Posted on January 09, 2020 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
Among the major periods of art, fashion, and jewelry, Art Deco remains one of the most fascinating and beloved. After all, its arrival marked a new era of Western history during which industrial production flourished and many older social mores were cast aside, arguably paving the way for many of the modern luxuries and social freedoms to come.
The Art Deco era began during the early 1920s and received its name from the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was held in Paris in 1925. The exposition celebrated the association of art and industry and was largely dedicated to jewelry arts.
Art Deco earrings featuring diamond and onyx
Indeed, as the aesthetic themes of Art Deco jewelry illustrate, art and fashion of the time were indelibly informed by developments in the thriving industrial sector. In addition to a booming economy, the vivacious social scene of the Roaring Twenties that sparkled with jazz, speakeasies, and flappers further encouraged individual expression and creativity.
The artistic period preceding Art Deco was Art Nouveau, a period defined by soft pastels, organic curves, and nature-inspired motifs. If Art Nouveau is a beautiful, flowing country landscape spotted with delicate irises and cranes, then Art Deco is the luxe, glittering city lined with brightly lit skyscrapers. The latter era favored more masculine, geometric lines, distinct angles, and futuristic motifs. Art Deco’s clean lines perfectly suited the budding machine age, and the style exuded confidence.
Artistic inspiration for Art Deco was sourced from all over the world. Oriental, Indian, African, and South American art all play a role in the special touches that defined Art Deco jewelry. Perhaps most interesting is the influence of ancient Egypt on this modern artistic style. The discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of Kings spurred a fascination with all things Pharaoh-esque, including lotus blossoms, pyramids, the eye of hours symbol, and even scarabs. These motifs inspired new combinations of materials, including lapis lazuli with gold and cornelian with turquoise.
Egyptian Revival Scarab Pin, circa 1925
Schools of Design
The Bijoutiers-Artistes comprised a school of Art Deco jewelry design. They prioritized eye-catching design over the intrinsic value of the materials. Often, their designs included carved, sculptural gems, and diamonds were usually used as accents or punctuation rather than as the main feature. Jewelry created by the Bijoutiers-Artistes was usually created within an artistic community by artists with various trades—rather than by jewelers alone. This school of design favored a mix of precious and semi-precious stones.
Art Deco Sapphire, Moonstone, Enamel, and Diamond Ear Pendants by Georges Fouquet, circa 1925.
The Bijourtiers-Joulliers hailed from the well-established jewelry scene in Paris. Although their designs may have appeared more conventional than those of the Bijoutiers-Artistes, this group of jewelers is credited with introducing unusual diamond cuts, including triangle, trapeze, and half-moon, among others. They mostly favored precious stones but occasionally incorporated coral, agate, and turquoise into their pieces.
Cartier Art Deco Necklace
Major Art Deco designers included Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Harry Winston, Lalique, and Mauboussin.
Materials & Innovations
Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring
Thanks to the economic prosperity of the 20s, more people were able to afford fine jewelry, including diamonds and engagement rings. New casting techniques allowed for more efficient production of intricate setting, further increasing the accessibility of fine jewelry. Advancements in cutting techniques prompted the advent of the modern round brilliant cut, a diamond cut that really allows the stone to dazzle as only diamonds can. Finally, platinum was the most popular metal at the time, but white gold served as a more affordable substitute.
Photos: Barbara Michelle Jacobs, Lang Antiques