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The Art Nouveau Movement's Enduring Legacy

Tanzy Ward


The Art Nouveau Movement (c.1890-c.1915) was created in France and was short-lived partly due to World War 1 (1914-1918). The designs of The Art Nouveau Era ('New Art') were inspired by the natural world. Popular motifs included insects such as butterflies and dragonflies. In Art Nouveau jewelry, the pieces often emphasized a woman's physical features, being surrounded by a serene nature setting and mythical creatures such as mermaids. The artistic merit and natural beauty of semi-precious stones were emphasized in Art Nouveau jewelry instead of value. Moonstones, opals, amethyst, malachite, and enamel were all used in many jewelry pieces of this period.

The Art Nouveau Era jewelry designs were quite different from Victorian pieces, which were sometimes heavier or bulkier. However, Art Nouveau Era pieces were sometimes considered 'exaggerated' or 'over the top compared to the mainstream popular Edwardian Era (c.1901-c.1915) jewelry produced during the same period. The Art Nouveau Era is now analyzed from a historical perspective, and major societal changes greatly influenced artistic designs. Many Art Nouveau Era jewelry is centered on women due to the interest and focus on women's rights and the radical possibilities implemented after France's loss in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). Most of society did not wear jewelry, but the aesthetic and influence can be seen in pop culture at the time. French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was a fan of Art Nouveau jewelry, and she routinely wore French designer's Rene Lalique (1860-1945) accessories. Lalique's artistic designs are great Art Nouveau Era examples, which included elaborate French perfume bottles and intricate glass art. In cinema, 'trick films' created by Segundo de Chomón (1871-1929) emphasized the Art Nouveau aesthetic, such as the 1907 film 'Easter Eggs.'    

(French Stage Actress Sarah Bernhardt, pictured in Art Nouveau style )

(Art Nouveau style film 'Easter Eggs',1907, A Segundo de Chomón film) 


The Art Nouveau Era was a time of original style and imagination-themed designs from the vibrant European art scene. The aesthetic of Art Nouveau pieces often emphasized an ethereal and artistic feel. Even after Art Nouveau's brief jewelry era, many designers have highlighted the period's characteristics within their creations. Many modern designs now emphasize the setting of jewelry with semi-precious gemstones such as opal or amethyst and enamel details with an artisan flair. Although the Art Nouveau Era was relatively brief, its inspiration can still be seen more than a century later. 

(Antique Red Ruby Glass and Gold Ornate Floral Brooch Available At Zanathia Jewelry)


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