26 Exquisite Art Deco Jewelry: Cool Design, Hot Investment

The end of the First World War heralded a revolt against the excesses of the Edwardian and Belle Epoque eras. The Great War had ravaged European cultural centres, women had stepped in to fill industrial roles left vacant by men called to the Front, and the wealth of the nobility had been severely dented. In this rapidly changing environment, the Art Deco design movement emerged. First exhibited in Paris in 1925, at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (although some date the style to as far back as 1915), Art Deco was the visual embodiment of modernist principles. Celebrating the triumph of technology and the sleek, liberating forms of the machine age, its emphasis on structure responded to a widespread desire for order in the wake of chaos.

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Materials used in art deco of the 1920’s used contrasting colors together and unusual gemstone such as jade, coral, turquoise and lapis lazuli.

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Art Deco also followed a total style path, taking over from Art Nouveau almost completely by 1910. The difference is that Art Deco wasn’t just popular in western Europe, as was the case with Art Nouveau. Globalization meant that news and information reached much farther than ever before. Art Deco, as a result, became the first truly global style. It’s easy to assume that Art Deco remains popular today simply because of its appeal, but there is more to it than simple aesthetics. Because of the massive volume of buildings, cars, jewelry and other things appearing, Art Deco is all around us all the time. This ubiquity means it never quite goes away, even as fashions change.

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Art Deco jewelry prices can hit $100,000 plus, but the starter collector can get in for $1,500. Truly exceptional pieces-made with precious stones and crafted by top designers-can go for much higher. Besides quality of craftsmanship and the strength of the design 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.

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Timeless: devotees vary from the Duchess of Windsor to Sarah Jessica Parker. “It goes with everything, and it’s still absolutely chic.” Says David Bennett, the head of Sotheby’s jewelry department for Europe and the Middle East. Limited Availability: where designers sell thousands of jewelry pieces per year nowadays it used to be a few dozen in the 1920’s. Quality: These pieces are the product of a time many consider the pinnacle of jewelry craftsmanship. “You’ll never see anything like it again,” declares Esmerian. “Back then, you had to apprentice under a master jeweler. It is not as it was in the 1920s and ’30s. Today, people want coffee breaks.”

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Where the Edwardian turn of the century jewelry was very nature inspired, light, and flowy, Art Deco design incorporates more geometric shapes, less free space, and a more industrial feel.

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Art Deco fit into the time when commercial air travel was young and women were shedding their frilly, constricted duds and complicated hairdos and replacing them with sleeveless chemises, such as flapper dresses, sporting bobs, and adorning themselves with sparkly bangles and long strands of pearls.

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Although you can still find these older round brilliant diamonds, you can get a similar look with the modern round brilliant cut diamond. Here’s what to look for in a modern round brilliant cut diamond.

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Art Déco Diamond Brooch, Cartier, circular and baguette-cut diamonds, platinum (French marks), circa 1930. Signed Cartier Paris, numbered. Estimate: £8,000-12,000. Offered in Important Jewels on 13 June 2018 at Christie’s in London

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As with other things, engagement rings changed in the period between the beginning of Art Nouveau and the end of Art Deco. From pretty intricate designs came big, bold designs that owed more to having an impact than simply looking pretty. That isn’t to say that Art Deco rings aren’t pretty, because they are, but it was presented in a different way.

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Although diamonds and clear imitation diamonds were hugely popular during the 1920s and 1930s, many Deco-style pieces also have colored or opaque gemstones. In costume jewelry, these ‘stones’ may be paste, glass, or high quality imitations. You’ll find pieces that have colored stones as the central focus, as well as items with colored or opaque accents.

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Perhaps, the design most widely connected to Coco Chanel from the Deco period is the original Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle—a sleek, clear square that epitomized the clean lines associated with the period. According to the company Chanel, Coco Chanel designed the bottle in 1921. It remains the world’s most recognized perfume bottle, and an icon of luxury and style—just like Art Deco jewelry itself.

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New techniques in watch-making now made possible small movements, so that a watch could be worn on the wrist, or incorporated into a beautiful jewel to be worn on a lapel.

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In 1909, Diaghilev and his famed Ballets Russes came to Paris, and they immediately created a sensation.  The costumes, designed by Leon Bakst, were full of lush colors and flowing lines. They were wildly exotic, and so different from what Paris, and by extension, the rest of Europe, was used to. This had an immediate effect on art and design, and provided one of the earliest and strongest influences on the style that would become known as Art Deco.

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Most of our jewelry at Filigree Jewelers is from an era long ago. Our collection spans seven time periods, each distinct in style and construction with history and romance as the driving factors. Learn more about each era below.

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While an Egyptologist would have had great difficulty deciphering the often randomly chosen hieroglyphics ornamenting a piece of Art Deco jewelry, the public had no difficulty at all enjoying them.

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‘I also have to mention Henri Vever. The House of Vever was founded in 1821 and had been producing jewels in the Renaissance style since 1871. Henri Vever first exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1900; the enamel and pearl pendant/brooch shown towards the top of this article, modelled on maple samaras in green window enamel, is a magnificent example of his work from the beginning of the 20th century. His book, La Bijouterie Française au XIXe Siècle, is the  reference for 19th-century jewellery.

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Designers borrowed plant and flower motifs from Persian carpets and miniatures, as well as refining the delicate range of roses, daffodils and cherries, or the bold combination of certain colours such as blue and green (emerald and sapphire or lapis and jade).

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Another popular diamond cut of the Art Deco era was the faceted round brilliant, a precursor to today’s modern round brilliant cut diamond. Sometimes referred to as old European cuts or “transitional cuts”, the round brilliants of this period generally have a slightly different diamond anatomy than their modern-day counterparts. These diamonds tend to have smaller table facets and larger culets, star facets and lower half facets. If you rock or tilt one of these older-style diamonds, you’ll see a different face-up pattern of light and dark than you would with a contemporary brilliant cut diamond.

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If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to platinum and still retain the Art Deco style, you’ll be happy to know that white gold and yellow gold were also often used, particularly during the Depression years of the 1930s.

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Step-cut aquamarines, black enamel and pavé-set diamonds decorate the white gold and platinum bracelet by Jean Fouquet. Photo courtesy of Siegelson

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‘The pendant above represents all that I love about the creations of René Lalique. The raspberry branch is very realistic — it looks just like a small sculpture, it is three-dimensional. His choice of colours and the various shades of enamel are an enchantment.’

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By 1910, though, Art Nouveau as a mainstream style movement was all but gone. The beginning of the 20th century saw massive industrialization, and this ushered in the Art Deco period. Art Deco, with its angles and well-defined symmetry, is everything Art Nouveau isn’t. As buildings took on a more up and down style, so art and jewelry followed. The introduction of mechanization in all fields also filtered down to jewelry making. Suddenly, producing pieces took a fraction of the time previously required. Cutting diamonds now took hours, instead of days or even months.

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Vintage Bee Pin Mid Century .28 Round Cut Ruby & .03 Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds in 14k Yellow Gold

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A sapphire, rock crystal and diamond ring, by René Boivin, 1930s. 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 17,500

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Art Deco design has endured like no other style, and it is in jewellery that the era’s influence has proved particularly lasting. Having re-emerged over the decades, jewellery inspired by the Art Deco era is once again enjoying a revival today – the bold, innovative sensibility of the time has been hard to miss in recent years, both in fine jewellery and costume styles.

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Common gemstones you’ll see in Art Deco jewelry include colorless diamonds paired with stones that encouraged dramatic contrast, like bold colored rubies, emeralds, blue sapphires and black onyx. Most pieces you will find were set in platinum because of its color, strength and malleability for setting of precise geometric designs. New cuts of stones were being discovered during this period because they were used to bring these architectural designs and shapes to life. Cultured pearls also appeared on the market in the 1920’s and were a major part of jewelry fashions.

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