Whilst the origins of Art Deco can be traced back to a developing influence of designers during the late 19th and early 20th century, it was not until the 1920’s that a major design shift occurred that affected everything from architecture and aviation through to ceramics, fashion and jewelry. Originally known as “Style Moderne”, this unique period of creativity was only later, termed Art Deco – when Bevis Hillier defined the term in the 1960’s.
Art Deco jewelry was very much a reflection of the trends happening in society during the 1920’s. Elegant, geometric lines of jewelry complemented the sleek, linear designs of fashion. New household materials, like Bakelite became components for mixing with precious jewels. The new streamlined, symmetrical buildings like The Chrysler and The Empire State, inspired jewellers to produce sparkling diamond brooches in these images – and the fascination for travel and archaeology led to an enchantment with Oriental, Aztec, Egyptian, African and Ancient Greek and Roman designs for rings, bracelets, necklaces and other adornments.
Following the trend for “white jewelry” and the beautiful platinum and white diamond rings of the Edwardian period, the excitement of the Jazz age during the “roaring twenties” brought color back into jewelry. Light colored gemstones were mixed with onyx or Bakelite and vivid green emeralds, blue sapphires, rubies and coral were teamed with diamonds for maximum effect.
New cutting technologies created geometric shapes with baguettes, emerald cuts, triangles, pentagons, triangles, step cuts, trillion cuts, ballerina cuts and arc shape corners being incorporated into jewelry designs.
The Art Deco period saw a continuation of the platinum and white gold of the Edwardian era but also with some alternative metals like copper, brass and silver being used for a greater contemporary look. However, the yellow gold that had been so popular during the Victorian era, was hardly ever seen.
Settings were also geometrically and symmetrically designed. Channel settings using diamonds and colored gemstones were commonly found, as well as filigree and pave settings. Millegrain finishes, that were popular during the Edwardian period, continued to be used during the Art Deco period.
After the austerity of the First World War, a period of wealth and excitement during the 1920’s led to jewelry becoming both luxurious and dramatic in its construction. However, the effects of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 brought about a decline in the decadent design trends of the 1920.
Following a period of economic recovery, the Art Deco trend continued to evolve although to a lesser extent than it had been during the “roaring twenties”. Engagement ring trends during the 1930’s comprised a considerable amount of diamonds and platinum, with round brilliant and pave set baguettes – although color was still to be found due to the continued influence of foreign travel and design inspiration derived from places like India and the Orient.
The onset of the 2nd World War brought about an end to the innovative style of the Art Deco period. By the time the war had ended, attitudes to jewelry had changed and Art Deco was viewed as gaudy and inappropriate for the austere post war years.
It was not until the 1960’s when Bevis Hillier created the name “Art Deco” in his renown book about the early 20th century design period, that interest in jewelry and other style items of the Art Deco period, was renewed.
A further revival occurred during the 1980’s – another time when greed was seen to be good – and the glamour of Art Deco was once again incorporated into fashion, jewelry and other products of the day.
More recently, the demand for Art Deco engagement and wedding rings has revived yet again . Art Deco rings with their luxurious and originally cut gemstones and designs with channel, filigree and pave settings have become the top choice for many couples.