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A Retrospective of Art Deco Era Jewelry Designs & Influence

Tanzy Ward

One of the most inspirational & enduring historical jewelry periods is the Art Deco Era (c.1919-c.1939). Although early Art Deco designs were created before its designation, the movement adopted its official name from the Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925.  After the Art Nouveau Movement declined, there was still a highly sought after market for Art. However, more emphasis was placed on modern industrial designs instead of artisan handcrafted work. The French exposition celebrated & highlighted the newest styles in decorative arts throughout the world.

The Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes Official poster, designed by French Illustrator Robert Bonfils (1886-1972). Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum Collection

The Art Deco Era represented an heightened excitement & avid interest in modern technology and glamour. The period is known for its unique architecture designs created with fine craftsmanship & opulence. 
After the ending of War World I , many social changes occurred. Womenswear became less restrictive & new fashions eloped. Long sautoir necklaces were casually worn by ladies, including strands of pearls and cut glass beads. New innovations and ideas were welcomed, with Europe in celebratory spirit after the War. Naturally, societal factors molded a new aesthetic for the period, and Art Deco Era jewelry officially became in vogue. 

Art Deco Era photo of ‘flapper girls’ wearing popular garments & accessories during the 1920s. A freer silhouette and sautoir necklaces were popular after the ending of War World I. Photo courtesy of Public Domain Archives

Art Deco Era jewelry designs were inspired by various styles, which includes ancient Egyptian motifs & oriental designs. Archaeological excavations in Egypt heavily influenced jewelry designs, which includes scarabs and pyramids. Advanced Lacquer techniques were developed in the Far East, which emphasized sophisticated polished jewelry designs. Historical pre-Colombian artwork, Cubism, and the use of geometric designs were major inspirations as well. Art was highly emphasized and promoted during the era. Artisans of various design backgrounds came together and worked as a collective to create unique  jewelry. Formally called bijoutiers-artistes, these influential artists emphasized the intricate design of jewelry. The Parisian bijoutiers-joailliers, another major influence during the Art Deco Era, focused on creating geometric designs with colored gemstones with the focus on a center stone setting. 

Art Deco Era Byjoux Jewelry illustration, 1927. Featuring artistic geometric designs. Archives collection. 

Art Deco Era jewelry Ad from ST&W Company, 1930. The catalog features various geometric necklaces and pendants with ‘a sterling touch’. 

Art Deco Era designs are very distinct and includes  calibre cut stones, geometric shapes, & intricately cut filigree work. Popular materials used in jewelry designs were platinum, Marcasites, glass, pearls, and rubies. Art Deco Era jewelry was more lightweight than previous styles from the Victorian & Art Nouveau eras. Prolific designers during the time included CoCo Chanel (1883-1971), and the Van Cleef & Arpels company, credited for developing the “invisible setting” on rings. 

Coco Chanel, French fashion designer is credited with  popularizing less restrictive & more casual chic womenswear look post World War I. Photo courtesy of Roger Viollet/Getty Images

There were numerous technological advances in jewelry making during the early 20th century. The innovations can be seen in the designs and materials of choice during the Art Deco Era. High quality synthetic gemstones and materials were increasingly used for imitating natural stones. Bakelite, synthetic rubies and synthetic sapphires were routinely used for rectangular shaped rings and other geometric designs. White gold and cultured pearls were very popular during the 1920s, becoming an iconic signature look of the Art Deco Era.  

1927 Woolworth Co. Jewelry ad featuring necklaces with high quality synthetic gemstones . 

1922 Art Deco Era Brooch & Necklace Ellis Gift Catalog From The Ellis Brothers Ltd Catalog, Toronto Canada. Archives.org 


After Bohemia was dissolved and became Czechoslovakia in 1918, distinctive high quality glass & crystal jewelry began to be exported until World War II. Art Deco Era Czech jewelry included beaded tassel necklaces and intricately cut brooches with filigree work. Czech jewelry became so popular that other regions began to imitate the aesthetic and quality. 

 
Art Deco Era Amber Czech beaded tassel necklace. Zanathia Jewelry Collection 

Art Deco Era Czech Amber Glass, Seed Pearl, and brass filigree necklace. Zanathia Jewelry Collection

 

Art Deco Era jewelry has certainly established its mark and legacy, and has inspired countless modern designs. Presently, the Art Deco design can be seen in fine jewelry styles, including rings & earrings. The period was inspired by modernism, societal changes after World War I, archaeological discoveries, artwork, cultural influences, and the welcoming of new designs in the age of technology. Presently, the Art Deco aesthetic is still emphasized & a major inspiration within the design industries. 


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