Art Deco jewelry : Noble materials

Art Deco jewelry was namely characterized by noble and precious materials like platinum, white gold, fine gemstones (rock quartz, amethyst, citrine, chalcedony, aquamarine, black onyx…), gemstones (diamond, ruby, emerald and diamond), ivory, lacquer, ebony, shagreen, pearls…

Gemstones were often carved.


Old European cut diamonds were very used during the Art Deco period. This diamond had 58 facets.


Diamonds could also be cut differently : old mine cut diamonds were also used during the Art Deco era. “Old mine cut diamonds have a smaller table, high crown, and larger facets than modern cut diamonds.”

old mine cut compared to old european cut and modern round brilliant cut  

In the early Art Deco period, the jewels were also shaped by Russian ballets and Fauvism (French painting movement with Matisse and Derain ; use of bright colors and fierce brushwork ; 1905-1910) with the use of bright and bold colors (enamel, colorful gemstones). In 1909,  Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes came to Paris ; it was a huge success. Leon Bakst created the colorful, exotic and bright costumes (red, purple, green and orange). These Ballets Russes (Russian ballets) had an important influence on jewelry (bright and colorful jewelry). Colorful gemstones and enamel were used. The Art nouveau colors were light and pastel (mauve, light green…). 

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 on Mycenaean metalwork (13th BCE-11th BCE). This art of enamelling was used namely in Medieval and Renaissance times. 

In the 1930s, jewelry became more monochrome with the use of white metal (platinum, white gold). It succeeded to the polychrome trend of the 1920s. Yellow gold was the most used in the past eras. Platinum and white gold became the must in the Art Deco period. White metals were mainly used. Platinum was the most used ; white gold was a more affordable choice. Platinum (“little silver”) is a precious and dense metal which is heavy, ductile but also malleable. In the 1880s, silver was the white metal the most used. In 1890, the famous French jeweller Cartier made his jewels with platinum. 

Art Deco jewellers designed contrasted pieces (black and white, mat and transparency, transparency and shiny, mat and shiny…). 

Kōkichi Mikimoto (1858-1954) had an important influence on Art deco jewels with the introduction and the development of the process of cultured pearls. In 1896, he filled a first patent but it is years later, in 1921 that  cultured pearls were introduced on the market. Thanks to these cultured pearls, more women could afford this type of jewelry which was previously reserved to the elite. 

Nevertheless, less valuable materials appeared such as bakelite (plastic, invented by Leo Baekelan in 1907), galalith (plastic made with the Caséine ; brand name deposed by Spiteler and Krische in 1879, Germany) and celluloid (plastic invented by the Hyatt brothers in 1870). Synthetic colored gemstones (grown in a lab under the same condition that real gemstone form), fake pearls (Chanel introduced fake pearl necklaces) and rhinestones (transparent and shiny artificial stone) were also used. Jewellers could mix different materials like a combination of plastic and real gemstones. Besides, the earliest synthetic gems were Geneva Rubies, produced around 1885.

In 1760, Georges Frédéric Strass (King of France’s jeweller) invented the first rhinestone from a special type of crystal found in the Rhine River. Antique past jewelry was the ancestor of the Rhinestones. During Ancient Egypt, glass paste were used simulating gemstones. In 1891, the Austrian Swarovski invented a new glass-cutting machine. Thanks to this machine, faceted glass stones were made extremely fast. The terms “strass” and “diamante” are often used in Europe. 


Sources : tate,, ritani, Wikipedia, jewelryinfoplace, antique-jewelry-investor, Pinterest, dictionary.cambridge, gem-a, cnrtl, carbiolice, wikipedia 1stdibs, gemrockauctions, rhinestonesonline, Britannica, Larousse and mikimoto

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