Widely appreciated for its timeless sophistication, the Art Deco style marked an explosion of creativity in the world of 1930s jewelry design at its inception. The Art Deco antique jewelry style was birthed of a world within a celebratory mode after the end of World War I; exuberant jewels were created to express this newfound optimism. The art deco style takes its name from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a world's fair hosted in Paris to exhibit the groundbreaking new Art Deco movement, in the realms of design, architecture, furniture, buildings, antique jewelry pieces, glass, and more. The fair proved to be immensely popular; over 16 million people from around the world visited to catch sight of the captivating "style moderne."
What Influenced 1930s Jewelry?
Jewelry designers in the Art Deco era returned to white diamonds, which had featured heavily in the recent Belle Époque. Whereas Belle Époque designers largely took their inspiration from crowns and other royal jewels, Art Deco jewelry artists embraced the new aesthetic of their rapidly changing world. This included the technological developments of the Machine Age, including the increased prevalence of airplanes and automobiles. Modern art even influenced the geometric output from the Art Deco period, with the work of cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso leading the way and the 1919 founding of the Bauhaus school in Germany perpetuating the stylistic evolution in the Art Deco era.
Actress and style icon Louise Brooks (1906-1985)
These combined influences speak for the prevalence of clean, geometric shapes and lines that grew more curvilinear as the style progressed in Art Deco jewelry. Colored diamond rings, necklace pieces, brooch designs, and other fine jewelry all illustrated this unique style from this time period. Designers were learning about the names of diamonds and gems and using them in a number of different ways throughout their fine jewelry creation. Contrasting colors play heavily into the style, with onyx being a gemstone of choice that complements white diamonds. The below Tiffany & Co. Diamond and Onyx Bracelet dates to the period, perfectly epitomizing the Art Deco era. It also speaks to the popularity of vintage bracelets, and bangles, and costume jewelry, with flapper style icons like Louise Brooks often sporting numerous simultaneously.
Non-western motifs also feature prominently in the fine jewelry of the Art Deco period. South and East Asian motifs proved especially popular, with this Cartier Jade Jabot Pin being an elegant example. Non-western-inspired jewelry pieces often incorporated a larger variety of materials and bright colors. The Cartier Jabot Pin, for instance, includes a handsome specimen of jade, which is embellished with asymmetrically placed diamonds and rubies, as well as black and red enameling.
A discussion of Art Deco pieces would be incomplete without a mention of the sautoir, or a necklace with long strands that suspended large pendants or tassels made of pearls, glass beads, or colored stones. The necklace style gracefully complemented the new flapper style of the era, in which women were liberated from the corset and began to sport fluid gowns with comfortable wide waists, which accommodated the rambunctious new dance moves of the day. These simple shift shapes beckoned for elegant adornment in the form of long pearl strands or diamond pendants. In the example below, the sautoir's pendant includes a tassel of strands of glistening natural pearls, as well as diamond and enamel geometric motifs.
Women were not the only ones privy to Art Deco creations. Men of style and privilege commissioned or bought equally enviable clocks, watches, cigarette cases and more. Below you'll find a most stunning Art Deco-period pocket watch created by the famed Audemars Piguet firm of Le Brassus, Switzerland and retailed by E. Gübelin of Lucerne. The open-faced gentlemen’s timepiece is housed in a 14K yellow gold case with fine enamel detailing and a white enamel face with stylistically synonymous numerals.
The Art Deco design and style left a lasting impression, amazingly achieving something both timely and timeless that continues to appeal to collectors today. It’s unique design and use of stunning colored stones make these pieces highly sought after among collectors today. Contemporary jewelers continue to emulate the magnificent colored gemstones that emerged in the period, giving further testament to the Art Deco's sophistication and desirability. From stunning pink diamond vintage necklaces to beautiful costume jewelry studding with genuine gems and long strands of pearls, there are exquisite pieces of jewelry that have come out of the Art Deco period. These pieces were more than fine jewelry, they were decorative art that deserves to be admired for a lifetime.