Swedish Porphyry

by Liza Laserow

Swedish porphyry Urn with a gilt bronze detail. All original from 18th Century.


Sarcophagi of King Karl XIV Johan in The Bernadotte chapel, built 1858-1860.

The mineral was namned 300 B.C. after the Greek name for purple: porfyreos. Purple was considered a royal color and therefore became the preferred mineral. The mineral was first mentioned in Swedish literature 1679 and was discovered by the Swedish botanist Carl Von Linne on his trip through Alvdalen 1734. The experiments to polish it started 1780 and were ready five years later.  Councillor Nils Adam Bielke showed samples of porphyry to the king Gustav III who was impressed by the new material and used it in the interiors of Haga Castle.

The porphyry Works of Älvdalen was founded 1788 by governors and industrialists in order to start producing porphyry objects. The company bought land in the village of Näset and Erik Hagström was appointed the first manager of the manufacturing. The works were later bought by King Karl XIV Johan and when the king died 1844 the making of the famous porphory sarcophagus in The Riddarholm church, Stockholm, started. The masterpiece weight 16 tons. 1867 a devastating fire ruined two of the three mills in Älvdalen and after the fire only smaller object could be made. The production continued to the middle of 1890’s.

At the moment Sothebys is having an auction where a pair of Swedish porphyry urns are being sold: http://www.sothebys.com/en/catalogues/ecatalogue.html/2012/the-collection-of-suzanne-saperstein-n08891#/r=/en/ecat.fhtml.N08891.html+r.m=/en/ecat.lot.N08891.html/100/