The term was born from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes, a Paris exhibition of decorative arts in 1925.
Art Deco jewelry style built upon Art Nouveau’s eradication of strict boundaries between “fine” and “decorative” art, architecture, and design. However, its features veered away from the earlier Art Nouveau style with a return to luxury and color.
Art Deco jewelry often employed colorful precious gemstones, along with diamonds. It also used platinum as a precious metal frame for those gems (platinum was well suited to the intricate abstract designs artisans wanted to achieve as well). Furthermore, Art Deco jewelry abandoned curving, natural forms and representations of nature in favor of angular, geometric shapes.
Rings, brooches, necklaces, and bracelets of the period show Art Deco jewelry characteristics through the use of straight-line bars of diamonds and other gemstones, starburst forms, and repetitive designs. These show an evolution toward the abstract from the natural and botanical.
Jewelry with strong lines and geometrical designs were featured to celebrate modern industry. Bright stones, high contrast, and repetitive designs were all representative of the Art Deco style. The jewelry reflected or even predicted streamlined designs that appeared in architecture and industrial design. Everything from building facades to train engines and passenger cars began to incorporate streamlined, abstract lines to present a feeling of modernism and luxury.
Highly polished surfaces became more popular, as is evident in the architectural decoration atop New York’s Chrysler building and in the stylized polished metal elevator doors and decorative elements on building facades.
With Art Deco’s prevalence, it’s no wonder why jewelry also followed this direction. The focus on modern technology, speed, and aerodynamic design in Art Deco style departed from the earlier Art Nouveau’s rejection of industrialization.
The timeless allure of Art Deco jewelry style is alive and well today. While contemporary costume jewelry imitations may be readily available, authentic Art Deco jewelry is perhaps the most sought after and distinctive style in the jewelry trade. These remarkable pieces are increasingly hard to find as we reach the 100 year mark of their popularity.