Art Deco jewelry : Break with the Art nouveau period and modernity praised

The sinuous and curved shapes of Arts & Crafts  and Art Nouveau jewels were replaced by sharp, simpler, geometric,  graphic and stylised designs. The Edwardian flowing and nature inspired designs were substituted by simpler, contrasted, stylised, straight and geometric designs during the Art Deco era. The Art Deco jewels were also a break with the Belle Époque’s complex jewels. Besides, Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements extolled handmade whereas Art Deco preached machine-age.  Art Deco celebrated modernity and technology improvements.

Art Deco jewels were influenced by the art movements Cubism (Early 20th century art movement ; representation of objects with geometric shapes and several lines), Futurism (Italian born art and social movement ; it exalted speed and violence) and Constructivism (Russian art movement in the 1920s based on simplicity, pure and geometric shapes). Among the characteristics of Art Deco jewels, there were : geometric shapes, symmetry, superposed shapes, repetitive patterns, simple designs, stylised designs (face, animals…), sharp angles and industrial designs. The custodian of the museum “Les Arts Décoratifs” (Paris) Evelyne Possémé said “The shapes are purified, architectural. The lines are geometric. The object of ornament is made like a sculpture”.


New technologies, modern life and improvements allowed innovative jewellers to free their imagination. The author and journalist Laurence Mouillefarine said “The imagination of the Parisian jeweller Raymond Templier was freed by city life, new techniques and technologies, advancements in transportation”.

New materials (bakelite, galileite, celluloid…), synthetic gemstones, rhinestones, convertible jewels, articulated bracelets, carved gemstones and geometric gemstone cuts (trapeze, calibré, triangle, half-moon, semi-circle, prism, baguette…) appeared with the innovations and modern technology.

Thanks to modern technology and improvements, gemstones could be cut in a large variety of geometric shapes (baguette or “matchstick”, pentagon, trapeze, “emerald cut”, semi-circle, square, circle, hexagon, octagon, triangle, prism…) and could be superposed or used together to create complex designs. The gemstone cut “en calibré” was an important element in the jewelry making : each stone was cut to fit into geometric shapes in order to have a continue line of color. Besides, the pavé work was employed : the stones were set very closely to each other to have a paved surface of diamonds with invisible settings.  

Industrial and mechanical inspired jewels (namely Jean Després’ jewels) were typical of the Art Deco jewels.  “Art Deco was a mix between the  geometric simplicity of cubism and the complexity of the machine and modern age.” Technology was  seen as a progress ; the “sleek look” was popular. The French jeweller Raymond Templier was also influenced by modern technology, he said : When i am walking on the street, i see ideas for jewelry everywhere. Wheels, cars, nowadays machines…” Art Deco was the compromise between art and the mass production.


The convertible jewels were a symbol of the Art deco period. For instance, double clips could be worn separately as dress clips or could be worn like a large brooch. Earrings could have detachable elements (pendants…). Headbands could be transformed in matching bracelets and necklaces… 

Raymond Templier created a bracelet with a clip brooch. It was very innovative ; the bracelet-clip was emblematic of the 1930s. 

Raymond Templier

Articulated bracelets were also an emblem of the Art Deco period.

The improvements of technology allowed jewellers to conceive wrist watches and watch pendants.

In the 1930s, there was the innovative invisible setting called “the mystery set” (gemstones appearing with no visible prongs thanks to tiny gold rails where gemstones were inserted). Van Cleef & Arpels  used this technique. 

Invisibly-set ruby ring, 1930s

Despite the novelty of the Art Deco jewelry, jewellers used old techniques : Milgrain, Filigree, Enamel

These techniques were reinterpreted and perfected by Art Deco jewellers. Mr Contreau said “What we call invention is just a reinterpretation, a deformation, more or less successful of what exists.” Art Deco jewellers usually used the techniques of Filigree and Milgrain to create designs with straight lines.

Filigree was a delicate and precise metal work which had its roots in Mesopotamia where it was employed by craftsmen in 3000 BC. “Filigree jewel was a piece of jewelry incorporating handcrafted twisted threads of precious metal into its design.” Then, the metal was soldered to the gold or silver jewelry. Filigree was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s ; it was used for rings but also bracelets and pendants.


Milgrain was also a popular embellishment for Art Deco jewels. “Milgrain refered to the tiny metal beads used to act as a border for jewelry designs.” It was often employed with filigree. Milgrain was a technique used centuries ago in Southeast Asia and was fashionable in the Edwardian era. Milgrain was popular in the Art Deco period to create geometric designs.


Enamel (vitreous, transparent or opaque material applied on materials to shine or to color) was very used in the Art Deco period. The origins of enamel could be found in the Mycenaean metalwork (13th BCE-11th BCE). This art of enamelling was used namely in Medieval and Renaissance times but also in the Art nouveau era. 

Besides, Art Deco jewellers were inspired by Ancient civilizations (Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Aztec…).

Art Deco jewellers get also inspired by the French 18th century and the First Empire of France (19th century).


Sources : Pinterest, richardjeanjacques, madparis, vanhoyemiller, theprucecrafts, Langantiques, Christiesthefrenchjewelrypost, nationaljeweler, packlowegallery, medium   nationaljewelergemselectthefrenchjewelrypostjewelryshoppingguixprimaveragallerydecolishlevysfinejewelry, ,  lagarconneconnectionsbyfinsahistory.houseschoolmouvmadparisbiarritzanneesfollesalaintruong,, kenanddanadesign, drivingfordeco, theartstory, vanhoye, primaveragallery, 1stdibs.comthejewelleryeditor, gemrockauctions, Britannica, Larousse and connectionsbyfinsa

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