Art Nouveau-style jewellery
Art Nouveau style was inspired by natural forms and structures, such as plants and curved lines, and was popular between 1890 and 1910. Flowers, animals, and the human body were popularly depicted, either literally or abstractly, in much of the era’s art. One of the key principles of this movement was that art should be a part of everyone’s daily life. What a perfect time for jewellery to come in!
Jewellery is, in essence, a wearable art. It is a perfect way to express yourself from day to day, always keeping a fresh look and showing individuality. The exquisite jewellery from this era was fashioned in a soft and mystical way, using pale colours and flowing lines.
One of the most interesting outcomes of this art style was giving jewellers the liberty to be artists and artists the power to be jewellers. Previously, jewellery had often been stricter with the use of precious gemstones, particularly diamonds, rigidly set by a professional jeweller or goldsmith. This made jewellers and goldsmiths craftsmen rather than artists, only allowing them to do what was necessary without really creating something unique.
Inspired by nature
With Art Nouveau, the primary focus of jewellery was on the setting rather than the gemstone. Jewellers used different techniques and introduced new shapes and materials. They had more artistic freedom to create truly original and beautiful pieces.
A pioneer of this art movement was the French designer, jeweller and glassmaker, Rene Lalique. He was greatly inspired by Japanese art, which famously incorporates nature. He brought new elements of nature, such as grasses and dragonflies, into his jewellery and greatly popularised these changes. His popular jewellery often featured an insect with a female human torso. The enamel and gold wings of the insect were iridescent and sparsely covered in jewels.
With the emphasis moving away from gemstones and towards setting, jeweller artists experimented with ornate enamelling techniques and semi-precious gemstones. Diamonds were still used, but they were not the focus as they previously were. Popular stones for Art Nouveau-style jewellery include amber, agate, freshwater pearls, and opals. They also experimented with out-of-the-ordinary materials, such as copper, horn, and shell. As for the setting of the pieces, nature and imagination served as the primary inspiration. Popular motifs used in jewellery were orchids, dragonflies, ferns, serpents, and the female form.
Although the Art Nouveau style was short-lived, the gorgeous pieces of jewellery created during this era are timeless and relevant, as nature will always serve as inspiration. Sought-after pieces during this time included long pearl necklaces, sterling-silver chains with simple pendants or adorned with glass beads, and jewellery containing cameos, usually a woman’s profile carved in white shell.