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Art Deco Jewelry

Updated on March 14, 2012

The Rise of Art Deco

Art Deco was an extremely popular design movement that emerged in the early 20th century, influencing fashion, architecture, furniture, jewelry and industrial and commercial design. Stylistically, it sat somewhere between the ornately decorative design of the Victorian era and the futuristic ultra-modern sleek design of the mid 20th century.

The art nouveau movement, which predated deco, had already laid the groundwork for a shift from traditional design to an emerging modernism that was to revolutionise 20th century style. It was also the age of newly created mass production of consumer goods and for the first time hot, fashionable new designs could be purchased by the average person, as opposed to the well-heeled elite. In the late 20s, 30s and early 40s, Art Deco design began to appear everywhere - from toasters to brooches.

Although it's popularity declined in the 40s and the subsequent post-war period, Art Deco resurfaced in the 1960s to a newly appreciative generation and is still regarded as a one of the most striking and innovative design movements of the 20th century.

1938 postcard featuring typical Art Deco design elements
1938 postcard featuring typical Art Deco design elements
Exquisitely simple Art Deco engagement ring showcases the uncluttered yet aesthetically balanced lines of deco design.
Exquisitely simple Art Deco engagement ring showcases the uncluttered yet aesthetically balanced lines of deco design.
Common Art Deco brooch motif of a woman walking her dog on a leash.
Common Art Deco brooch motif of a woman walking her dog on a leash.

Bold, Brash and often Beautiful

The Deco style has a very distinctive look, famous for its bold geometric lines and exotic influences. Designers looked to a faraway, distant past for inspiration, including Aztec culture, African tribal art and Egyptian influences and infused their pieces with striking deco colours of greens, pinks, earthy oranges, creams and blacks.

In the 1920s jewelry took on a whole new, extravagant character - sleeveless dresses created bare arms that needed dressing up and mass produced costume jewelry meant women could afford to wear layers of beaded necklaces and bangles all the way up their arms.

It was the jazz age and their was a new enthusiasm for music, living and artistic expression.New materials too, were incorporated into jewelry design - such as bakelite ( a type of early plastic), chromium and platinum. There were creative Aztec-style brooches in bright blues and oranges that conjure exotic, foreign lands, chunky tortoiseshell bracelets, a range of jewelry pieces in bold geometric shapes and quirky brooch motifs such as sunrises, cats and a lady walking poodle on a leash.

The Deco period also produced quieter, understated pieces in tastefully modern deco designs made from precious gems...diamonds rubies and sapphires. All in all it as a great creative period for women's jewelry and of course, now many of these pieces are highly collectable.

Arm bracelets were popular during the early Art Deco period, seen here on silent film star, Theda Bara
Arm bracelets were popular during the early Art Deco period, seen here on silent film star, Theda Bara
Gorgeous platinum Art Deco brooch from Adin Vintage Jewellery
Gorgeous platinum Art Deco brooch from Adin Vintage Jewellery | Source
Art Deco scarab brooches
Art Deco scarab brooches

Arts Décoratifs

The term Art Deco derives from the French Arts Décoratifs, yet it was never called that at the time. "Art Deco"was a retrospective descriptive term that was applied much later to describe the popular designs of the 20s and 30s. So distinctive an emblematic of the period were these designs that they clearly required their own defining label.

Although the modern industrial movement was a huge influence on Art Deco, the style never abandoned its concern with aesthetic beauty for the sake of utility but rather it managed to form a striking fusion of the two, leading some observers to coin the term 'beautility' to describe the philosophy that underpinned the Deco movement.

The fascination for Art Deco has endured through the decades and the style is still enormously influential in contemporary design - shades of Art Deco can still be found in jewelry, fashion, architecture and even household appliances.

Art Deco is still a powerful design influence today. Note the colours and motifs on this contemporary piece from candacedesigns.
Art Deco is still a powerful design influence today. Note the colours and motifs on this contemporary piece from candacedesigns. | Source

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