Art Deco Jewellery

Art Deco style started in about 1920 and was highly influential in a variety of fields including architecture, furniture and graphic design, as well as jewellery. Jewellery became more austere, taking on geometric and angular forms and stronger, brighter colours. Some of this change reflected the revolution in the lives of women during the Great War, which saw far-reaching changes in work, clothing and attitudes.

Jade, enamel and black onyx were popular, and pearls, diamonds and emeralds were freely used in the more expensive pieces. Cheaper jewellery aimed at the new 20th-century mass market was made with steel and chrome and new materials such as Bakelite, an early type of plastic developed to replace shellac. Coral, onyx and lapis lazuli were also much used by makers.

Art Deco jewellery truly entered the mainstream after the Paris Exhibition of 1925, when jewellers like Cartier, Boucheron and Fouquet exhibited work made in the new style. Other jewellers who made Art Deco jewellery included Jean Després, Jean Dunand and Gérard Sandoz.

Women’s fashion continued to play its part in influencing Art Deco jewellery, with the short hair styles of the 1920s encouraging the wearing of long, dangling earrings. As women stopped wearing long gloves for evening wear, elaborate bracelets also became popular.

Double clip brooches, which could be worn singly or as a pair, were much in vogue, and they could be worn on dresses or hats. Long strings of pearls were much favoured. Rectangular diamonds, known as baguette-cut, were widely used to decorate brooches and bracelets. Jewellery became much more exuberant in style, and costume jewellery, made with non-precious materials, was worn even by the wealthy.

Platinum came into fashion in jewellery making for the first time. This can present problems for collectors who want to ascertain the authenticity of a particular piece, since hallmarking of platinum was not compulsory in the UK until 1975.

Art Deco jewellery had an eclectic range of historic influences including ancient Egypt, Japan and Africa. Modern art movements such as Cubism and Futurism also played their part in Art Deco design. Most experts date the outbreak of World War II as the end of the Art Deco movement, although it continued to influence style and fashion for the rest of the 20th century and beyond.