Oct. 21, 2021

Art Déco Jewelry - Ideal of Geometric Beauty

Art déco dominated in Europe and the United States until the outbreak of World War II. The first manifestations of this style were noticeable already around 1910, however, its greatest heyday took place just after the end of World War I. The art déco style took various forms of art, from painting to architecture and applied art. It fully flourished in jewelry design as well.

The leitmotifs of the déco style are geometry, symmetry, and bold approach to color. Sophisticated in its simplicity, elegant jewelry was a response to unconstrained curves, soft lines, and pastel colors of the Art Nouveau era, style that dominated art at the turn of the century. During the 1920s, pastels gave way to vivid tones and bold color combinations. Wavy lines were turned into strict geometric forms, and asymmetrical designs were replaced by symmetrical motifs. Due to cubist and geometric shapes of art déco jewelry, new diamond cuts were discovered and popularized, e.g. emerald, pear, marquise. 

The early art déco style took various patterns from the Edwardian era, including garlands, baskets of flowers, bows. Edwardian jewelry influenced art déco also in terms of the choice of materials and techniques. Similarly to the designers of the Edward VII era, art déco artists made earrings, rings, and necklaces out of fine diamonds, which they framed in a platinum setting. Platinum was chosen for its high strength and durable, high gloss. The bold white of this material in combination with a diamond or colored stone was the most widely used jewelry design in this period. The aesthetics of black and white was particularly favored, although designers did not shy away from combining various colors, embedding diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and onyxes in one piece.

Colored stones were important elements of the jewelry from that era. The most popular were the already mentioned sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, nonetheless almost all colored stones were in use, such as quartz, jade, coral, pearl. Pearls, both natural and cultured, played a significant role in the art déco jewelry as well. Cultured pearls were first introduced to the market on a bigger scale in the 1920s and quickly became very fashionable. They complemented diamonds or contrasted with colored stones.

In the 1920s, women's outfits commenced to expose much more body than in earlier eras. The choice of jewelry design began to be adapted to the prevailing fashion. Long pendants with geometric shapes matched perfectly with deep necklines.  Sautoir, a long necklace made of numerous strands of pearls or colored stones and trimmed with one or two tassels, became particularly fashionable. Short hairstyles, popular at that time, revealed ears and earrings clipped on them. Dresses with short sleeves or without sleeves allowed to expose decorative bracelets that were worn even on the upper arms. Fingers were adorned with massive rings.

The abundance of motifs used during the reign art déco was one of the characteristic elements of this style. Oriental art constituted an endless source of inspiration for contemporary artists and sparked a renewed fascination just after the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Designers incorporated into their works increasingly more ornaments and decorations referring to the Egyptian art, such as the lotus flower, scarab beetle, ziggurat, or the eye of Horus.

Art déco jewelry is also distinguished by new, innovative materials. The largest jewelry houses used high-quality ores and precious stones in their designs, but such pieces were available only to the richest. Thanks to technological advances in the field of artificial materials production, jewelry also started to be more affordable. Bakelite, which perfectly imitated stones, bones, and pearls, was used on a large scale by the jewelry industry.