create a number of silver buckles. Four days later he shows his work and is accepted as a master in the Guild, at which time Atelier Bonebakker is established. It is the start of one of the most important jewellery brand names in Dutch history.
View on the Reguliersgracht where Bonebakker and Bennewitz establish their shop in 1802
A strong collaboration
In 1802 Adrianus Bonebakker decides to join forces with Dirk Lodewijk Bennewitz. Dirk is a highly talented master silversmith in the employ of the silversmith brothers Peirolet, who keep shop at Herengracht/Reguliersgracht (now the corner of Thorbeckeplein).
After both of the Peirolet brothers have passed away, the Peirolet widow decides to sell the Peirolet company, and Dirk Bennewitz and Adrianus Bonebakker seize the opportunity to buy it. Bennewitz stays on as the silversmith whereas Bonebakker becomes the trade director for their new enterprise Bonebakker & Bennewitz.
It doesn’t take long for their company to flourish and expand, their reputation continues to grow and soon they are the Netherland’s gold and silversmith shop to go to for custom-made orders for special occasions.
The Bonebakker family in the company of Dirk L. Bennewitz. The latter is holding a chestnut vase in his hand; next to him is the young Jacques Antoine Bonebakker. (Adriaan de Lelie, 1809, Rijksmuseum)
Silver keys to the city of Amsterdam
In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte appoints his brother Louis Napoleon as king of the Netherlands. The new king is full of good intentions for ‘his’ Holland and Bonebakker & Bennewitz design and create a set of keys to the city of Amsterdam, which are then officially handed to the beloved king by the Stadhouder (Governor) of Amsterdam.
After Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte has relieved Louis of his duties in The Netherlands, the emperor incorporates the country into his French empire and Bonebakker & Bennewitz also make a set of symbolic keys to the city of Amsterdam for him. These are handed to the emperor at the Muiderpoort city gate.
Napoleon entering the city of Amsterdam (Mattheus Ignatius van Bree, 1812-1813, Amsterdam Museum)
When in 1813, King William I (William Frederick, Prince of Orange Nassau) attends Amsterdam for his inauguration as the first, real king of the independent Kingdom of the Netherlands, he is offered the set of keys originally made for Louis Napoleon. It is this key, dating back to 1806, that still has a prominent place in Bonebakker’s jewellery collection today.
Marital portrait of Anna Pavlovna and William II (Jan Willem Pieneman, collection of the City Museum, Tilburg)
In 1816 William II, the eldest son of King William I, marries Anna Pavlovna of Russia, sister of Russian Tsar Alexander I and granddaughter of Catherine the Great. This marriage forges a strong alliance between the Oranges and the powerful Romanovs.
After the glorious wedding ceremony in Saint Petersburg, the newlyweds pay a visit to Amsterdam, where 8 days of festivities are organised in their honour. Bennewitz & Bonebakker receive the commission to create a silver dinner set of no less than 419 pieces, including an eye catching triumphal arch. An angel on top of this magnificent showpiece holds the marital crowns over the heads of the bride and groom, who are seated in a triumphal chariot.
Triumphal arch, showpiece of the 1816 silver table set, ebony, height: 78 cm, length: 64,5 cm,
Royal Collection, The Hague
For Dutch standards, the exuberance and splendour of this dinner set is excessive, but Anna, who is accustomed to the pomp of the Russian court, must have felt right at home. She, herself, brings boxes full of riches from Russia: fabrics, jewellery, furniture, trinkets and even the complete décor for a church. Nonetheless, she is still very much impressed by the table set with the triumphal arch and becomes a loyal customer of Bonebakker.
Portrait of Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna by Nicaise De Keyser, 1850, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
In 1822 Jacques Antoine Bonebakker becomes co-owner of As Bonebakker & Son
Royal dinner set
In 1822 Adrianus appoints his son, Jacques Antoine, as co-director of the company. They settle in a shop on the corner of the Herengracht and Leidsestraat. Adrianus dies in 1824 and is succeeded by Jaques Antoine. In 1826, after the death of master silversmith Dirk Lodewijk Bennewitz, he becomes the sole director of the company that already has been renamed As Bonebakker & Zoon.
In the years following, As Bonebakker & Zoon engages silversmith Theodorus Gerardus Bentvelt (1782-1853). This reputable silversmith already has his atelier close by on the Herengracht and will remain in the service of Bonebakker & Zoon until his death. In the 1840s Bentvelt creates several objects for Bonebakker & Zoon, in both silver and gold.
Again in 1830, Bonebakker receives a royal commission. The city of Amsterdam places an order for a 94 piece silver dinner set for the wedding of princess Marianne, daughter and favourite of King William I, and Frederik Hendrik Albert, prince of Prussia. This set is excessively documented in Bonebakker’s archives and costs 18,837 guilders, an exuberant amount at the time. Also unusual at the time is that princess Marianne reciprocates the gift with a return gift of her own portrait to the city of Amsterdam. This painting is hung next to her father’s portrait in the city’s boardroom.
Honorary sabre with golden grip and feathered helmet.
The grip ends in a shield showing the citadel; the sabre’s blade is partially painted blue.
Swords and sabres
Bonebakker & Zoon does not only receive commissions for beautiful silverware, but also for the creation of special arms, such as the uncommonly beautiful honorary sabre for general Chassé. General Baron David Hendrik Chassé had the command of the Dutch Division during the Napoleonic wars, amongst which, in 1815, the battle of Waterloo. In 1831, he receives this gold Chassé sword, which is presented to him by his dignitary friends from his hometown of Tiel. The sword bears the master mark of silversmith Theodorus Gerardus Bentvelt.
The Belgian revolt also results in a number of commissions for gold and silver honorary sabres and swords, amongst which a golden sabre commissioned in 1831 by the prince of Orange.
Drawing of the view on Het Witte Paard, now Herengracht 376, Amsterdam
Het Witte Paard (The White Horse building)
In 1838 Jacques Antoine Bonebakker relocates his company and moves from the corner of Herengracht/Leidsestraat to a 18th-century canal house called Het Witte Paard (now Herengracht no. 376) to be even closer to his wealthy customers, who reside along the canals. The building is thoroughly renovated and redecorated in the luxurious Empire style.
This is a golden move as two years later Bonebakker receives the most important commission in his career.
During the time in which As Bonebakker & Zoon is located in Het Witte Paard many important clients find their way to his workshop. Amongst them is the widow Johanna Jacoba Borski, who continues her late husband’s banking business as Firma Weduwe W. Borski. She is a wealthy heiress and owns six mansions in Amsterdam and the Elswoud estate in Overveen.
But also Mrs. Six (who is married to wealthy art collector Lord Jan Six), Queen Anna Pavlovna, Willem van Loon (co-founder and commander of the VOC (East India Company)) and Johannes van den Bosch (Governor General of the Dutch Indies) are now amongst Bonebakker’s loyal customers. During this period the mayoral chains are crafted for the Mayors of Amsterdam and Leiden.
A new crown for the king
On 7 October 1840, King William I suddenly abdicates. The new king, William II, desires a new crown for his inauguration. The Netherlands are now separated from Belgium and King William II doesn’t want to use the crown that was used in Brussels by his predecessor. Besides, he’s married to a Russian princess and he wants the most spectacular inauguration ceremony the Netherlands has ever seen.
Portrait of King Willem II (1849, Nicolaas Pieneman, Hermitage, St. Petersburg)
A comment in Bonebakker’s archives states:
Delivered on the 27th November to HRH Willem II, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg etc., etc., etc,:
One large, heavily fire-guilt, silver Royal Crown, the edge encircled with, and set in solid gold, a diversity of coloured gems and pearls beneath eight rows of graduated pearls spreading over the blades and itself lined with a toque of red velvet. The crown was transported in a white Arabian walnut case lined with (purple) velvet.
Theodorus Gerardus Bentvelt creates the crown, which today is still used for inaugurations of kings and queens in The Netherlands. It was last used in 2013 for the inauguration of King Willem Alexander.
Note: In its present state the crown is different from the one in the original design drawing from 1840,
which can be admired in the Bonebakker Boutique of the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam.
A change of course
Theodorus Gerardus Bentvelt, who had become one of the most important Dutch silversmiths of the first half of the 19th century, dies in 1853 and Jacques Antoine Bonebakker decides to set a new course for the company. He buys a property in the Korte Leidsedwarsstraat, employs able craftsmen and engages Pieter Pieterse as master silversmith. From then on, all pieces that leave the atelier bear, next to the Bonebakker mark, also Pieterse’s master mark. In 1854 the sons of Jacques Antoine, Willem Christiaan and Johannes Christiaan Reinier, become the third generation of directors in the company.
Artis – Westerman chalice
1 May 1838 had seen the founding of the society of Natura Artis Magistra (Nature as teacher of the arts). At its 25th anniversary, the members of Artis present the founder-director, dr. G. F. Westerman, with a chalice, measuring 50 cm in height. The gift is delivered by Bonebakker and is handcrafted by silversmith Pieter Pieterse.
This Artis or Westerman chalice from 1863 is a splendid illustration of the animal kingdom in all its aspects. The stand is in the shape of an oak tree and hiding within are a snake, a condor, and a parrot. The foot is decorated with an otter holding a fish in its mouth, a crocodile, a newt, a turtle, a crab and several shells. But the most elaborate decorations are situated on the goblet and consist of the expressive heads of a lion, a buffalo, and a rhinoceros. On top of the lid is a statue of Minerva, the goddess of study, who has one hand resting on a book that refers to the work of the French, natural scientist Georges Buffon.
Broche of a monogram made for Queen Emma
Tiaras, bracelets and…. axes
Bonebakker has been a Royal Supplier to all the 19th-century kings of Orange. In 1865 King William III personally grants the company the right to carry the Royal Crest. William’s second spouse, the German Princess Emma van Waldeck Pyrmont, whom he married in 1879, does the same in 1882. She will become Bonebakker’s most important customer. On 19 May 1950, Emma’s granddaughter, Queen Juliana, also grants Bonebakker ‘the right to carry the Royal Crest with the title of Royal Supplier’.
In the summer months of the years 1892 to 1897, when she resides in the Loo Palace, Queen Emma orders four bracelets. Each one of the matt gold or twisted matt golden bracelets, bear the monogram W. E & crown: the W set with rubies or sapphires, the E and the crown set with brilliant cut diamonds. Each of the monograms can also be worn as a brooch.
Moreover, Bonebakker creates several little axes with golden decorations, used by members of the royal family for ceremonial ship launchings. In 1892, for example, the 12-year old Queen Wilhelmina, travels from Het Loo Palace to Amsterdam for the launch of the vessel ‘Koningin Wilhelmina’. During the ceremony, in the pouring rain, she uses one of the small silver axes created by Bonebakker.
Silver ax from 1892, for Queen Wilhelmina
Belle Epoque necklace with diamonds, circa 1900. This platinum and white gold necklace bears the master sign of As Bonebakker & Son, decorated with swirling bows and ribbons, including pear shaped droplets with rose cut diamonds set in foil and a brooch pin, length ca. 39,5 cm
The beautiful era
The period between circa 1900 and the WW1, also known as the Belle Epoque, Fin de Siècle or ‘the beautiful era’ becomes a time that Bonebakker flourishes. In this period of great wealth, there is plenty of scope for science and art. The trend in art becomes very ornate and voluptuous, a style that can be seen in both architecture and jewellery.
Bonebakker adopts this fashionable trend by creating high quality, elegant jewellery. In the style of the Belle Epoque the jeweller adds different gems to his collection of gold, silver and diamonds. Jewellery made of gold and platinum are decorated with sapphires and emeralds. But Bonebakker also creates necklaces made from rare pearls. At jewellery exhibitions where silversmiths show off their abilities, the firm always wins gold, silver and honourable medals.
Broche/pendant in garland style with detachable parts, in platinum and gold,
fully set with rose cut diamonds and two pear-cut diamond pendants.
In this period the board of the Bonebakker company sees a lot of changes. Johan Christiaan Reinier, who dies in 1883, is succeeded by his son Willem Gerard. Willem Christiaan leaves the company in 1890 and is succeeded by his brother Carl. From 1891 Bonebakker is run by the two cousins who incorporate the adjacent building into the company.
In 1911 Carl Bonebakker quotes: ‘Our new building must keep a dignified distinction, shown in the exterior as well as the interior decoration. This will be best achieved by keeping everything in the Empire style. We must also maintain the air of a closed shop, however with clear signs of ongoing trade.’
Presentation drawing for a silver jardinière from 1926
Gifts and secrets
In 1926 Bonebakker receives the special commission for creating a royal gift for the city of Amsterdam in honour of its 600-year anniversary and the opening of a new wing of the town hall. In the new workshop on Tweede Wetering Dwarsstraat, master smith Maarten Zwollo creates a 16-piece dinner set, which, amongst others, contains fruit bowls, jardinières on a plateau and candelabras. The total weight in silver is 74.48 kilos.
Then, in 1929, the big stock market crash also has an impact on Bonebakker and the company faces hard times that will last until after WWII.
In 1943 Carl senior hands over the management of the company to his sons Carl and Adrianus. They decide to secure their entire stock and collection and sit out the war. The transport of the goods to a secure place is done in the greatest secrecy: the valuable silver is taken away by hand-pulled carts, covered by canvas. Another part of the silver stock is hidden in the cellar of the building of Het Witte Paard, behind a pile of rubble. Even though the Germans raid the place, they never discover the silver.
Entrance to Bonebakker & Son, at Rokin 88-99, Amsterdam
After WWII Bonebakker relocates to Rokin 88-99, which is in the middle of Amsterdam’s shopping area. This building is more spacious and very prestigious, yet with the typical Bonebakker intimacy of a closed shop.
The post-war customer is prepared to pay a little more for an exclusive jewel or watch and it is decided that jewellery and watches of other renowned brands, such as Patek Philippe and Piaget, are added to the Bonebakker collection. The high quality of these brands matches the quality Bonebakker pursues.
The new location of the shop is also very attractive for international customers; the proximity of the Central Station and large hotels offer a great advantage in comparison to the previous location of Het Witte Paard, where clients could only visit after making an appointment.
Finally, Ferdinand Bonebakker takes over the helm of the company. He is the 6th generation of Bonebakker and under his management shops are opened in Hilversum, Rotterdam, The Hague and on the island of Curaçao.
Shop window of Bonebakker & Son at the Rokin in Amsterdam
Exhibition catalogue of the ‘Grand Silver of Bennewitz & Bonebakker’
exhibition in the Willet-Holthuysen Museum in Amsterdam
From 1 December 2006 up until 9 April 2007, the Willet-Holthuysen Museum in Amsterdam organizes an exhibition called Silverware 1800-1850, showing silverware from the shops of Diederik Lodewijk Bennewitz and Adrianus Bonebakker. The museum states on its website: ‘Amsterdam has always been the centre of the Dutch gold and silver craftsmanship. Amsterdam silverware from the first half of the 19th century was even considered the highest standard for all of the Netherlands. Numerous renowned silversmiths have created for Bennewitz & Bonebakker. The Exhibition shows a selection of silverware, such as tea sets, coffee and chocolate carafes, terrines, baskets, chestnut vases, candelabras, and ceremonial objects, such as honorary swords and prize chalices.’
More antique pieces by Bonebakker can be found in the permanent collections of prestigious museums like the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
Bonebakker jewellery and silverware are also displayed during temporary exhibitions, like the one about King William II in the city of Dordrecht recently, as well as during the wonderful exhibition in Het Loo Royal Palace in 2013, the year of the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.
Bonebakker pieces are also part of the Royal Collections.
Gold chalice with blue and white enamel from 1849,
this is one of the many pieces by As Bonebakker & Son
exhibited in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Jewellery Boutique in five star hotel
In 2012 Bonebakker opens a jewellery boutique in the new, five star, Conservatorium Hotel located near the Museumplein in Amsterdam. The elaborate heritage of the oldest jeweller of the Netherlands and excellent craftsmanship are combined in the Rijkspostspaarbank’s former director’s chambers.
Apart from its own successful jewellery collection, Bonebakker presents jewellery from a few other renowned European Maisons.
The central display is a true eye catcher in the Bonebakker boutique of the Conservatiorium Hotel
At the Grand Opening on 22 March 2012 of the boutique in the Conservatorium Hotel, the Dutch elite are invited as well as foreign dignitaries, celebrities and VIPs as dancers of the famous Scapino Ballet perform beautiful scenes from their show ‘Pearl’.
Gold ring set with aquamarine from the Key of Amsterdam Collection
Key of Amsterdam Collection
The way the eye of the key of Amsterdam was made and the fact that it was handed to Louis Napoleon in 1806 and later to the first King of Orange of the Netherlands, William I, serves as a source of inspiration for a jewellery collection exclusively made in the Bonebakker workshops. At the opening of the new jewellery boutique in the Conservatorium Hotel, the first pendant of this collection is offered to Jannie Iwema, the boutique’s new managing director.
The Key of Amsterdam Collection soon becomes the signature collection of Bonebakker. The key is a symbol of power and trust and consists of rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces.
Silver cufflinks from the Key of Amsterdam Collection
18 carat gold ring set with black, rose cut and brilliant cut diamonds, the first ring from the Bridges of Amsterdam Collection
Oldest Jeweller of the Netherlands offers ode to Amsterdam
Today, even after 225 years, Bonebakker is still an innovative and sparkling jewellery boutique in the heart of Amsterdam. That is why the oldest jeweller of the Netherlands, and Europe, celebrates its anniversary with a jubilee collection, which pays tribute to the city that saw the making of this illustrous company.
Amsterdam counts more than 1500 bridges and the importance of these land connections must not be underestimated. After all, the shapes of these bridges have a characteristic appearance that can be perceived as city jewels.
The first ring in the collection of The Bridges of Amsterdam is inspired by the location in Amsterdam at which point the most consecutive bridges can be seen. That spot, which has seen many marriage proposals and other memorable moments, is at the corner of Thorbeckeplein/ Herengracht/ Reguliersgracht. Not coincidentally, this is also the location where Bonebakker was first established.
For its 225 year anniversary, Bonebakker created a special Celebration Key of Amsterdam.
Made of 18-carat gold and set with diamonds