March 29, 2022
4 min read

History of art nouveau jewelry

History of art nouveau jewelry
History of art nouveau jewelry

A brief and bright moment that influenced jewelry design for a long time.

Art Nouveau movement started in 1895 and ended with the outbreak of World War I. It disappeared as suddenly as it arrived, invading every form of art: jewelry, architecture, music, literature and painting. Art Nouveau was more than a style – its idea was “art should be a way of living”. 

The style became a liberation, a breakthrough to freedom, and an unfastening of shackles. Throughout the whole 19th century, it seemed that designers had nowhere to go further, nowhere to develop. Art Nouveau changed that.

Although the movement was widespread all throughout Europe, it was originally from France. 

Art Nouveau inspiration

Art always reflects the spirit of the times. In the center of Art Nouveau is the image of a delicate and fragile woman. This is a reaction to the events that took place in French society at that time – women were fighting to secure more rights to themselves by getting an education and jobs. Many French seemed to fear what would happen to their society if women achieved equal rights. So Art Nouveau depicted lovely and unthreatening women with flowing hair and sweet faces.

Art Nouveau was also an unspoken protest of the industrial revolution. Its tender and delicate features were opposed to industrial brute aspects. Designers and artists were looking for inspiration in nature and natural harmony.

Literature was very important for artists. At that time, Charles Baudelaire’s poem The Flowers of Evil played a key role. It reflected the sensitivity of the Art Nouveau era. As for music, artists of that time prefered Richard Wagner. 

Art Nouveau admirers 

Art Nouveau jewelers likened themselves to artists, working at meticulously hand-crafted pieces.

Art Nouveau jewelry was not intended for the general public. 

Such pieces were often large, catchy and bold, and some of them even depicted naked women. At that time, it was truly shocking. Such pieces were expensive – so most of them were donned by wealthy and artistic people. 

The women who ordered and wore these pieces were actresses like Sarah Bernhardt, grandes cocottes like La Belle Otero and some worldly socialites like Countess Grefulhe. 

Art Nouveau jewelers

History of art nouveau jewelry
René Lalique jewelry

René Lalique was the most influential jeweler working in Art Nouveau style. At the dawn of his career he sold his designs to Boucheron, Cartier and Verver. Later he started working for himself and achieved incredible success. The material to which he devoted his whole life and which became his hallmark was glass. René’s other trademark was nude feminine figure used in jewelry pieces. 

History of art nouveau jewelry
Henri Vever jewelry

Henri Vever was another highly influential jeweler of the Art Nouveau movement. One of his greatest creations was enamel hair combs with pearls and organic motifs. 

History of art nouveau jewelry
Georges Fouquet pendants

Another prominent jeweler was Georges Fouquet – in his pieces he used mostly opals, enamel over chased gold and colored stones

History of art nouveau jewelry
Lucien Gaillard jewelry

Works of Lucien Gaillard were influenced by Japanese style – in his designs he used enamels, opal and colored stones. 

Most major jewelry houses created Art Nouveau jewelry pieces too: Boucheron, Chaumet, Coulon and Cartier promptly implemented this aesthetic into their works. 

Art Nouveau era ended with World War I. After it, the public became open to modern developments and the spirit of new times. Straight lines found their place in clothing, architecture and  painting. Women started wearing first women’s suits that required stricter jewelry pieces and Art Nouveau jewels faded into history. 

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