Art Deco Jewelry
by Sasha t on Aug 15, 2023
Jazz, Glamour, and Sparkling Jewels: The Glittering World of Art Deco Jewelry
Today, we're traveling back through time to explore the glamorous world of Art Deco jewelry. This was a time when the world was transforming at an electrifying pace. Get ready to get lost in the razzle dazzle of the Jazz Age where jazz music filled the streets, flappers did the Charleston and everyone had their own source for bathtub gin. Amidst the ice cold gin and swinging, hot piano, the jewelry of the time echoed the bold, rebellious and innovative spirit of the age.
Though the term “Art Deco” itself wasn’t coined until the 1960s, the Art Deco era itself spans two decades, from 1919 to the end of the 1930s. Usually when we reference this era, we think specifically of the work from the 1920s - the work from the time of new industrialization and excess. The 1920s were the height of the era and a time when people were spending without abandon on frivolous items and caring less about any potential consequences - it was a decade of living in the here and now. The Art Deco movement emerged based on society’s faith in and excitement about this societal and technological progress.
There is a reason that we refer to the decade as the Roaring 20s - society was excited and reveling in life made easier by industrialization and mass production, and revel they did. A surging economy ignited an era of mass consumerism, flamboyant displays of pleasure and an overall leisurely yet revelatory spirit The aesthetic that came out of the 1920s pervaded society in a way no other movement to date had and influenced the appearance of nearly everything in day to day life - from the tallest skyscrapers and the most glamorous airplanes to the glassware and textiles on your dining room table and everything in between.
When it comes to jewelry of the era, the style came from the new liberation women found post World War I. They liberated their hair by cutting it into chic bobs, liberated their hemlines with shorter dresses, and generally lived in a much freer way than they had in the past. They wanted jewelry to match this freedom. They craved color, intricate designs and patterns and the sophisticated linear shapes that were prevalent elsewhere during this era.
Today we’re going to look at some of the defining characteristics and iconic pieces from the Art Deco era.
The jewelry of the Art Deco era is characterized by its use of geometric shapes, symmetry, and streamlined forms. It often featured sunburst motifs, zigzags, chevrons, and step patterns. Materials such as chrome, glass, stainless steel, and polished wood were common, as they exuded a sense of luxury and modernity. Many of the specific design elements of the era show up in the way stones are cut, in the types of metal used and by the intricacy and opulence of the design.
Contrasting Colors & Geometric Designs
Geometric Design was one of the most defining characteristics of the era. Bold lines, sharp angles and symmetrical patterns were at the core of design. Square, rectangle and other angular gem cuts were incredibly popular and were used to showcase bold colors, often with contrasting color combinations. In fact, a key element of this era was the contrast provided by different colored gemstones. One way to emphasize the linear and geometric designs of the era was to use different colored gemstones to create an almost mosaic-like effect. It was not unusual to see rubies, sapphires or emeralds tightly packed around a center stone to create more linear, sophisticated and geometric patterns. During the Art Deco era, larger, more flamboyant gemstones were often traded in for the levity of smaller stones as jewelers became inspired to innovate new shapes of stones, like trapeze, half moon and triangle-cuts to amplify these patterns and designs.
Bold Metals & Designs
Platinum was the metal of choice in the Art Deco era, newly available for use by jewelers post World War I. Its cool, polished tones provided a sleek backdrop for the majority of jewelry produced during this era. White gold was also used as it had the same ability as platinum to enhance the sleek, linear and icy appearance of the designs. Yellow gold was used almost always solely as a way to create contrast.
There was nothing subtle about the jewelry of the Art Deco - it was about boldness, grandeur and making a statement. Brooches became larger with more intricate designs, bracelets became more ornate and dramatic and cocktail rings became de rigeur. Jewelry was made to move with the moment - pearl necklaces that swung with every dance move, jeweled headbands that sparkled and a new trend of wearing wristwatches as wrist candy, decked in opulence with boldly colorful gems.
Luxury & Egyptian-Revival
In 1922, the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun after years and years of searching. With the help of top archaeological photographer Harry Burton, every item in this tomb was impeccably photographed and cataloged and ultimately distributed to news sources across the world. This had a huge impact on the style of jewelry of this era. This new Egyptian influence was folded into the geometric designs and the use of scarabs, pharaohs and pyramids became common along with use of more exotic materials like coral, jade and onyx. Additionally the advent of air travel made it easier to get across the world leading to more and more places for inspiration to strike.
Iconic Cartier Pieces of the Era
Louis-Francois Cartier founded Carttier in 1847 in Paris. His three grandsons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques, turned the House into a global enterprise, with Louis running Paris, Jacques overseeing London and Pierre managing New York. They employed the finest designers and craftsmen, and with royalty, film stars and business tycoons among its clientele, there were few limits to its creative ambitions. Most experts agree that 1910-1940 was the golden era for Cartier, so we can’t talk about the Art Deco era without talking about Cartier, as the house contributed so many of the most iconic pieces of the era.
The Patiala Necklace
The Patiala Necklace was created by the House of Cartier (it took Cartier nearly three years to complete it!) in 1928 for the Maharaja of Patiala. This necklace is a masterpiece of Art Deco design and boasts nearly 3,000 diamonds including the world’s seventh largest diamond, the De Beers Diamond. It weighed 234.65 carats in its final setting.
Another iconic design from Cartier in this era was the Tutti Frutti Collection. This collection is renowned for its vibrant and colorful designs, which incorporated gemstones like rubies, sapphires and emeralds carved in natural motifs like flowers, leaves, berries and fruits. These gorgeous gems were then set in traditional Cartier platinum and diamonds, to create a beautiful marriage of two traditions. This collection was inspired by Jacques Cartier's trips to India where he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the color and the shapes of the jewelry, the Mughal tradition of carving and the natural motifs used.
The Trinity Collection
The first Cartier Trinity ring was released in 1924, almost 80 years after the company was established. Legend has it that Louis Cartier was inspired by his friend, the French poet Louis Cocteau to create the ring. The first ring was made from platinum, yellow gold and rose gold. This original ring was extremely simple, without a stone in sight, and was quite a departure from the more ornate designs of the time. Today the Trinity collection is expansive and consists of rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings - both in the original simple golds and adorned with diamonds and other precious stones.
The Art Deco era was a magical time in the world of jewelry. It was when tradition met modernity, and jewelers dreamt in ornate technicolor. The pieces from this era are not just jewelry; they’re pieces of art, snapshots of a time when the world was reimagining itself. Today, nearly a century later, the allure of Art Deco jewelry remains unmatched. Whether it’s the Great Gatsby glamor or fresh simplicity of geometric designs, these pieces continue to inspire today.
At Jack Weir & Sons, we’ve spent the last 40 years traveling to Europe and all over the world, curating extraordinary estate jewels. JWS is where the old world meets the new world. Celebrate life, preserve history, and discover your own priceless heirloom jewel. We are extremely grateful for our clients and the ability to help people to celebrate their special moments through one-of-a-kind jewelry. To share that gratitude and our strong family values, we chose to partner with Baby2Baby. So far, we've donated $125,000. A portion of every sale goes towards children living in poverty to provide them with diapers, clothing, and all the basic necessities that every child deserves.
We offer in-person and Virtual Appointments and are happy to answer any questions about your favorite jewel.