#11 The Art Deco era (1920 – 1945) - modern women and a desire for geometrical shapes

#11 The Art Deco era (1920 – 1945) - modern women and a desire for geometrical shapes

It is hard to imagine that after the often extravagant, natural, romantic, and flowing designs of the Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Edwardian era, geometrical shapes and straight lines would become the most popular jewellery motifs. But guess what? That’s exactly what happened in the Art Deco era! Read our blog below if you want to learn more about this era and its new, modern jewellery styles.

Art Deco: a love for everything modern and geometrical

If you’ve read our blogposts on the jewellery eras that preceded the Art Deco era, you probably expect the Art Deco era to be named after a certain monarch that reigned at the time. But for Art Deco, this is not the case! The Art Deco era started around 1920, when the first world war had just come to an end. After the Universal Exposition that took place in 1910, various French artists formed a group called ‘La Société des artistes décorateurs’, which translates as ‘the society of the decorator artists’. Their goal was to demonstrate the leading position of the French decorative art and therefore in 1925 they organized the ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ in Paris, which was largely dedicated to the art of jewellery. So, the name Art Deco was derived from the first part of the name of this exposition, instead of from the name of a reigning monarch.

On the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, the emphasis was placed on the association of art and modern history. Essentially, the Art Deco movement was a form of protest against the Art Nouveau style: jewellery designers wanted to eliminate the flowing lines and natural themes of the Art Nouveau jewellery. Instead, pieces of jewellery had a modern and dynamic look with geometrical shapes and rigid lines. This style fitted well with the celebration of the triumph of technology and the forms of the machine age. The term ‘cubism’ was often used to describe the Art Deco jewellery style, because of its use of straight lines and angles.

Platinum and pavé settings

Like in the preceding Edwardian era, platinum was a popular material for jewellery during the Art Deco era. A popular technique for jewellery design was filigree, where threads of metal were used to make detailed designs with small, intricate cut-outs.  While this technique had already been used for a longer period of time, it was perfected during the Art Deco era, with the invention of die-cast machines. Just like during the Edwardian era, invisible gemstone settings were very popular during the Art Deco era. An example of a setting like this is pavé, in which many small stones are set very close together to cover the entire piece of jewellery. Together with the calibré cut stones, which are stones that are cut to fit exactly into a specific design, this resulted in pieces of jewellery that were tightly packed with gemstones with little to no metal showing.

Popular jewellery styles during the Art Deco era

A major inspiration for the Art Deco jewellery style, was the changing role of women after WWI. Because the men had to go fight in the war, women had to take over the hard physical work. Of course, this asked for practical clothing in which one could move freely, and thus tight corsets, long dresses, and long sleeves were quickly abandoned. Instead, women started to wear simple but elegant clothing with straight lines and a much freer silhouette. With this new clothing style came a demand for more jewellery, since the more revealing clothes allowed women to show off their jewellery. Motifs that were inspired by sports were also very popular at the time, since women were more involved in leisure activities like sports next to their traditional household chores. Just their dresses, women’s hairstyles were shorter than before. Long, geometrical shaped earrings were very popular, since they were perfect to complement the new hairstyles. These earrings were often geometrically shaped, often adorned with multiple diamonds and a larger, coloured gemstone.

It was during the Art Deco era, in the year 1922, that the tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered in Egypt. As images from this extraordinary discovery made their way into the Western world, they became a major source of inspiration for jewellery designers. Egypt-inspired motifs like scarabs, lotus flowers, and pyramids appeared on various types of Art Deco jewellery. The ancient Egypt also inspired the use of new material combinations, like lapis lazuli with gold and cornelian with turquoise.

Another very popular type of jewellery during the Art Deco era, was the so-called convertible jewellery. Convertible jewellery is jewellery that can be worn in different ways on different occasions. An example of convertible jewellery that was worn a lot during the Art Deco era are clips that could be worn separately as dress clips, but could be attached to each other to form one large brooch. But bandeaus that broke up into bracelets, earrings with detachable elements, and pendants that could also be worn as brooches also weren’t uncommon at the time. This multi-purpose jewellery was especially popular after the stock market crash in 1929, when jewellery became a luxury item for many women.

Has reading this blog made you enthusiastic about the shimmering Art Deco jewellery styles? The Art Deco section of our webshop is packed with unique Art Deco pieces, so make sure to have a look around!


“Enjoy your search for your perfect Art Deco jewellery and please contact us if you need any advice!”-xxx- Sophie

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