The modest beginnings
From a brochure from 1900.
Nicolaus Christoph Robbe
* 1843, † 1916
Nicolaus Christoph Robbe, great great grandfather of the current owner, founded the Flensburg silversmiths. He worked alone – supported only by his wife Luise – in his small workshop to produce silver cutlery and table accessories, commissioned by and based on the designs of jewellers from the Flensburg region. He was distinguished by his modesty and skill.
Master and assistants, 1906. Left: Robert Berking, right: Nicolaus Christoph Robbe
* 1872, † 1908
The final years of the 19th century were shaped by an economic boom. In 1897, a very talented assistant was appointed: Robert Berking came from the respected Braunschweig Bürgerhaus. He had learned the silversmith trade in his home town and completed his master craftsman certificate. He fell in love with Henriette Robbe, the daughter of his master, married her and took a 50 percent holding in the small company. The company's first strong period of growth began with Robert Berking. In the short 12 years before his early accidental death, the young and highly skilled master silversmith expanded the workshop, developed the company's own range of cutlery and built the company's first building in Sophienstrasse in Flensburg. He succeeded in expanding the trading area, which until that point had been limited to the area around Flensburg, to Königsau (now Denmark) in the north and to the border with Hamburg in the south. The number of staff grew quickly: In 1907, there were twelve assistants working in the workshop.
Robert Berking died at the age of just 35 in a bathing accident in 1908. As his four children were still too young to take on the family business, his young widow, Henriette Berking, took over the company, supported by her father Nicolaus Christoph Robbe and her brother Arnold Robbe.
The new factory, 1956.
* 1899, † 1964
The oldest son, Theodor Berking, took over management of the company in 1925. During the 40 years of his management, his efforts saw the small workshop be transformed into one of northern Germany's most well-respected silversmiths with 100 employees. His self-discipline and professional ethics remain the obligatory role model for his successors.
During the Second World War, the number of workers was limited by military service. The demand for silver cutlery collapsed and the company kept its head above water by manufacturing military crosses.
Despite the poor starting conditions caused by the loss of markets in what was now the Soviet occupation zone, Robbe & Berking also profited from the boom years following the currency reform in 1949. The number of employees grew, leading to the company moving to a larger factory building in the Zur Bleiche street in 1956.
The silversmith's company offices, 1991.
In 1958 Robert Berking took the management of his father. In the four decades of his work the company changed from a regional provider, restricted only to Schleswig-Holstein and Ostfriesland, to Europe’s largest manufacturer of silver cutlery. The range of patterns designed by him has achieved international recognition. It contributed greatly to the revenue that increased to an unusual degree under his leadership.
With the set-up of its own handcrafted manufacturing of silver table accessories and gift articles, the pure cutlery manufacturer turned into a silver manufacture. The company strategy developed by Robert Berking is still as ever basis for the further expansion of its global sales territory.
Oliver Berking began working for the family business in 1985. In 1997, he took over the company after 12 years of working at his father's side, and became the 5th generation to take over the reins. Robbe & Berking owes its significant consolidation of the global market to the motto of Oliver Berking's great great grandfather: "Others may make it cheaper but none may be better." Despite the widespread relocation of labour-intensive work processes to countries with low wage structures, Oliver Berking established the company as a pure manufacturer and, in doing so, ensured that all of the silver and silverplate pieces created by the company are solely produced in the workshops in Flensburg.
In 2008, Oliver Berking founded Robbe & Berking Classics, which builds classic yachts made solely from wood and with a timeless elegance; the company has a subsidiary, Baum & König, which is a yacht broker; and has been publishing the international lifestyle magazine GOOSE since 2011.
In 2009, Robbe & Berking opened a precious metal trading company and, with it, another field of business, which has since been experiencing strong growth. Besides the collection of silver pieces, bars and coins made from gold and silver are now sold and purchased in 10 shops in Vienna, Flensburg, Kiel, Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich.
Robbe & Berking continues to grow and now stands as one of Germany's most successful luxury brands.