OA 1710. When the directors of Orfèvrerie d’Anjou appended these dated initials to the name of their company, they were on to a good thing. Clean and minimalistic, the name perfectly captures the very essence of the fabrication process, and is a direct nod to the high-design, streamlined and resolutely contemporary objects manufactured on the banks of the loire. Essentially, the appendage also rightly recognises the perpetuation of this age-old craft. It was indeed in 1710 that master pewtersmith antoine alègre founded the anjou pewter foundry. Over the course of several centuries, the workshops manufactured the usual tableware, including plates, dishes and bowls, right up until the 1990s, when the offer was given a major overhaul. “French wine and Champagne companies, finding themselves limited by the Loi Evin policy, which imposed strict regulations on alcohol advertising, were looking to boost their presence in hotels and other on-trade establishments,” explains Arnaud Montfort, Managing Director of Orfèvrerie d’Anjou. “Senior management at the time realised there was a huge potential for luxury, decorative objects.” Still today, the manufacture of Champagne bowls and ice buckets accounts for the lion’s share of the business, which has just been awarded the coveted EPV label – Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant – a mark of recognition from the French Government for the excellence of its traditional and industrial savoir-faire. Accessories are sold under the ‘OA 1710’ brand or even commissioned exclusively for clients. Not forgetting the production of trophies for sporting federations and competitions.
When it comes to satisfying the creative demands of brands, no effort is spared. Most notably Orfèvrerie d’Anjou has perfected a specialised polishing technique to give its products a very clear tone and brilliant shine, which is worlds apart from the conventional image of pewter paraphernalia, where the patina takes on a greyish hue. In addition, in a manufacturing process still essentially carried out by hand, the process also comprises 3D laser cutting to create innovative designs and shapes. “Everything is carried out in such a way to follow the precise brief of the well-known designers who we work with. Saying no is not part of our culture,” confides Arnaud Montfort. Transforming pewter ingots into stunning works of art is not a technique acquired overnight. Consummate skill and passing on this mastery is a major consideration. To build loyalty among its talented workforce, the company has an all-important trick up its sleeve: the appeal of pewter craft dedicated entirely to pure aesthetics. “The objects we create are associated with celebration and triumph”, points out Arnaud Montfort. “During the manufacturing process, our colleagues enter our clients’ emotional universe and have a vital role to play in meeting their pleasure.” And what better profession than one that involves adding the finishing touch to an enchanted interlude?
Pewter is a metal alloy most often extracted from casserite (tinstone). Instead of using pure pewter, Orfèvrerie d’Anjou combines antimony (2.5%) and copper (0.5%) to make it stronger and more durable. The resulting material has a number of advantages. It can be easily worked, complies with food hygiene standards, resistant to corrosion and oxidation (unlike silver), fully recyclable and has a warm, white appearance, unlike aluminium which is colder. It also comes in varnish, gloss lacquer and colour finishes.