Art Deco is a style that emerged in 1925, a result of exhibits at the World’s Fair held in Paris, France. The term Art Deco is a shortened form of the event’s name: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts). Certain design elements are consistent throughout period pieces, making it easy to identify cars, fashions, and even buildings. Authentic jewelry from this period was made between 1920 and 1935 and has at least one, sometimes all, of the following traits listed below. The jewelry styles remained popular through the late 1930s and have since reemerged as one of the most popular antique jewelry styles.
The form-first approach of Art Nouveau doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it doesn’t make brooches, rings and necklaces any less beautiful. Because the style takes the line it does with natural forms, it means designers can go all out to produce spectacular, eye-catching pieces. Dozens of colors are often used, with gemstones usually taking pride of place. Colored enamel or metal, or even wood and other natural materials are very common. Really, if ever a physical style manifests itself perfectly, it’s Art Nouveau with the incredibly intricate and complex works produced by master craftsmen.
When identifying Art deco jewelry, often Art deco diamond rings will be set with with a large central cabochon stone often surrounded by small brilliants or by the recently introduced rectangular baguette diamonds.
The legendary 20th-century French clothing designer Coco Chanel also created Art Deco jewelry, but hers was costume quality to be worn with her ensembles, according to Jane Adlin, curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art.
Mademoiselle Chanel can also be thanked for popularizing of long earrings. The French fashion designer favored the masculine look, referred to as la garçonne, and made boyish haircuts a fad. What better way to show off long earrings than with short hair?
An Art Nouveau enamel and glass ‘raspberry’ pendant, by René Lalique, 1902. This lot was offered in Beyond Boundaries: Magnificent Jewels from a European Collection on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva and sold for CHF 348,500
‘Other designers to interest collectors include Eugène Feuillâtre (1870-1916), who was head of René Lalique’s enamelling workshop from 1890 until 1897, and Léopold Gautrait (1865-1937), who worked with numerous jewellers of the Art Nouveau period, including Henri Vever.’
well suited to the Jazz Age, to the increasingly strong image of the liberated and androgynous woman. Després’ modernist, industrial derived pieces are some of the most desirable for collectors of vintage jewelry today.
Also a fashionable choice in the 1920s and 30s was Tiffany, bringing new diamond cuts, contrasting round and baguette brilliant diamonds clustered together in stylised blooms. Tiffany pearls worn several ropes together were particularly popular, with the long strands layered elegantly by the chic flappers of the time. Tiffany now takes a contemporary approach to Art Deco principles, maintaining the geometry and fluid settings of the sleek originals, and the jeweller’s Art Deco inspired pieces today are among some of their most popular items.
Fouquet was well known in the world of jewelry, and many of his designs were inspired by African art, another major influence on the Art Deco period.
Other key factors in establishing value are a dog’s head stamped inside a piece, employed by French designers only, and for all, the visibility of scant metal on the underside of bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The less metal used, the more skillful the artisan, and the more valuable the piece. Pieces made with jade are especially valuable today too, due to interest from Asian collectors.
“So much depends on quality, the strength of the design. And if the pieces are signed, the prices go up,” says Lange.
Enamels were now back in fashion, and strong reds, blues and greens could be used to echo the colors of the stones, or to contrast with them in new and sophisticated ways. Black enamel was especially important. Now that it was permissible for women to smoke and apply make-up in public, boxes of various sizes were created for these purposes, and they ranged from the amusing to the splendid. The large, flat surfaces of these boxes provided the perfect canvas for the enamel artist. Polo players, crouching tigers, leaping gazelles and speeding trains could be found decorating these new fashion necessities.
While platinum was important for creating strong, almost invisible settings, it is not an especially beautiful metal, , and white gold, warmer and more attractive, was usually used for the body of a piece.
Diamond, onyx and platinum make for a stark yet chic contrast. Some brides-to-be might find this color palette to be appealing. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: Private collection
Benjamin Khordipour is one of the researchers and gemologists at Estate Diamond Jewelry. He received his gemological degrees from both GIA and GUBELIN. Benjamin was born in New York and joined Estate Diamond Jewelry in 2014. He is passionate about vintage jewelry and vintage diamonds. This blog was built based on his strong belief that there is a responsibility for jewelers to properly educate their customers. His favorite vintage jewelry era is the Art Deco Era and his favorite type of stone is the Kashmir Sapphire. He also collects rare antique pins.
Statement jewels have consistently gone hand-in-hand with women’s movements. During the 1970s, designers like Elsa Peretti at Tiffany and Aldo Cipullo for Cartier specialized in major modern looks. Bold jewels were also a part of the Jazz Age when women were cutting their hair and enjoying new found political freedoms. (American women were granted the right to vote in 1920.) Jean Dunand was one designer who created strong pieces such as the Giraffe Necklaces made famous by Josephine Baker. Jean Fouquet was another one known for gutsy jewelry.
Anything can be described as a particular style, however prominent it may or may not be. Where Art Nouveau differs is that it is a total style. That is, it goes beyond influencing just one or two styles. As an example, clothing has many styles, but few break out past one or two very small areas. Art Nouveau is different in that it has influenced everything from painting and graphic art to jewelry and metal work.