‘HEFRA’ Warsaw Silverware Manufactory, whose tradition dates back to 196 years ago, is the only company in Poland that produces exclusive cutlery and table accessories – hand-made, entirely of 925 sterling silver having the highest fineness, plated with fine silver 999 and made of 18/10 stainless steel.
The company was founded in 1824 by an entrepreneur, Alfons Fraget, who came from France. A few years later, his brother Józef joined the company. That was him who introduced the latest technologies and machines used in the plating industry to the factory which was in no way inferior to the newest and most perfectly operating one in Paris. Almost instantly, Fraget's factory became a valued supplier of exquisite silverware and plated products for rich elites, aristocrats and the most influential people in Poland and in the world.
Constantly introduced improvements and the new ways of producing plated products put Fraget's factory in the row of modern industrial plants of then Warsaw. At the time of the founder's death (1867), the factory employed 250 employees, had 24 iron lathe workshops, a pattern shop, a foundry, a drilling workshop, a carpentry workshop, mechanical shears and fans, instead of the commonly used bellows, all moved by means of a steam engine with powerful boilers.
Henneberg brothers’ factory
The competition did not sleep too long. No later than in 1856, one of the former employees of the Fraget brothers, Juliusz Józef Henneberg, opened his own silver business, which was operating equally dynamically, although slightly more modernly. As early as in 1878, as the first factory in the country, it used white metal for the production of cutlery. In 1884, the value of production doubled from Rs 60,000 to Rs 120,000, and soon, in 1888, employment increased from 107 to 166 workers.
The factory had its own stores in Warsaw at streets like at ul.Trębacka 1, ul. Nalewki 12 and at the Hotel Europejski [‘European Hotel’], as well as in Moscow. In Saint Petersburg, Tiflis (Tbilisi) and Irkutsk, it had its representative offices.
However, it was the iconic patterns and majestic decorations of Fraget's silver that had the primacy. After the death of Józef Fraget in 1867, the factory was taken over by his son Julian, who, in addition to continuing the quality of production, ensured that the company was employing qualified Polish specialists and workers.
HEFRA – an award-winning leader
From 1884, the company broadly developed the production of silver products made of 84 fineness. In search of inspiration, it was using the patterns of native artists and cooperating, among others, with Siemiradzki and Kucharzewski. Fearful of competition and fakes, the factory used to keep its own stores in cities such as Tiflis (Tbilisi), Constantinople (Istanbul), Lviv, Minsk, Zhytomyr, Grodno, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kharkiv, Odessa, Kiev, Vilnius and Lodz.
At those days, the company was presenting its products at many exhibitions and winning a number of prestigious awards there.
In 1890, Fraget was employing 400 workers and the power of working machines was 85HP, while the value of production was estimated at 781k rubles. At that time, the Henneberg Brothers were employing 168 workers, their machines had 40HP and they were reaching 170k rubles in production.
Silver and plated products on the most important tables in the world
After World War I, both Fraget and Henneberg could boast of excellent sales results. The distribution network of Polish silverware expanded to include countries such as Bulgaria, Persia, Greece, Romania and even China. In 1928, the King of Afghanistan personally placed an order for tableware and Fraget's artistic table accessories for his court. The company promised that it would adapt its production to the taste of the people of Afghanistan and it was getting ready to launch a store in Kabul. The company was also delivering tableware to European courts, e.g. the king of Serbia, the king of Romania and the Shah of Persia. In the meantime, Fraget opened stores in Mescheda, Alexandria and Cairo.
In Poland, the most important hotels and casinos, ministries and government institutions were supplied by the factory. Bristol, the most luxurious Warsaw hotel, was also equipped with Fraget's tableware. Fraget’s cutlery was even on the first voyage of the ship named Batory", which sailed from Gdynia to America in 1936. The ship was distinguished by its exceptional elegance, because, like M/S Piłsudski, it was to serve as a floating salon and an embassy of Polish culture. A special commission took care of its interior design that designed not only the appearance of individual rooms, but also such details as tableware and menu cards.
On the other hand, in the years 1907-1930, the products of the Henneberg Brothers received 6 gold medals, 4 silver ones and a bronze one. Representatives in Poznań, Cracow, Lviv, Vilnius, Włocławek and Gdańsk were dealing with their sales. Until the great crisis, the company also had representative offices abroad: in Romania, Persia, Bulgaria, Greece, South Africa (Port Elisabeth), Canada and China (Harbin and Shanghai). At that time, 280 employees were employed, including 6 technical employees and 10 officials.
HEnnenberg + FRAget = HEFRA
After World War II, both Fraget and the Henneberg Brothers’ plants were largely destroyed and looted, as they got nationalized. There were attempts to resurrect both factories, but, in fact, it was not enough for them to regain their former glory. Therefore, on 1st January in 1965, the former Fraget factory was merged with Henneberg's plant. The well-known brand today, HEFRA, was created from the names of the founders.
The HEFRA's fame once again flourished in the gray days of the Polish People's Republic. In the 1980s, fashionable cutlery sets - especially silver-plated ones - became a real treat for the citizens, what was perfectly reflected in the famous long queues in front of the factory stores at ul. [street] Jana Kazimierza and ul. [street] Ogrodowa in Warsaw. However, the end of prosperity that took place a decade later shook the years of greatness of the brand. As a result of the crisis, only Warsaw-based factory remained from all the previously dynamically operating ones. Sales dropped by more than 20 percent, and the company's fate became uncertain. However, the product tradition of the founders of HEFRA once again defended itself. Why and what was the point of selling silver as a raw material, when it could be processed in own factories, and HEFRA could sell its products with a higher margin - especially since HEFRA had already had a world-wide reputation for many years. The strategy was ultimately defended by its customers who, among the common products on store shelves, appreciated the uniqueness of silver cutlery and plated products. The products had one more advantage – investment one, because just like in gold, it was worth investing in ore.
A beautiful story that lasts
Although the company changed its owner several times, and it is now in private hands, one thing has not changed: the brand still focuses on what is most valuable - i.e. tradition and high quality of its products. Nearly 200 years later, both silver and plated products are appreciated by customers, and the history of Fraget and Henneberg products continues to be written. HEFRA is still the only Polish company that produces cutlery, table, silverware and plated products. Its products are made by hand, and the brand invariably remains true to its original image, which is Polish luxury.
“HEFRA” Warsaw Silverware Manufactory
Żeglarska 8, 59-220 Legnica (Poland)
Company name: Warszawska Fabryka Platerów HEFRA S.A.
Tax Identification No: PL5270206010
National Court Register: 0000040919
Share Capital: 5.348.900,20 zł