February 04, 2022
5 min read

History of Art Deco jewelry

History of Art Deco jewelry

Jewelry pieces created between the world wars reflect the nerve of the epoch incredibly accurately. Today, art deco pieces still command high prices. What’s the reason?

At first it was called Style Modern. Later it got a new name – Art Deco. This term emerged after the 1925 World’s Fair in Paris, known as Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes. Unusual Art Deco jewels were presented there for the first time.

The new Art Deco movement (1920 – 1930s) was an embodiment of a rapidly changing world. The First world war disrupted the usual course of things: it ravaged European cultural centers, forced women into the industrial world and put the wealth of the nobility at risk. The triumph of technology and thirst for order in the wake of chaos were clearly reflected in modernism and hence in Art Deco style.

Jewelry houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Maison Janesich, Ostertag, René Boivin, Paul Brandt, Raymond Templier and Fouquet were inspired by the relationship between form and function, art and industry, men and machines. Bright colors, clear lines and contrasts were at the peak of their popularity.

Art deco inspiration

The key features of Art Deco were geometry, symmetry and boldness of both design and color – a real tribute to cubism.

The Art Deco movement sought to discard the rules of the past. The new jewels were bold and bright, had sharp edges and graphic designs. Designers accentuated geometry and emphasized color contrasts. They used unusual combinations of materials: natural emeralds, rubies, jade, silver and ivory were combined with glass and plastic.What is more, large gems were rejected in favor of smaller and brilliant-cut diamonds. 

History of Art Deco jewelry
Cartier Art Deco clocks with diamonds and gems

Later, Art Deco designers got a new source of inspiration – Chinese, Japanese and Egyptian art. They tried to create new style elements, using Asian decorations and themes. Designers also borrowed plant and flower motifs from Persian carpets and miniatures. As for the colors, they were inspired by delicate shades of flowers and by bold combinations of certain colors, such as blue and green. 

History of Art Deco jewelry
Cartier Tutti Frutti jewels

Art deco jewelry colors and materials

The first Art Deco jewelry pieces were more tender and feminine, while later styles were more geometric and austere. However, both periods featured bold colors. 

Color is the most important characteristic of this style. Black and white was a classic combination: imagine black onyx with diamonds. However, the so-called fruit salad motif was also important: colored gems such as ruby, sapphire and emerald were combined with white diamonds. A whole palette of colors.

The basic material used in Art Deco jewelry was diamond. This stone was used both on large solitaires and in jewelry pieces where numerous small diamonds were needed. During this period new diamond cuts and shapes were rapidly created and popularized: baguettes and emerald, triangles and shield, pear and marquise shapes – to name just a few.

Colored gemstones also played an important role. The most popular were rubies, sapphires and emeralds. 

Pearls – did not matter whether they were natural or cultured – were also in the spotlight. 

Moreover, enameling with red and black colors was also quite common during the Art Deco era.

Types of art deco jewelry

Plunging necklines dictated new fashion. Therefore, long pendants – or sautoirs – were in high demand. Made up of colored beads or pearls, they ended with several tassels. 

Trendy short hairstyles made long earrings especially popular. 

And short-sleeved dresses popularized bracelets of various styles and types. For example, bangle bracelets worn on the upper arms were every fashionista’s dream. They could be both thin  – like a row of diamonds, or wide – featuring diamonds and gems of impressive weight. 

History of Art Deco jewelry History of Art Deco jewelry

Cocktail rings also became a common jewelry piece. Bold and sparkling with huge gemstones, they seemed to be main guests at all the parties.

However, the most typical jewelry piece was a double-clip brooch. It could be worn as separate brooches or as a single massive jewel. Another option was the jabot pin. 

Watches during the Art Deco era were made in platinum and featured diamonds, colored gems or enameling. Moreover, watches on long chains that were worn as pendants were considered real chic! Cartier created some of the most stylish and exquisite timepieces of this period. 

Designers of art deco jewelry

The most prominent jewelry houses and individual designers producing Art Deco jewelry were located in Paris. This is largely due to the fact that the movement itself originated in France, where it gained its popularity – and from there it covered the whole world.

Outside of France, there were also outstanding designers working in the Art Deco style.

The outbreak of World War II put an end to the Art Deco era. It seems that no design movement  inspired so much bold creativity as the Art Deco. Till today Art Deco jewelry pieces command the highest prices on auctions and remain coveted by collectors all over the world. 

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