Art Deco jewellery rejected the naturalist form of the Art Nouveau movement in favour of clean modern lines. The geometrical designs were sleek, bold and characterised by sharp edges. Unconventional mixtures of stones were introduced, with many designs combining natural materials such as onyx, emeralds, rubies, jade, lapis lazuli and rock crystal with manufactured ones such as paste.
The devastation of the First World War signalled a revolt against the excesses of the Edwardian era and with men serving at war, woman stepped in to fill new found industrial roles. This drastically changed and transformed woman’s fashion. It was a far cry from the formality and restriction of the Edwardian period and embraced fun, elegant and practical styles. Woman could suddenly participate in things previously only allowed by men and subsequently woman’s fashion dramatically changed making way for exciting new styles and designs. As woman’s clothing became more streamlined so did the jewellery.
First exhibited in Paris in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, the Art Deco style embodies modernist principles and embraced the Cubism art movement.
Cutting edge techniques brought new innovation to jewellery during this period. It became easier to work with platinum and this led to the introduction of the invisible setting where gems were Calibre cut and pave set. This resulted in designs which were tightly packed with gemstones cut to fit together perfectly, with little or no metal showing.
Cultures around the world influenced the Art Deco era introducing new cutting techniques and styles, for example the trapeze, half-moon and triangle cuts. The step-cut diamond was also a new design which embodied the Art Deco Cubist design. Carved gemstones were inspired by the Far East and India and mixing precious stones with coral, lapis lazuli, agate, turquoise and rock crystal quartz.
New archaeological discoveries in Egypt influenced Art Deco design mixing lapis lazuli with gold and cornelian with turquoise. Also seen in Art Deco jewellery were Egyptian motifs, such as Lotus blossoms, scarabs, pyramids and the eye of Horus.
The sautoir, an extremely long pendant which often featured a tassel was iconic of the Art Deco period. Long strands of pearls and beads were worn around the neck in different styles depending on what dress was worn.
Filigree work was popular, as well as cabochon cut gems, and intricate designs which are now almost impossible to recreate. Stacked rings set with gemstones such as sapphire, ruby and emerald were very popular and still are today.
Brooches and pins were worn on every item of clothing, including hats. In the 1930s, clip brooches became popular and were often worn in pairs.
The Art Deco period was celebrated by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Fouquet and Boucheron and many more designers. They produced exquisite examples of Art Deco jewellery which are now very rare collector pieces. Cartier famously created its Tutti Frutti jewellery range which was inspired by India.