The term Art Deco refers to a style of art and design which comes from the period of the 1920s to the late 1930s and has its roots in Paris, France. The abbreviated term Art Deco was first phrased in 1966 with an exhibition in Paris titled Les Années 25 and had a subtitle of Art Deco. This exhibition celebrated the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) which took place in 1925 in Paris. This style had a significant impact on all sorts of art from fashion, jewellery, industrial design and architecture. The structure of art deco is based upon mathematical geometric shapes and embraced influences from around the world including;
- Greco-Roman Classicism
- Ancient Egypt
- Aztec Mexico
Art deco used the classical influences listed above and merged them with the current technology and influences, to create a new style of art which embraced the marvels of the modern age. There are sub shoots of this style which used things such as trapezoidal, zigzagged, geometric, and jumbled shapes. There is the famous Chrysler building in New York, which was built between 1928 and 1930 and has an art deco inspired spire at its top.
The Early Days of Art Deco
A collection of French artists formed the La Société des artistes décorateurs (the society of decorator artists) after the Universal Exposition of 1900, which was held in Paris from the 15th of April to the 12th of November, 1900. The exposition was held to celebrate the achievements of the previous century, whilst welcoming the new century with its expectation of great technological advancement. Some of the founders of this society were well known artists of the time such as Maurice Dufrêne, Raoul Lachenal, Hector Guimard, Eugène Grasset, Emile Decoeur and Paul Bellot. The purpose of the society was to demonstrate French decorative arts internationally. They did this by hosting the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925 that the 1966 Les Années 25 exhibition was based on.
Art decos Influence on Jewellery
The affect that art deco had on jewellery was quite extensive. At the time there were also a lot of social changes taking place, with the advent of women being entitled to vote and also the confidence this instilled, major changes also happened in womens fashion, which in turn had an effect on the jewellery that they wore. Now some women were comfortable wearing shorter hair styles, which lead to large elaborate earrings to be worn sometimes down to the shoulder, all with art deco influences. The famous flapper shape, where a woman is skinny and has a flat chest, were complimented by long necklaces which could hang down below their waist. No sleeves also became popular in womens fashion leading to the wearing of bracelets, armbands and wrist watches. Not all jewellery was affected by the art deco movement as traditional styles were still made, however there was a definite influence on a lot of it which is still sold today as antiques and is also copied and manufactured. All of the precious and semi precious stones used in art deco jewellery were cut using clean geometric lines. The materials used in conjunction with the stones varied greatly;
With using such a varied range of materials to compliment the stones there were suddenly a vast range of colours available. During this period Costume Jewellery also became very popular and was introduced by Coco Chanel. This introduced jewellery which was only meant to be worn whilst it was fashionable. It was made from cheaper products with fake or less precious stones, meaning once it was no longer in vogue, you could throw it away. The materials used and also technologies as well, shaped the changes that came in jewellery design as well. An example of this is the placing of stones, platinum started to become more popular that gold or silver as it was stronger. This meant that you could place a stone on a ring with fewer retaining teeth to hold the stone in, this opened up new possibilities to the makers and designers of the jewellery.
Art Deco Jewellery in the Modern World
Antique art deco jewellery is still very popular today. If you do a search on the internet then you will find a range of companies selling both the original antique engagement rings and also copies as well. There are works by designers such as Cartier, Raymond Templier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Gerard Sandoz which are still both highly sought after and also very valuable as well. If you find an original piece of work in your jewellery box by René Lalique, then this is extremely valuable today as his work was very fragile so not a lot of it survives to this day. Just because something may be old, does not automatically mean that it is valuable. So if you are looking to get some original antique jewellery, always make sure that you used a trusted and respected dealer within the industry and ask for provenance where available to make sure the piece you are buying is genuine. As with most things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is all down to personal taste as to whether something is worth the money or not. If you do decide to invest in something like this though it is always best to get a piece that you like to that you can enjoy it and not just look at it as a financial investment as jewellery is meant to be worn, not locked away where nobody can see it.