Period Focus: Art Deco Jewellery (1920 - 1935)

To continue with our focus on different periods of jewellery, we enter the exhilarating period that is most commonly referred to as that of The Art Deco. Most famously perhaps celebrated in F. Scott Fitzgeralds seminal novel, The Great Gatsby, the Art Deco Period refers to the years between 1920 and 1935. During this time, jewellery was inspired by the political, social and economic goings on of the time and, as such, its design mirrored in its use of bold and strong colours and designs the colourful themes explored within Fitzgeralds novel. This translated into creating jewellery that was flamboyant, playful and innovative, as well as producing motifs that remain popular and much sought after in 2015.

The Influence of World Cultures on Art Deco Motifs

Cartier, Tiffany and as well Van Cleef and Arpels are all famous jewellery design houses which designed and consequently were leading innovators of jewellery between 1920 and 1935. During this time, industrialisation and the true beginnings of globalisation meant that many jewellers including the likes of Tiffany were being seduced by and so drawing inspiration from numerous different world cultures.

Specifically, vibrant and geometric patterns from countries such as Greece, Egypt, Africa and Asia were heavily influencing jewellery design. For example, the origins of zigzag and sunburst patterns and motifs typical of Art Deco necklaces, earrings and rings can be traced back to patterns seen in cultures of the countries aforementioned.

How Colour Determined Popular Stones of the Time

During the Art Deco Period, diamonds were massively popular and were often teamed contrastingly with richly coloured rubies, emeralds and sapphires to create the lavish patterns and motifs which inspired jewellers of the era. Black onyx is also closely associated with Art Deco jewellery. Black onyx became popular as its unique depth and distinctive black colour meant that it could be used contrastingly with white diamonds and crystals to create the black and white geometric designs that helped to define the look of jewellery at the time.

Characteristic Art Deco Designs and Motifs

The geometric designs that today exemplify and make Art Deco Jewellery so easily identifiable at the time made innovative use of relatively simple shapes such as circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. Some suggest at least part of the influence geometry had on Art Deco jewellery and the waning desire for the curves and sweeping Art Nouveau shapes was due to the technological advances of the time, and that the shapes and angles used allude to and mimic the cogs and ways in which engineering was at the time using then new and advanced means.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the angular arrow motifs typical of the period were a product of African themes. Equally, triangular patterns took much of their inspiration from Egyptian pyramid structures, while Japanese black lacquer work combined with Aztec zigzag patterns were often recreated in black onyx and white diamonds to create striking drop earrings, necklaces, rings and brooches.

Differences Between Early and Later Art Deco

Even within the Art Deco Period, there exists a divide between earlier art deco designs and later designs. The flamboyant patterns and intense use of colours evident in much early Art Deco jewellery reflected the mood in the post World War I years. By the 1930s these early designs were being replaced by far more minimalistic and modest, albeit still resolutely bold and masculine designs that in time would come to serve as a visual representation of the austerity measures and the luxury forfeited during and following World War II.