Are you a fan of the TV show Downton Abbey? Don’t you just love the Art Deco jewellery that was so particularly fashionable of that period?
According to the well-known auction house Bonhams, interest in this style of jewellery has seen a renewed interest. This revived appeal is being fuelled by period films and series like Downton Abbey (related article).
Undoubtedly, this series provided us with a wonderful insight into the beautiful jewellery from the Art Deco era. This chic look continues to be very popular today, through contemporary jewellery design.
A brief history on Art Deco
Art Deco is a style that became fashionable in the mid-1920’s. At the time, it influenced every design, from buildings to fashion. More specifically in jewellery, this particular style continues to inspire many designers till today. Without a doubt, the Art Deco period is one of the most enduring design periods in the history of jewellery.
The first Art Deco designs emerged in the early 1900’s during the Modern Industrial era. The designs of this era contrast sharply with the nature inspired themes characteristic of the preceding Art Nouveau era. The Art Deco style took its inspiration from machinery. In essence, it employed geometric and rigid lines. The flowing lines from the Art Nouveau era were totally abolished.
Art Deco was confirmed as the popular fashion style of the time, also for the jewellery sector, at the World’s Fair held in Paris in 1925. This event showcased stylistic designs of the Modern Industrial era. It is also where the term Art Deco comes from. In fact, it is the shortened term for the French phrase “Arts Décoratifs”, which was the motif of this exposition.
Jewellery designers of the Art Deco period found inspiration from cultures all around the world. One such inspiration was undoubtedly the archaeological discovery of the Tutankhamen tomb in Egypt. This exciting discovery inspired many jewellers to base their creations on the ancient time of the Pharaohs.
Oriental, Indian and Persian motifs also featured extensively in Art Deco jewellery designs.
The popularity of Art Deco remained until the mid-1930’s. It then gained a new following from the 1980’s onwards.
Recognising the style of Art Deco Jewellery
Art Deco jewellery is instantly recognisable by its symmetry and sharp angles. It features parallel lines and geometric shapes, such as squares, triangles and rectangles. Fancy diamond shapes such as the emerald cut, princess cut and baguettes filled entire pieces of jewellery for sparkling effects.
New gem cuts and shapes were invented. They were needed to fit the radiance, luminosity and reflective qualities for the designs of that time. Such shapes were artfully combined to form intricate mosaic-like patterns.
It was also typical to use vivid colours that contrasted each other within a single design. Ruby, sapphire and emerald were thus extremely popular gemstones at the time due to their vibrant and contrasting colours.
White metals, such as platinum and white gold, become more prevalent in Art Deco jewellery.
Art Deco fine jewellery
Jewellery from the Art Deco period was revolutionary in terms of its size as well as its scope. Women of the Art Deco period adorned themselves with bold, colourful pieces of jewellery. Voluminous, long earrings and large brooches were highly characteristic of this period. Jewellery with detachable elements that could be either worn separately or as a single piece become very fashionable. These boldness and lavish designs reflected the stark changes that took place during that period.
Iconic jewellery houses, such as Cartier, Tiffany and Van Cleef & Arpels, have inarguably created some of their most illustrious work during the Art Deco period. Such authentic pieces are highly sought after today.
Common styles of Art Deco Jewellery
Art Deco rings are characterised by their large size, often featuring a large, central gemstone. They often included a centre coloured stone or a large diamond surrounded by a border of smaller diamonds. Today we refer to this style as a halo of diamonds. It is a style that continues to allure many women to this day.
Art Deco necklaces were extremely long. They often featuring a geometric elongated pendant set with diamonds and coloured precious stones. It was extremely fashionable to wrap excessively long necklaces around the neck several times to create a layered look.
Art Deco earrings were long. They accentuated the newly donned short hairstyles of that time. The chandelier earrings were amongst the popular styles of that era. Typically earring designs were linear and set with diamonds, terminating with a larger coloured gemstone.
Bracelet designs started out as narrow geometric links with square patterns set with diamonds. They later evolved to feature wide straps also completely set with diamonds and vividly coloured gemstones. Narrow bracelets were also highly fashionable. Fashionable ladies would typically wear such bracelets stacked on top of one another.
During the Art Deco period, brooches evolved to become dress clips that to attach to the fabric. Traditionally these elaborate and intricate brooches would hang at the centre of the neckline. In the 1920s, women starting clipping these accessories to every conceivable item of clothing, including hats, purses, shoes and belts.