Twentieth Century Jewelry Styles

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 during a certain period and each has its own unique style.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the jewelry industry experienced a rebirth. This is due in part to the discovery of new reserves of precious stones and the development of new techniques for the production and cutting of precious stones.

Social roles also changed, jewelry prices were affordable for the common citizen. The changing role of women in society and the rise of the middle class are placing 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 related to the movements, others were a reaction to wartime shortages. All leave a brilliant legacy in the treasures that connoisseurs treasure today.

Art Nouveau jewelry

Introduced in the 1890s, the flowing Art Nouveau style was a departure from the historic revival styles 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 such designers as René Lalique, this sinuous and sensual style disappeared completely with the start of the First World War in 1914.

Art Nouveau jewelry often includes one or more of these features:

  • Curved lines
  • Realistic portraits of nature, including butterflies, birds and intertwining foliage
  • Fantastic creatures like dragons and other mythical beasts
  • Gemstones such as pearls, opal, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, rose quartz, chalcedony, chrysoprase and amethyst
  • Use of glass, molded or as enamel
  • Designs of women transformed into mermaids, winged spirits or flowers

Edwardian jewelry

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 way to demonstrate 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 known as Edwardian, but is sometimes called garland because it usually features garlands of flowers tied with ribbons and bows.

Edwardian or Garland style jewelry may include the following features:

  • Pearls and diamonds
  • Delicate platinum elements
  • 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 1930s. It was a strong reaction against the ethereal sensuality of Art Nouveau and the delicate elegance of the Garland style. Art Deco jewelry evokes postwar practicality through its strong geometric motifs in bold contrasting colors.

Art Deco features include:

  • Bright, contrasting colors
  • Strong, geometric patterns
  • An elegant, streamlined look emphasizing the vertical line
  • Precious stones including diamonds, black onyx, lapis lazuli, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, jade, turquoise and topaz
  • Carved or cabochon colored gemstones
  • Primary colors in rich combinations and strong contrast

Retro jewelry

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought an end to the Art Deco period. Precious stones were in short supply in the early 1940s and platinum was reserved for military use. Jewelry produced during and immediately after the war used materials such as gold and diamonds that were still available during the lean years. Period jewelry is known as vintage.

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

Common themes and styles in vintage jewelry include:

  • Floral and bow motifs in colored gemstones
  • Animal figurines of enamelled gold and precious stones
  • Gemstone 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 steps
  • Stylized natural motifs
  • Large motifs made using thin gold sheets of tinned metal while giving a substantial look
  • Precious stones such as small diamonds, rubies (often synthetic) and light sapphires.

This article is brought to you by Coppari Jewelry []

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