Art Deco Jewelry: Timeless Elegance
Anyone who has any interest in jewelry has probably come across the term Art Deco many times. Whether you are looking at rings on Pinterest, trying on earrings in a store, or shopping online for the perfect necklace, Art Deco keeps popping up. That’s because even though Art Deco is an antique style, it is soaring in popularity these days. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this period in jewelry.
Origins in Paris of 1925
Art Deco style got its name from the 1925 ‘Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industrial Modernes’. This was a World’s Fair in Paris which showcased modern designs in decorative art. This new design style came to be known as Art Deco and was applied to architecture, jewelry, fashion, art and interior design. This new style celebrated modernity and technology and was a direct response to the austerity caused by WWI.
Design Characteristics and Influences
Art Deco design has simple clean lines, uses symmetry and repetition and has a strong focus on geometric shapes. It is also known for its rich colours and unusual materials. The jewelry was often set with calibre cut gemstones, which means the gems were cut precisely to fit into a specific design, usually to enhance the geometric pattern. A big influence on the Deco aesthetic was the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, which was opened in 1922 and revealed the ancient jewelry and art of Egypt. Designers were also influenced by Indian, African, Oriental and Persian design.
Jewelry sales were booming in the 1920’s, reflecting the growing consumerism and affluence of people in both Europe and North America. The big name jewelry houses designed in the Deco style, and many of their most famous pieces are from this era. Tiffany, Cartier, Mauboussin, Lalique, Fouquet, Boucheron, Harry Winston and Van Cleef and Arpels are just a few of the houses with stunning Art Deco jewelry in their archives. These jewelers usually signed their work and these signed pieces sell for very high prices at auctions today. It was also during this period that Van Cleef and Arpels invented their famous invisible gem setting technique, in which gem stones are mounted through a system of grooves and rails so that no metal is visible.
The Art Deco jewelry styles directly related to the fashions of the time. WWI had brought major changes to woman’s clothing, as many stopped wearing corsets and the dropped waist look became the trend. Short sleeves, shorter hemlines and short hair all rounded out the look of a fashionable lady. Fashion designers Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel helped bring forward modern fashion, with Poiret disposing of the corset and dressing women in trousers, and Chanel’s sportswear inspired clothing and little black dresses.
Necklaces were worn long to compliment the drop waist dresses. Long ropes of pearls were extremely stylish and have come to be known as the ‘flapper’ style. Another necklace style was the Sautoir, which was a long necklace that suspended a tassel or ornament and was often convertible and could be taken apart to wear as a bracelet, choker or pendant.
Bracelets were a big focal point as the arms were now bare and often multiple ones were stacked up the arm. They were large and often had many rectangular shaped links which would be covered in diamonds, usually the square ‘French cut’ style which complimented the geometric designs.
Earrings were long and dangly to show off the short haircuts and were often set with many diamonds. Most women didn’t have pierced ears and these earrings were usually screw backs.
Dress clips were another popular option, which looked similar to a brooch but instead of a pin it had a clip on the back. Women would wear these on their belts, shoes, purses, hats and lapels.
No stylish lady would go out for the evening without a minaudière, a small case for holding a woman’s belongings, usually bejeweled and covered in lacquer which mimicked the look of enamel. It was always held in the hand, like a modern clutch, and was a great canvas for Deco designs.
The style for engagement rings was usually a diamond surrounded by many smaller diamonds that were often calibre cut. Diamonds in the emerald cut and baguette cut looked great in the simple geometric styles. Rings with large coloured stones cut in cabochon style were a popular style for cocktail rings. For bands it was stylish to have either rubies, diamonds, sapphires or emeralds eternity set around the ring, and these were often stacked on one finger.
A Lasting Influence
If the jewelry described sounds like much of the jewelry which is worn today, that’s because it is. Although the Art Deco style fell out of fashion around the time of WWII, it is now beloved for its clean modern look and the amazing techniques of the jewelers of the time. Original Art Deco pieces are now collectibles and can be very pricey. However, many people choose to have a custom jewelry piece made in the style of Art Deco. This can be a much more reasonably priced option, as well as will ensure you get exactly what you want. If you are looking for a ring, or any other jewelry item in the Art Deco style, please contact us at Kimberfire and we’ll create your perfect piece!
Image Credit: Berganza
Sara is the Jewelry Production and Social Media Coordinator at Kimberfire – a brilliant way to buy diamond engagement rings, fine diamond jewelry and loose diamonds in Toronto, ON and across Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from York University and a Diploma in Jewellery Arts from George Brown College. She is skilled in jewellery design using CAD software, as well as traditional goldsmith techniques. When she is not immersing herself in all things jewellery, Sara is a dog mom to Barley, her beagle mix rescue dog who loves a good tummy rub.
Thanks for helping me learn more about art deco jewelry. I actually didn’t know that it celebrated modernity and technology back in 1925 in Paris. I’m kind of interested to see if the style of art deco subtly changed over time or if it remains nearly identical.
Thanks for your comments! I would say that the Art Deco style has both changed and stayed the same. The current popularity of geometric shapes in jewellery may not be considered traditional “Art Deco” but is definitely influenced by the designs. At the same time, traditional Art Deco jewellery still remains extremely popular, even without any changes to make it appear more current or modern. This truly is a testament to how great the Art Deco design period was.