Art deco jewelry in the main, was crafted in the first quarter of the 20th century by outstanding jewelry designers of the time, mainly French Jewelry designers such as Sandoz, Templer, Georges Fouquet and Brandt. The most popular colors were: black (onyx), red (coral), blue (sapphire), green (emerald), and white (diamond).
The famed French designer Paul Poiret re-introduced the “Empire” style. New jewelry styles emerged to compliment the new fashions – long chains with a decorative pendant, known as sautoirs became popular, as well as shorter necklaces that filled in an open neckline.
In addition to bracelets, women wore watches of all kinds, from wristwatches to long-chained pendant watches to lapel watches. The clock became a popular objet d’art, with some of the most astounding creations being made by Cartier.
The Art Deco movement ‘cast aside the dictats of the past’, says decorative arts historian Melissa Gabardi. Art Deco jewels were sleek and bold, characterised by sharp edges and regularity of surface, line and volume. Unorthodox combinations of stones were introduced, with many designs combining natural materials such as onyx, emeralds, rubies, jade, silver, ivory, lapis and rock crystal with manufactured ones such as plastic and glass.
Filigree work is defined by small intricate cut-outs and was never done quite so well as it was during the Art Deco era. Filigree in jewelry was perfected in the late 1920s through the use of die-cast machines, and it was readily available by the early 1930s. These designs incorporate a lot of synthetic stones as well as diamonds, platinum, and white gold. It is nearly impossible to replicate the crisp, refined filigree work from the 1920’s today because most rings are made through the use of wax molds.
We have some new pieces in our cases that reflect Art Deco influence and we’ve also had several genuine Art Deco estate pieces in our possession, too. It’s easy to see the appeal of the geometric lines and vivid colors – but hard to choose a favorite!
Evelyne Possémé: ‘As Jean Cassou [first director of the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris] said, Art Nouveau is the source of the 20th century. Throughout the 19th century, artisans and designers seemed incapable of going further. They were crushed by a glorious tradition; they dared not innovate; they did not see how they could do better than their predecessors. These artists therefore took a very long time to break free of these shackles.
An Art Nouveau enamel and pearl pendant/brooch, by Henri Vever, circa 1900. 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 100,000
Sigrid Barten: ‘Yes. Ivy, for example, is an ancient symbol of fidelity and longevity. It grows everywhere and stays green, summer and winter. Thistles, while being very beautiful plants, are also covered with thorns. In my view, when Lalique uses them, it may convey other messages, such as “Keep your distance”. This also applies to hawthorns, roses or brambles.
Geometric designs are also a defining feature of the Art Deco look. Sometimes a variety of geometric shapes are used together to create a complex piece with interesting lines. Often, these shapes have straight lines and angles, although curves are sometimes part of the design. You’ll also see perfect symmetry in many pieces.
In the early 20th century a renewed interest in Egyptian, Chinese and Japanese art offered European artists a new source of stylistic motifs. They adapted decorative elements particular to Asian jewellery, such as jade, coral, enamels, lacquer and pearls. Designs ranged from exact copies of dragons, pagodas and Chinese characters, to more liberal interpretations of Asian themes.
In addition to the above, platinum made possible an important new development in jewelry design – the ribbon bracelet. It’s broad. flat links were seamlessly integrated to appear as one surface – a “ribbon”, usually of small, pavé set diamonds, which provided the perfect foil for the pictorial images that these exotic influences inspired.
Precious stones, such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires were used in new and startling combinations. Semi precious stones, such as amethyst, citrine, aquamarine and tourmaline were valued for their translucency and delicate colors. Opaque hard stones, usually lapis lazuli, coral, jade, onyx and turquoise provided large expanses of strong color, and were fashioned into geometric elements, or perhaps carved to represent the dragons of Chinese and Indian mythology. Jewelry designers used all of these vibrant colors as an artist used paint — to create jewelry of a beauty and drama that had never before been seen.
Janesich: Leopoldo Janesich opened his first shop in Trieste in 1835, offering jewellery and silverware to an international clientele. At the end of the century, he established a branch store in Paris at 19, rue de la Paix, followed by locations in Biarritz, London, Monte Carlo and Vichy. Janesich’s clients included such eminent personalities as the Archduke of Austria, King Nicholas of Montenegro and the Duke of Aosta. Janesich is well known for powder compacts and card cases in the Art Deco style. The firm remained in family hands until it closed in 1968.
Rene´ Boivin: ‘When Rene´ Boivin was starting his company, he wanted to create a business that united different talents, and he succeeded,’ says Franc¸oise Cailles, the author of a book on the house. ‘Few customers really understood his avant-garde jewellery. Boivin has always created jewellery for a select few, for an intellectual and artistic elite. When he died in 1917, his wife Jeanne took the reins of the firm. Their daughter Germaine would also join the company later. Boivin was always rowing against the current of the day, whether it was Art Nouveau or Art Deco.’
Other things to look for include the cut of precious stones, the weight of the item and for any hallmarks or other period markings.
The ever popular Art Deco period produced some truly beautiful and remarkable pieces of Art Deco jewelry.
Designers also incorporated machine parts, such as ball bearings, into their designs. For them, jewelry was more than adornment; it was part of the art world. In his 1931 book, Jewelry and Gold, Fouquet fils wrote that “jewelry and gold pieces must be works of art while also responding to the same needs as industrial objects.” (Philip Johnson’s 1934 exhibition, called “Machine Art,” at the Museum of Modern Art, featured ball bearings).
Increased trade with China and Japan gave Europeans the chance to admire the refined esthetics of these cultures. The simplicity of Japanese art and decoration began showing up in the mid-1900’s. Westerners were enchanted by the flowing, sinuous movement, refined palette, flat planes and stylized simplicity of Japanese art, and an entire style, known as Japonisme, emerged in the late 19th century. Art Nouveau, the style that flourished from 1890 until 1910, borrowed much of its esthetic direction from the naturalism and stylization that characterized Japanese Art in Western eyes.
And the look keeps re-emerging, Nothdruft adds: “As a style, the Art Deco cycles through periodically. It always signals sophistication and glamour. . . What does change is how jewellery is worn – perhaps layering pieces instead of one necklace or one bracelet.”
An Art Deco multi-gem vanity case, by Van Cleef & Arpels. 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 275,000
Suddenly, after 1910, with Art Deco, we were looking much more at cushion cuts, halos, and pavé. Contrasting stones such as sapphires and emeralds made bold additions to the often huge diamonds now used. Gemstones suited to emerald and baguette cuts became increasingly popular, with aquamarine engagement rings a firm favorite. Suddenly, after the often dainty feel of Art Nouveau, big was beautiful.
Many designers employed coral, jade and lapis lazuli, too. In fact, some of the most important avant-garde jewelers of the period, like Jean Després and Jean Fouquet (son of Georges Fouquet), would combine white gold with ebony and malachite for a jolt of color.
‘In Art Nouveau — as in Japanese art, for instance — there is no difference between the arts majeurs and the decorative arts. The decorative arts are just as important, if not more so!’
There were many influences on Art Deco jewelry that actually began to take shape about a decade earlier. In 1909, Serge Diaghilev brought the Ballet Russes to Paris, and women went wild for the company’s exotic and vibrant costumes It’s no wonder, then, that jade, lapis, coral, turquoise and other bright gemstones became all the rage. There already existed a fascination with the East, particularly China and Japan, and motifs consisting of fans and masks started to show up in jewelry.