Art Deco: The Design Movement We've Been Obsessed with for over 100 Years
Where Did Art Deco Come from?
The term ‘Art Deco’ is used so often and in relation to so many objects and ideas, it can be difficult to pin-point exactly how and why it made its mark on us in the first place.
While the beginnings of Art Deco design can be noted as early as 1910, the principal portion of this movement is considered to be between the First and Second World Wars (1918-1939). The moniker was taken from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was held in Paris in 1925 and displayed the latest in visionary design across multiple industries, including jewellery. Mostly originating in France, Art Deco sensibility quickly spread across Europe and to the US, especially driven by the rage for new technology: ocean liners, skyscrapers, cars and the general mass-production of new consumer products. The latter especially affected the jewellery trade.
How Did the Art Deco Movement affect the Jewellery Industry?
The developments within the jewellery industry were seemingly never-ending, including the invention of synthetic gems and cultured pearls, as well as the new popularity for plastic, and as a result, the rise of costume jewellery. However, while new and more moderately priced items made jewellery more accessible to everyone for the first time, high-end, handmade pieces continued to have their own heyday. Designers known for really coming into their own during this time, especially by developing their own innovations, include Cartier, Mauboussin, Fouquet, and Van Cleef & Arpels, among many others.
While the previous Edwardian and Art Nouveau periods were focused on very organic and typically feminine imagery such as bows, garlands and delicate florals and soft, pastel colour schemes, Art Deco was a post-war rejection of these sweet and seemingly fragile motifs. Instead, designers embraced bolder and more robust ideas, including geometric shapes and patterns, vertical, architectural lines, bright and contrasting colours and an unapologetic mix of gems in daring and abundant pave settings, most often set in ‘futuristic’ platinum.
Which Other Jewellery Items were Popular During the Art Deco Movement?
The post-war revolution of women’s role in the workforce and on the social scene also greatly contributed to new designs and the idea of functionality. Women’s desire for shorter hair, skirts and sleeves and proper workwear all required more dynamic accessories, including longer earrings and necklaces (“sautoirs”), bold bracelets and arm bands, wristwatches, and more versatile lapel pins and brooches. Of course, party-ready, jewelled cigarette cases and cocktail rings also became must-have accessories.
The invention of new gem cuts also had great effect on the more geometrical outlook and flexibility of designers, including the introduction of baguettes, and emerald, trillion, shield and calibré-cut stones. ‘Archaeological Style’ also made an appearance after the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, which further inspired the public’s interest in ancient and exotic motifs and gems, including jadeite, nephrite, coral, turquoise, onyx and lapis lazuli, and of course the continued use of the ever-popular pearl.
How to Purchase Art Deco Jewellery Now
The versatility, modernity and sophisticated lines and colour palettes associated with Art Deco make it effortlessly timeless and continuously sought-after by jewellery consumers. Its contemporary aesthetic combined with historical interest and artful design details, has created a huge demand for Deco-inspired engagement rings, in particular. While original, antique pieces are undoubtedly romantic and special, it’s important to remember that every piece will require its own care. Be sure to have antique settings checked for any loose prongs at least once a year and clean only with a soft toothbrush and mild soap and water.
If a delicate antique isn’t well-suited to your habits or lifestyle, you can consider a modern reproduction. This route can also grant you the opportunity to take a custom approach to your piece, potentially allowing you to choose the gems, setting and even metal which are the most meaningful and suitable to you or your partner.