The Roaring Twenties
It was an age of prohibition, cocktail parties, flappers, and the Charleston, "The Roaring Twenties." It was a decadent period, a strong reaction to the strict Victorian ideals that still prevailed. The Art Deco period, although almost entirely an American phenomenon, derived its name from the Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Manufactures in Paris in 1925. The difference between Art Deco and other periods, is that the design aspects that were applied to Art Deco jewelry were incorporated into everything from toasters to ocean liners. The central theme of Art Deco is its geometry and symmetry. Its boldness of both design and color had such universal application. This is one of the fascinating aspects of the Art Deco movement.
Designs that were characteristic of the earlier periods were generally an attempt to escape from the clutch of the industrial monster known as mass production. The Art Deco movement was an attempt to combine the harshness of mass production with the sensitivity of art and design.
Geometry and Symmetry
Art Deco jewelry was influenced, to some extent, by the two previous periods, Art Nouveau and Edwardian. Borrowing from Art Nouveau its highly stylized and graceful designs, Art Deco took the free flowing curves and naturalistic motifs and replaced them with a harshly geometric and symmetrical theme. Borrowing from the Edwardian period its use of platinum and diamonds, designers of the period discovered new techniques to work with platinum that enabled the implementation of designs with precise and intricate shapes and outlines. Diamonds were cut in shapes never before seen such as emerald cuts, pear shapes, and marquises. These blended well with the symmetrical nature of the jewelry.
Color also played an important role in the development of Art Deco jewelry. The pastel colors, that were uniquely Art Nouveau, were replaced with a vivid display of bold colors. The stark whiteness of platinum combined with diamond or crystal is a fundamental theme of Deco jewelry. The application of color was usually dramatic. Black and white were the preferred colors, but ruby, sapphire, emerald, turquoise, and coral found extensive use in jewelry of the period. Interesting to note: The designers of the period never hesitated to use inexpensive stones such as crystal and coral with platinum and diamond.
Gone were the cameos, tiaras, and lavalieres of the Victorian period. In were the long pendants, bangle bracelets, cocktail rings, and elaborate accessory items such as cigarette cases and holders along with heavily jeweled compacts. Perhaps the item of jewelry most recognized of this period was the double-clip brooch. The two identical clips could be attached together and worn as a single brooch, but more frequently they were worn separately on the lapels or belt of a dress.
The Art Deco movement virtually dies with the onset of the Depression and the outbreak of World War II. A brief attempt was made to revive the period following World War II but failed, yet it is now undergoing a revival as one of the most unique periods in the development of design in the 20th century. The creative spirit that helped foster the innovative designs of the Art Deco period would never be recaptured, but fortunately, many examples of jewelry of this period still remain.
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