A Century In Review A Decade-By-Decade Social And Historical Twentieth-Century Jewelry Styles

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Twentieth-Century Jewelry Styles

Twentieth-century jewelry styles show a fascinating evolution. We know these styles as Art Nouveau, Edwardian (or Garland), Art Deco and Retro. Each was popular at a particular time and each has its own unique style.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the jewelry industry experienced a rebirth. This was partly due to the discovery of new supplies of gemstones and the development of new manufacturing and gemstone cutting techniques.

Social roles also changed, jewelry prices were affordable for ordinary citizens. The changing role of women in society and the rise of the middle class have put new demands on the jewelry industry. In response, the industry experienced a revolution in jewelry style and design.

The first half of the twentieth century saw several different jewelry styles. Some were associated with movements, others were reactions to wartime shortages. All leave a brilliant legacy in the treasure trove that connoisseurs value today.

Art Nouveau jewelry

Introduced in the 1890s, the dynamic Art Nouveau style was a departure from the Historic Revival style that dominated the decorative arts of the nineteenth century. Art Nouveau, French for “new art,” was inspired by the vibrancy of the natural world and a new appreciation of Japanese art.

Art Nouveau jewelry combines realistic interpretations of plants and animals with creatures of fantasy and myth. Raised to the level of fine art by designers such as René Lalique, this flashy and sensual style disappeared completely in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War.

Art Nouveau jewelry often includes one or more of the following features:

  • Curved lines
  • Realistic depictions of nature, including butterflies, birds and tangled foliage
  • Fantastic creatures like dragons and other mythical beasts
  • Gemstones such as pearl, opal, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, rose quartz, chalcedony, chrysoprase and amethyst
  • Use of glass, cast or glazed
  • Paintings of women transformed into mermaids, winged sprites or flowers

Edward’s Jewels

Between 1900 and 1915, during the reign of King Edward VII of England, the upper class of Europe and the United States wore jewelry as a display of their wealth. They favored lavish jewelry inspired by the French court of the eighteenth century. Their jewelry was made of the finest, rarest and most expensive gems and precious metals. This style of jewelry is called Edwardian, but it is sometimes called garland because it usually featured garlands of flowers tied with ribbons and bows.

Edwardian or Garland style jewelry may include the following features:

  • pearls and diamonds
  • Delicate platinum mountings
  • Colored gemstones including ruby, sapphire, emerald, opal and cat’s eye chrysoberyl
  • Motifs such as garlands, ribbons, bows, crescents, starbursts, Greek keys, laurel wreaths, wings, feathers, crowns, oak leaves, swallows and butterflies.

Art Deco jewelry

The Art Deco style emerged after World War I and dominated decorative arts and jewelry from the 1920s to the 1930s. It was a strong reaction against the ethereal sensuality of Art Nouveau and the delicate elegance of Garland’s style. Art Deco jewelry suggests post-war practicality with its strong geometric patterns in bold contrasting colors.

Art Deco features include:

  • Bold, contrasting colors
  • Strong, geometric patterns
  • Refined, simplified look, emphasizing the vertical line
  • Precious stones including diamonds, black onyx, lapis lazuli, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, jade, turquoise and topaz
  • Carved or cabochon-cut colored gemstones
  • Primary colors with rich combinations and strong contrast

Retro jewelry

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 ended the Art Deco period. In the early 1940s, precious stones were in short supply and platinum was reserved for military use. Jewelry produced during and after the war used materials such as gold and diamonds that were still available in the lean years. Jewelry from that period is known as retro.

The retro style rounded off the sharp corners of Art Deco and muted its bold colors. It has sculpted curves with small diamonds and rubies. The jewelry of the late 1940s reflected the post-war prosperity in the more lavish use of colored stones and the increased femininity of design motifs.

Common themes and styles of retro jewelry include:

  • Floral and bow motifs with colorful beads
  • Enamel animal figures of gold and precious stones
  • Jeweled brooches, lapel pins
  • Bold, sculpted curves in rose gold with tiny diamonds and rubies
  • Designs inspired by mechanical objects such as bicycle chains, padlocks and tank treads
  • Stylized natural motifs
  • The large motifs are made using thin gold sheets of conservative metal, giving it a substantial look
  • Gemstones such as small diamonds, rubies (often synthetic) and light colored sapphires.

This article was brought to you by Coppari Jewelry [http://www.copparijewelry.com]

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