The International Names for Art Nouveau

The International Names for Art Nouveau

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

‘Tiffany Style’ – USA

‘Stile Liberty’ – Italy

‘Sezessionstil’ – Austria

‘Secense’ – Czech lands

‘Arte Nova’ – Portugal

Recognizing the Art Nouveau Whiplash Motif

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

V&A Museum


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

V&A Museum


Germany, c.1903

Enamelled gold, set with brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds, a ruby, hung with a pearl.

V&A Museum


France, c. 1903. George Fouquet.

Brooch, gold, silver, enamel, pearls and rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds

V&A Museum

Characteristics of the Jewelry Eras

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

Some characteristics of Georgian jewelry

  • Gems set in gold/claw settings for paste
  • Motifs included bows, flowers, giardinetti, feathers, leaves, arrows, quivers, lyres
  • Cannetille work
  • Types of jewelry included stomachers, aigrettes, girandoles, chatelaines, buckles, buttons, pendeloque earrings, pairs of bracelets, necklaces secured by ribbons, slides, and rings
  • Enamel work
  • 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

A Victorian coral demi-parure

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 /
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Human hair
  • Sentimental and nostalgic items
  • Black and dark-colored mourning jewelry
  • Matching sets (parures)
  • Cameos
  • Pique
  • Jet
  • Revival themes that took their inspiration from ancient cultures (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Assyrian, Etruscan).
  • Canetille continued

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

  • Hand-worked
  • Lack of mechanization
  • Natural materials
  • Simple designs
  • Colorful uncut stones
  • Rejection of the Industrial Revolution
  • Often silver

Art Nouveau Jewelry 1890 – 1914

Brooch/pendant, carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yg, platinum, c. 1890, a circ carved opal depicting a sea nymph, rising/setting sun with circ-cut diamond center, and ocean waves, with grad oe diamond border above and demantoid-set yg foliate wreath border surmounted by two stylized fish below, three hidden pendant loops, sgd "Marcus & Co."

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

  • Curves
  • Natural motifs
  • Mythical creatures such as dragons, mermaids, fairies and sprites
  • Gems such as pearls, opal, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, rose quartz, chalcedony, chrysoprase, and amethyst
  • Enamel
  • Glass
  • The female form and face
  • Long pearl strands
  • No diamonds

Edwardian or Garland Jewelry 1901-1915


Christie’s Sale 7853, Jewels – The London Sale, 9 June 2010, London, King Street

Some characteristics of Edwardian or Garland Jewelry

  • Ostentatious display of wealth
  • Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies
  • Bow, garland, leaf motifs
  • Intricate detailing
  • Platinum settings

Art Deco Jewelry (1920-1939)

An Art Deco diamond, emerald and onyx ring

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
  • Vertical lines
  • Contrasting primary colors
  • Gemstones included diamonds, black onyx, lapis lazuli, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, jade, turquoise, topaz
  • Cabochon and carved gemstones
  • Amber
  • Bakelite and celluloid.
  • Enamel work

Retro or Cocktail Jewelry (1940-1959)

Retro Gold, Ruby and Diamond Clip Brooch by Chaumet
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
  • Enamel work
  • Jeweled brooches
  • 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
  • Rose gold
  • Bold
  • Inspired by Hollywood
  • Chunky, raised gemstones
  • Synthetic gems
  • Patriotic themes
  • Large and gold
  • Brooches
  • Wide bangles

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
  • Surreal motifs
  • Geometric or biomorphic
  • Masculine
  • Semi-precious stones such as garnets and opals and unusual stones such as cat’s eye
  • African and Cubist motifs
  • Primal forms
  • Unexpected materials such as acrylic and wood
  • Influenced by Bauhaus, Surrealist, and Dadist
  • Hand-working and one of a kind designs