The ‘New Art’ or ‘Art Nouveau’ Movement (1890-1914) was known by a variety of other names internationally. This knowledge can be useful for antique jewelry enthusiasts, especially if you are considering buying an Art Nouveau era piece.
Although each country had their own name for and interpretation of the Art Nouveau style, there were certain chief characteristics which united this design movement.
Here is a list of names for Art Nouveau in several major countries
‘New Art’ or ‘Art Nouveau’ – Great Britain
‘Art Nouveau’ – France
‘Jugendstil’ – Germany and Norway and most Nordic Countries
Embroidery, Hermann Obrist: The Lone Cyclamen Munich City Museum note the Art Nouveau ‘Whiplash’ motif
France, c. 1901
Brooch, enameled copper set with opals and pearls
The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1910) was a design movement defined by many motifs, but none more so than the Whiplash Motif. The whiplash and curved motifs of Art Nouveau are seen as universally characteristic and are an easy way of recognizing an Art Nouveau piece.
Arts and Crafts Movement Jewelry, which many would define as a cousin of Art Nouveau, also uses the whiplash motif to a slightly lesser extent.
Art Nouveau interior, featuring a profusion of whiplash and curved motifs
Not all Art Nouveau design pieces contain whiplash or curved motifs but they are generally considered the most commonly found design feature.
Some would say Art Nouveau curves have their roots in Rococo Scroll Work, others would say they are inspired by Japanese or Celtic design elements. Whilst all of these are no doubt true, I have always thought of the curves of Art Nouveau design as originating from something deep within us and to be a reflection of our biological nature.
Arguably, all design is exactly this, but the curves of Art Nouveau seems to emanate from our deepest levels rather than directly referencing other design movements. These spirals, curves, and whiplash-like shapes can be found in both the natural and man-made worlds.
For example, have a look for the Art Nouveau-like curves in the following:
Now, spot the whiplash and curved motifs in the following beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry pieces:
France c. 1900, Lucien Gautrait.
Gold decorated with plique-à-jour enamel and set with rose-and brilliant-cut diamonds,
opals and emeralds with an opal drop
Enamelled gold, set with brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds, a ruby, hung with a pearl.
France, c. 1903. George Fouquet.
Brooch, gold, silver, enamel, pearls and rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds
Although there is some disagreement about precise dates and categories, these seem to be the most agreed-upon definitions of the historical periods of antique and vintage fine and collectible jewelry in the English speaking world.
Often these periods overlap and of course changes in styles can often be more nuanced and gradual than these categorizations might suggest.
Georgian Jewelry (1714-1837)
Christie’s Sale 5388, 13 June 2012, London, King Street A GEORGIAN DIAMOND AND ENAMEL RING
Some characteristics of Georgian jewelry
Gems set in gold/claw settings for paste
Motifs included bows, flowers, giardinetti, feathers, leaves, arrows, quivers, lyres
Types of jewelry included stomachers, aigrettes, girandoles, chatelaines, buckles, buttons, pendeloque earrings, pairs of bracelets, necklaces secured by ribbons, slides, and rings
Etruscan revival beginning 1830
Victorian Jewelry (1837 – 1901)
Victorian Jewelry can be further broken down to:
Early Victorian Romantic jewelry 1837-1860
Mid-Victorian Grand jewelry 1861-1880
Late Victorian Aesthetic jewelry 1880-1900
Christie’s Sale 8127, 16 January 2013, London, South Kensington A Victorian coral demi-parure
Some characteristics of Victorian jewelry
Gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, coral, amethyst, garnet, turquoise /
Sentimental and nostalgic items
Black and dark-colored mourning jewelry
Matching sets (parures)
Revival themes that took their inspiration from ancient cultures (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Assyrian, Etruscan).
Arts & Crafts Jewelry 1894-1923
Christie’s sale 7634, The London Sale: Jewels, 10 December 2008, London, King Street Arts & Crafts Opal Pendant
Some Characteristics of Arts & Crafts Jewelry
Lack of mechanization
Colorful uncut stones
Rejection of the Industrial Revolution
Art Nouveau Jewelry 1890 – 1914
Brooch/pendant with carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yellow gold, and platinum, c. 1890. A carved opal depicting a sea nymph with ocean waves by Marcus & Co.
Some characteristics of Art Nouveau jewelry
Mythical creatures such as dragons, mermaids, fairies and sprites
Gems such as pearls, opal, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, rose quartz, chalcedony, chrysoprase, and amethyst
The female form and face
Long pearl strands
Edwardian or Garland Jewelry 1901-1915
Christie’s Sale 7853, Jewels – The London Sale, 9 June 2010, London, King Street EDWARDIAN DIAMOND PENDANT
Some characteristics of Edwardian or Garland Jewelry
Ostentatious display of wealth
Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies
Bow, garland, leaf motifs
Art Deco Jewelry (1920-1939)
Christie’s Sale 6704, 5 September 2012, London, South Kensington Art Deco diamond, emerald and onyx ring
Some characteristics of Art Deco Jewelry
Bold geometric designs
Contrasting primary colors
Gemstones included diamonds, black onyx, lapis lazuli, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, jade, turquoise, topaz
Cabochon and carved gemstones
Bakelite and celluloid.
Retro or Cocktail Jewelry (1940-1959)
18 karat gold, platinum, ruby, and diamond clip brooch by Chaumet, circa 1945.
Some characters of Retro or Cocktail Jewelry
Motifs included stylized flowers, animals and bows as well as mechanical motifs such as tank treads, padlocks, and chains
Thin sheets of gold created to conserve metal whilst giving an impression of substances
Gemstones were often small and included diamonds, synthetic rubies, and light sapphires
Inspired by Hollywood
Chunky, raised gemstones
Large and gold
Modernist Jewelry (1930-1960)
Ed Wiener modernist jewelry sterling silver brooch with stone C. late 1940’s – early 1950’s
Some characteristics of Modernist Jewelry
Rejected the ‘fussiness’, feminine and decorative styles of Art Nouveau
Rejected the rigidity and structure of Art Deco
Inspired by ‘Art’ (sculpture and painting)
Often worked in silver and copper
No concern for the value of materials, not used to express wealth
Used found objects
Geometric or biomorphic
Semi-precious stones such as garnets and opals and unusual stones such as cat’s eye