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What was the Art Deco style originally known as?

Style Moderne
Streamlined Moderne
Arte Moderne.
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Art Deco Collectibles: Fashionable Objets from the Jazz Age
by Rodney Capstick-Dale &
Diana Capstick-Dale

In the 1920s and 1930s the Art Deco style influenced everything from art and architecture, interiors and furnishings, automobiles and boats to the small, personal objects that were part of everyday life: Featuring high-quality photography and vintage illustrations and ephemera, this book brings these objects to life in exquisite detail for the first time. The objects in this themed book encompass the Deco style at its most alluring, as well as the modernity, excitement, and social revolution of the Jazz Age.

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The Story of Art Deco

This video explores the origins and history of the Art Deco style, from its beginnings in the early 20th century to the 1940s.

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French Art Deco Geometric Brooch

Deco Baubles
by Bob Brooke


Fashion in the 1920s and 1930s was all about glamour. The fashion restrictions posed by Victorian and to some extent Edwardian society seemed to be lifted as World War I came to an end.

At first, French designers called it Style Moderne, but later on the term Art Deco came into common use. It seemed that nothing could escape its grasp, including jewelry. Art Deco jewelry represented the ultimate attention to detail in design, materials, and craftsmanship. Lifestyle between World War I and II called for dressing up and wearing lots of jewelry every day,

There was glamour and exquisite artistry. The geometric lines of Art Deco were a rejection of the grandly romantic bows and garlands of the Belle Epoque style and the wild naturalism of Art Nouveau. This was the jewelry of a world fascinated by the rise of machines that enabled people to travel to exotic locations. Just as women’s fashion of the Roaring ’20s expressed a sense of newfound freedom, so did the jewelry of the time.

There was a fearlessness to Art Deco jewelry in its bold sculptural shapes and unique materials. The use of onyx, jade, rock crystal, lapis, coral, and colored carved gemstones reflected unbridaled creativity.

Art movements like the Bauhaus and Cubism had a huge influence on design, including an embrace of geometry, simplicity, and clean silhouettes. Also during this time, platinum use in jewelry plummeted, since the U.S. Government needed it for war material. In 1917, New York jeweler David Belais introduced his formula for 18k white gold which proved a good alternative to platinum.

The new fashions presented by Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel after World War I called for simple, straight lines and a freer silhouette which required designers to rethink jewelry styles as well. Enjoying cocktails and cigarettes, wearing makeup, playing golf and tennis, driving, yachting and dancing till dawn were all a part of the new woman.

New archeological discoveries in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings influenced Art Deco design motifs. Figurative representations of lotus blossoms, pyramids, the eye of Horus, scarabs, nearly anything from the ancient time of the Pharaohs was fair game as a jewelry motif. Notable jewelers adapted Egyptian influences into their designs. Entire scenes of ancient Egyptian life played out over bracelets, rendered in new color combinations created by combining lapis lazuli with gold and cornelian with turquoise.

The Indian jewelry that became so popular at the beginning of the 20th century was also an inspiration to the jewelers of the 1920s. They used carved gemstones as flowers, leaves, fruit, and other colorful accents. Designers also drew on design motifs from Islamic art with its stylized forms and colorful accents. Persian motifs included flowers, plants, and arabesques rendered sumptuously in emerald and sapphire or jade and lapis lazuli. Chinese dragons and architectural motifs along with Oriental coral, pearls, and jade turned up extensively in Art Deco designs. Pre-Columbian design motifs from Central America and African tribal art, often expressed as masks and ebony heads, all had some influence.

Two major schools of jewelry design appeared during the post-war period. The first, Bijoutiers-artistes, emphasized design over value. They employed gemstones in a sculptural way, carving them into various geometric artworks using diamonds and other faceted gems as punctuation rather than the main focus. They often collaborated with craftspersons who didn’t ordinarily work with jewelry. An entire community of artists shared ideas and designs, enriching each other’s work with new inspiration. New methods emerged from this collaboration, including how they used lines, applied color, employed reliefs, and used lacquer work.

The second, Bijoutiers-joailliers, working in the well-known Parisian jewelry shops, began using calibré-cut precious gemstones to accent and enhance their geometric creations outlining designs and flanking rows of diamonds. As time went by, they added trapeze, half-moon, triangle and other unusual diamond cuts to their repertoire. Their fascination with the Far East resulted not only in the use of fabulous carved gems from India, but in mixing precious stones with coral, rock crystal quartz, lapis lazuli, agate, and turquoise.

Each of the bijoutiers-joailliers had a slightly different view of the design influences of the times. Cartier reinterpreted their garland style in a more geometric form, adding influences from the Far East, India, and Persia. Carved beads from India and mother-of-pearl plaques from China along with carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds found their way into their pieces.

Mauboussin used enamels and colored gems to provide strong contrast to vast fields of diamonds and used a circular or oval enclosure for their designs. Van Cleef & Arpels took a more Egyptian-influenced approach for their designs, using pharonic motifs extensively. Although all the French jewelers became immersed in Art Deco design, each interpreted and emphasized different design themes of the times.

Instead of the stock market crash of 1929 diminishing jewelry design, it seemed to cause a revolution in both the size and scope of jewelry. Large brooches, voluminous ear clips, and wide bracelets lavishly rendered only in diamonds characterized the 1930s. Monochromatic creations featuring a wide variety of diamond cuts became the norm, with color outlining or providing a framework for the featured diamonds.

Convertible jewelry was a notable feature of Art Deco jewelry. Double clips that could be worn separately as dress clips or jointly as a larger brooch were typical. Bandeaus broke up into matching bracelets, necklaces and brooches while earrings with detachable elements provided a day-to-night option.

Innovations in Materials and Techniques
Gem cutters learned how to achieve brilliance from faceted gems in new and innovative ways resulting in new cuts and shapes that could be arranged in mosaic-like designs. They learned to arrange various diamond cuts in patterns according to the radiance, luminosity and reflective qualities needed for the design.

The use of platinum in jewelry, with its great strength, required less metal to hold a gem securely, resulting in lighter, airier designs. A less expensive platinum substitute was developed in 1918 called osmior, plator or platinor which became popular with bijoutiers-artistes.

Lacquer techniques from the Far East replaced the more expensive and labor intensive enameling popular at the turn of the century.

Perhaps the most important innovation was the mystery setting, or “serti invisible,” also known as the invisible setting developed by Van Cleef & Arpels which allowed gems to be mounted, through a system of grooves and rails, in such a way that no metal was visible.

Cultured pearls, created by implanting mother-of-pearl beads into pearl-bearing oysters, became the iconic jewel of the 1920’s. Likewise, jewelers used a variety of plastic and other synthetic materials, especially Bakelite, to imitate gemstones while bone, wood, and amber became widely available.

Changes to Jewelry Design
Women pinned brooches on every article of clothing, including hats. Diamond-set plaques flanked and decorated carved rock crystal quartz circles designed in a buckle-like style or carved crystal scrolls. Jewelry designers used coral, onyx, and jade in a similar way. They also adapted Asian motifs for brooches including pagodas, temples, and columns, along with stylized flower and fruit baskets and fountains. Jabot or sûreté pins, styled similarly to a stickpin, featured decorative elements at both ends of the pin. Small geometric openwork plaques, ribbons, bows, novelty, and sporting brooches all continued to be in fashion.

During the 1930s the clip brooch came into its own. Worn in pairs, one on either side of a dress, they could often be joined by the use of a brooch frame into one larger brooch. Usually, they were symmetrical or identical, but asymmetrical designs were available as well.

Extremely long sautoirs became the iconic necklace in the 1920s and often featured a tassel or geometric pendant. Women wore long strands of beads and pearls, knotted carelessly around the neck and worn down the front or back to punctuate the styling of their dresses. Pearl necklaces became de riguer for both day and evening wear. Shorter necklaces often featured gemstone beads or alternating diamonds and carved gemstones, terminating in a plaque shaped pendant, often detachable for use as a brooch or bangle decoration. Multi-strand graduated pearl or gem bead necklaces with diamond or gem plaques on either side created a festoon effect. Magnificent bib necklaces featuring large rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds replaced the simple diamond riviere.

Pendants, constructed in a wide variety of geometric shapes, became the quintessential Art Deco jewelry item. The bijoutiers-joailliers created elongated geometric shapes covered in diamonds and colored stones, featuring zigzag and step motifs along with influences of Chinese, Egyptian and Indian cultures. Tassels and fringe often swung from the bottom of pendants from this period. These sensational pendants dangled from chains that featured pearls and gemstones or from silk cords, at a variety of lengths.

Long, feminine, geometrically shaped earrings dangled from ear lobes exposed by shorter hairstyles. Earring designs, usually linear and set with diamonds, often terminated in a larger colored gem. The later 1920’s debuted more elaborate monochromatic earrings which highlighted multiple diamond cuts and were often convertible to brooches. During the 1930’s earrings seemed to curl up, spiraling right back up onto the earlobe. Shells, scrolls, leaves, and flowers, much larger in size than earlier earrings, clipped onto the lobe and hugged close to the face.

Larger more massive rings had platforms and planes decorated by a myriad of gemstones. They often centered a colored stone cut en cabochon, or a large diamond, surrounded by a border of smaller diamonds. Large emerald cut diamond rings and extreme step cut colored stones, such as emerald and aquamarine, were popularized during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Jewelers employed alternative materials such as ivory and rock crystal, often gem-set, frosted, and carved, from which to fashion a shank.
Starting out as narrow geometric links set with gems and colored stones in a definite pattern, bracelets evolved into wide pictorial straps, which could feature a story told in Egyptian symbols or an entire garden rendered in carved gems. Women began to wear multiple narrower bangles up their arms, along with carved gemstone circular bracelets. Cuff bracelets, armillas and stylized manchettes became popular once again. Eventually, wide bangles became an alternate place to display the ever-versatile clip brooch. As the 1930s progressed so did the size of the bracelets. Large diamond and/or gem set plaques hinged together with impressive pavéd oversized links took on new, even wider proportions.

More than any other medium, jewelry set the tone for the Art Deco era and for modern fashions and accessories to come.

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