J. Tostrup was founded in 1832 by Jacob Tostrup (1806-1890) in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway. As a boy, Tostrup was an apprentice at a local silversmith. He then received a thorough education in all aspects of the jewelery trade while studying under master goldsmith Christopher Desingthun in Bergen. He spent a brief period of time in Saint Petersburg, working on projects for the Russian imperial court, before returning to Christiania in to establish his own business. It wasn't long before the business outgrew the small workshop and Tostrup relocated, opening a larger, mechanized workshop in 1838.
The firm was renowned for their innovative designs and skillful combination of silver with other elements such as glass and enamel. Jacob's son, Oluf Tostrup (1842-1882) became involved with the family business early on in life. He was a pioneer in the revival of ancient Norwegian enamel techniques. He was granted sole ownership of J. Tostrup in 1881, but died very shortly after. Jacob Tostrup's grandson-in-law, Torolf Prytz (1858-1938), one of the firm's leading designers was promoted to co-owner and inherited the business in 1890. In addition to being a master filigree designer, he was also a skilled architect. He designed a monumental new building, the Tostrupgården, on Karl Johans gate, which he relocated the business to in 1898.
Prytz was one of Norway's foremost designers of the Art Nouveau era. He embraced the Viking revival style, known in Norway as the Dragon style. Towards the end of the 19th century, many designers became inspired by the rich archeological finds at Viking sites in Norway. Prytz began to incorporate traditional Nordic motifs and forms into his designs for J. Tostrup. He was awarded a gold medal for these exquisite designs at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. The style persisted into the beginning of the 20th century, particularly with the dissolution of the union of Norway and Sweden in 1905, when the dragon became a symbol of the free Norway.