Art Deco Jewelry: Our Favorite Styles
Angelica Frey | August 2, 2023
Angelica Frey | August 2, 2023
Art Deco is a sophisticated and symmetrical style that applies to certain clothing designs, art, furniture, and even skyscrapers like the Empire State Building. Although this vintage look from the early 20th century is now considered timeless, Art Deco jewelry is one of this season’s most coveted looks.
Read on to learn more about Art Deco jewelry and how to incorporate this sought-after style into your everyday look. And discover our favorite Art Deco inspired designs featuring lab-grown diamonds sustainably created by VRAI.
What Is Art Deco Style?
Art Deco is a style of visual arts encompassing both architecture and product design that first appeared in France right before World War I, but it is most closely associated with the 1920s. In fact, it got its name after the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which took place in Paris.
At the core of Art Deco is an emphasis of rich materials and craftsmanship coupled with modern geometries and styles. It took cues from non-western traditions such as Chinese, Japanese, Persian, and Ancient Egyptian Art alongside modernist art movements such as Cubism and the Vienna Secession. A version of Art Deco also existed in the 1930s, but it is remarkably sleeker and less opulent, as it coincided with the Great Depression.
History of the Art Deco Aesthetic
The term arts décoratifs first appeared in 1858, in reference to objets d’art décoratifs, objects for stage scenery. Craftsmen such as furniture and textile designers, jewelers, and glass workers were promoted to the rank of artists in 1875.
The term Art Deco appears in a screed by architect Le Corbusiers, who penned “1925 Expo. Arts. Déco.” in his magazine L’Esprit Nouveau criticizing the degree of ornamentation of the artifacts he observed at the expo. He was vehemently against decoration for everyday objects. In its current meaning, it first appeared in 1966, for the title of the first exhibition about this aesthetic, “Les Années 25: Art Déco, Bauhaus, Stijl, Esprit Nouveau.” The 1971 volume Art Deco of the 20s and 30s by historian Bevis Hillier is the first major academic book on the subject matter. Its follow up is The World of Art Deco, the companion text to the exhibition of the same name he organized at the Minnesota Institute of Arts in 1971.
What Is Art Deco Jewelry?
Art Deco jewelry refers to any fine jewelry design from or inspired by the Roaring Twenties. Jewelry crafted during this period is beloved for its bold elegance and sophisticated appeal. It often features clean lines, geometric patterns, and Gatsby-like glitz.
The term Art Deco itself was coined to describe the art and architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. It is a shortened version of the French arts décoratifs and refers to a look that emphasizes geometric shapes, abstract design, and an overall look of fine craftsmanship and luxury.
Art Deco in Jewelry: Defining Features
Much like furniture and decor objects, jewelry design flourished during the Art Deco period. A defining characteristic of the 1920s and 30s Art Deco jewelry design is the usage of colorful gemstones alongside more elaborate settings Pendants, bracelets, necklaces, buckles, cigarette boxes, lighters, and brooches were the defining items of Art Deco jewelry. Jewelers like Cartier, BoucheronChaumet, and Van Cleef and Arpels were among the most notable names in the field.
As for what makes a piece of jewelry Art Deco, there are a set of defining characteristics that set it apart from styles such as Edwardian, Art Deco, and others.
Unusual Diamond Cuts
Art Deco jewelry was notable for featuring diamond cuts in geometric shapes. The baguette, triangle, trapeze, and half-moon became popular in Art Deco jewelry. “Gem cutters learned how to achieve brilliance from faceted gems in new and innovative ways resulting in new cuts and shapes that could be arranged in mosaic-like designs,” reports Lang Antiques in their Antique Jewelry University. “Various diamond cuts were arranged in patterns according to the radiance, luminosity and reflective qualities needed for the design.”
Given the intricate patterns that the gemstones were arranged in, platinum proved to be the ideal metal, as its strength required less metal to hold a gem securely, resulting in lighter, airier designs. Still, after the war, platinum was in low supply, so white gold was then a viable alternative that was aesthetically consistent with platinum. “A less expensive platinum substitute was developed in 1918 called osmior, plator or platinor which became popular with bijoutiers-artistes,” reports Antique jeweler Lang Antiques.
Colorful Gemstones, Elaborate Settings
Despite the focus on geometry, nature-inspired motifs abounded in Art Deco jewelry. Cartier and Boucheron were known for brooches, earrings, clips, and pendants shaped like leaves, fruits, and flowers. Art Deco jewelry also had a particular fondness for non-Western artistic traditions.
Chinoiserie and Japan-inspired shapes and patterns were pivotal as well, with plaques of jade becoming a recurring addition to Art Deco jewels, and with stylized landscapes adorning vanity cases, cigarette cases and powder boxes featured. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 provided a rich source of inspiration, and it’s easy to see how the geometric patterns of Art Deco jewelry and other objets took cues from ancient Egyptian art.
Jewelry as a Fashion Statement
The 1920s were pivotal in the definition of women’s fashions. Both sleeves and haircuts were getting shorter, which necessitated a need for more ornate and elaborate bracelets and cuffs and sculptural earrings. Drop earrings and pendants, with their focus on verticality, were meant to complement the apparel that was in fashion, particularly drop-waist dresses and shorter haircuts.
Will Art Deco Engagement Rings Match Your Jewelry?
Art Deco is a surprisingly versatile style. Despite being quite elaborate and instantly recognizable, it is sophisticated and understated enough to work with your everyday jewelry. A diamond solitaire can easily go with an Art Deco-inspired wedding band; sleek gold hoops can be paired with an Art Deco pendant, and a bezel bracelet can be complemented with a more elaborate and ornate cuff.
The only caution comes with mixing vastly different vintage styles, as it might be quite hard to find unifying traits that can string everything together. VRAI has a variety of Art-Deco-style options featuring VRAI created diamonds for engagement rings, bridal jewelry, and fine jewelry. As a rule of thumb, each piece of jewelry featuring either Baguettes or step-cut diamonds can be seen as Art Deco style.
Art Deco Engagement Rings
Art Deco engagement rings focus both on geometry and ornamentation. During the 1920s, shapes such as Emerald, Asscher, and Baguettes were at the height of their popularity. We recommend getting a style that features step-cut stones, whether for the center diamond or for the band stones.
Art Deco Jewelry
Drop earrings, pendant necklaces, and statement bracelets constitute staples in Art Deco jewelry, and styles featuring VRAI created diamonds combine opulence with versatility. These styles work equally well with everyday looks as they do with more formal eveningwear.