Taking its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in in Paris in 1925, Art Deco was the visual embodiment of modernist principles. Celebrating the triumph of technology and the sleek, geometric forms of the machine age, its emphasis on structure responded to a widespread desire for order in the wake of chaos.
Under-pinning the design style across the various disciplines was a keen sense of modernity; the world was changing fast, and the proponents of Art Deco wanted to celebrate everything new, futuristic and global. To be described as ‘Art Deco’ in the late 1920s and 1930s was to be considered luxurious, glamorous and optimistic about a future filled with innovations in transport, machination and feats of human engineering.
Until 1935 master jewellers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Janesich, René Boivin, Raymond Templier and Fouquet alongside artists and architects innovated the relationship between form and function. They rejected the sweeping, fluid lines and nature-based motifs of the Garland style in favour of geometric design with clean lines, contrast and colour.
In the early 20th century exotic and distant civilisations further influenced many jewellers. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter in 1922, revived interest in Egyptian art and inspired many designs by these great maisons. Advances in travel brought Chinese and Japanese art to the West and offered European artists a new source of stylistic motifs and materials, such as jade, coral, pearls, as well as lacquer and enamels.
Art Deco jewellery responded to the changing fashions of the era, allowing women to decorate bare arms and add drama to long, drop-waisted shift dresses. In the late 1920s, bracelet designs centred on narrow geometric links set with diamonds and coloured gemstones in a repeating pattern. As the scale of jewellery increased into the 1930s, so too did the amount worn.
Cigarette cases and vanity boxes also soared in popularity, with many fine jewellery houses using lacquer, enamel and carved gemstones to create scenes inspired by the cultures of China, Japan and India.
Long sautoirs are perhaps the most iconic jewellery style from the 1920s and 1930s, often adorned with a beaded tassel or oversized geometric pendant. Strands of carved beads and pearls were knotted around the neck or left to flow down the front and back of dresses to add drama.
Art Deco jewellery of the late 1920s and 1930s is both unique to the Art Deco design aesthetic and unique to the time period in which it was created. As a result, each surviving creation is a piece of art history, design history and social history, all wrapped up in diamonds, gemstones and precious metals.
Lyon & Turnbull's team of jewellery specialists’ - including gemmologists Ruth Davis and Charlotte Peel - extensive knowledge and experience of the current market provides the essential combination for the successful sales of both modern and antique jewellery; from fine Edwardian and Victorian pearls, through classic diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds from the houses of Cartier, Boucheron, Bulgari and Tiffany, all the way to the outrageously decadent designs of Grima and the understated, elegant works of Jensen.
CHARLOTTE PEEL | HEAD OF JEWELLERY & SILVER, LONDON
0207 930 9115