Where would we be without the Art Deco movement, with its use of geometric lines and fancy embellishments. Art Deco has to be one of our favourite eras for jewellery as the movement has never lost its versatility or disappeared, lying in the forefront of jewellery design since 1920.
The period that we know and love as ‘Art Deco’ derived from the 1920s -1930s, closely following the Art Nouveau era; although not in terms of style. The Art Deco movement came from France, (those stylish French!) the name deriving from Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, an exhibition hosted in Paris 1925. The exhibition presented a collaboration of jewellery, arts and modern industry. The inspiration for the Art Deco style spread wide, taking elements from African, American, Cubism and Fauvism art. The expressionist period used electric colours and early abstraction with geometric lines and figurative representations, which can be seen in the designs of the period. The use of fluid and curvilinear lines of the Art Nouveau age had been eradicated in favour of a cleaner more simplified appeal.
Art Deco jewellery reflected the art movement, incorporating radiant bright gemstones. Diamonds continued to be at the forefront of jewellery design with more angular cuts reigning supreme, and baguette cut diamonds becoming the most popular. The angular lines of the baguette cut diamonds enhanced the overall geometric designs; baguette cuts were used to create symmetry and dazzling sunburst interpretations.
Main influences of the Art Deco movement came from Egypt. Exciting new archaeological discoveries in the Valley of the kings, specifically in tomb of Tutankhamen, resulted in the world becoming obsessed with Egyptian design – popular motifs including metaphoric representations of lotus blossoms, scarabs and pyramids.
Naturalistic and floriated designs were still prominent in Art Deco jewellery with structured floral and plant motifs, an aspect of the Art Nouveau notion that could be seen in the new period of regeneration.
While the Art Deco period dates back to the 1920s to mid-1930s, it still has an impact on current day with large jewellery houses such as Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Cartier paying homage to the Art Deco era today.
The Flapper movement
The 1920s could only be described as a breath of fresh air it was a revolution for women’s liberation. The First World War transformed women’s fashion. Women were taking up hard physical work, with the absence of men, and as a result the corset was left behind, dress sleeves were shortened, hair was cut short and hemlines were raised, the age of the flapper had begun.
Fashion was suddenly seen through the perspective of the artist; it was the first time that jewellery had taken on the form as a pure aesthetic without the underlying notion of functionality.
The short gamine haircut (gamine comes from the French Gamin and means ‘waif’) had a tomboy, yet paradoxically girly, appeal. (Think Audrey Hepburn.) This new, short pixie style hair paved the way for a more elongated earring style that exuded femininity. Earrings were kept dangling and ornate, capturing the geometric design and filigree decoration so prominent throughout world art of the period.
The roaring twenties was the age of the pearl. (Think Great Gatsby.) Pearl strands were kept long and layered; Coco Chanel played president to this style, promoting the glamourous, sophisticated look that pearls could obtain.
Long beaded necklaces were equally as popular as pearls. The Art Deco colour pallet played homage to the art movement with black, reds, white and greens at the forefront. Clashing colours were very much in ‘Vogue’ and flapper girls were not scared to mix colours and prints to stand out.
Owning diamonds in the 1920s was considered a sign of good wealth. Diamond jewellery was only worn solely for evenings, as it was said that wearing diamonds during the day was thought to be vulgar and tactless. Semi-precious gemstones were abundant in everyday pieces. These semi-precious stones created dazzling hues alongside the Art Deco structured designs. Turquoise, lapis lazuli were popular gemstones for day wear.
The discovery of a large diamond mine in South Africa (1920) allowed diamonds to become more accessible to everyone. Due to the plentiful supply, diamond prices dropped and this desired stone was now starting to become more affordable to the masses.
Art Deco was primarily worn to make a statement, whether that was by using standout gemstones, showcasing long drop earrings or layering plentiful pearls, these pieces were worn to be noticed and they certainly deserve all the attention that they get.
Art Deco jewellery is highly popular today and has become collectable pieces. At Browns, we are constantly looking out for great new Art Deco additions to add to our ever-growing collection of period jewellery.
Let us know what your favourite Art Deco designs are by leaving us a comment below.