One of the leading silversmiths in the world and one of Germany’s finest exports, Robbe & Berking have been crafting since 1874. Family-owned and in its fifth generation, they’re considered connoisseurs of cutlery and tableware and have built their success on timeless design and high-quality craftsmanship.
Today at the helm is Oliver Berking, who took over after working alongside his father for twelve years. Oliver talks us through family history, fitting out yachts with Robbe & Berking silver and what’s next for the 143-year-old luxury brand…
Describe the brand in 3 words.
Made with LOVE.
Can you tell us the story of Robbe & Berking?
Always passionate and not afraid of the big luxury corporations. No compromise when it comes to design and quality. Manufacturing only with our own master craftsmen and in our own workshops. And only working with nice people.
The brand was founded in 1874 and you’re the 5th generation of the family at the helm. How has it changed over the years, and in what ways has it stayed the same?
The world has changed dramatically, of course. My world consists of classic yachts made of wood and noble tableware made of silver. In the silver market in particular, we are now almost the last to not have our products manufactured in the Far East. That will never change.
Your great-great-grandfather said: "Others may make it cheaper but none may be better." What do you think makes Robbe & Berking the best?
We make a little extra effort. In everything.
In addition to silverware, you also make beautiful luxury yachts – can you tell us how that part of the business came about?
We live next to one of the most beautiful sailing areas: the Flensburg Fjord. As different as the products are, both companies actually do the same thing. Pieces from noble material – silver and wood – made by hand, of such timeless beauty that you never throw them away. And all of them with an outer appearance that fascinates people in 100 years as much as today. We sell emotions and we all love that.
Where do you get inspiration from for your collections?
Everything I look at in the world I do with the eyes of a designer who only accepts good forms. No matter if it's a car, a house, a boat or a shoe. And the world is full of suggestions. But our standards are always very high. We want timelessness and never follow passing trends or fashions.
How long is the design and manufacturing process for creating an item of silverware?
Sometimes the design idea comes like a flash in seconds. Very often those are the best. And we implement them the way my great-great-grandfather did, with the traditional silversmith techniques that, unfortunately, hardly anyone but us has mastered today.
What’s your favourite design from the whole collection and why?
I have been responsible for design at Robbe & Berking for some decades, and we only implement new designs if they have excited me beforehand. I love them all. Also, our new Belvedere bar collection. At home we use our cutlery design Riva.
Your latest collection features silver barware accessories – what’s your cocktail of choice and what’s your favourite bar in the world?
I like to drink a glass of good wine and rarely cocktails. I am currently building my own “favourite bar in the world” in an old listed house between our Robbe & Berking shipyard and our shipyard museum. Almost 100,000 people visit our museum every year - at least before COVID-19. I look forward to their feedback.
Which hotel or restaurant would you like to see your cutlery in?
We have the honour to have equipped restaurants with a total of almost 200 Michelin stars with our cutlery, and over 40% of the 200 largest private yachts in the world also set our silverware on their tables. 250 stars and 50% would be a good next target.
What’s been your career highlight so far, and can you tell us one of your future ambitions?
We are two small companies with hardly more than 200 employees. The markets in which we operate are also niche markets. I am proud that we have long been the world market leader in the silver cutlery market and we want to achieve the same in wooden boats.
If you hadn’t chosen this career path, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Babysitter maybe. Or fisherman?
What does 2021 and beyond have in store for Robbe & Berking?
We never run out of ideas. Wait and see.