The 1920s, also called the Roaring Twenties, was a loud and flourishing era. Advancements in technology, economic success, artistic uprising, and fashionable young women defined the decade. Donning a bob haircut, a black flapper dress, and plenty of sparkling jewelry; women held a fan in one hand and a cigarette holder in the other while rocking the night away at a jazz club. The raging party, unfortunately, came to a screeching halt when the stock market crashed in 1929. In hindsight, the Art Deco period, which comprises the 1920s and 30s, left a significant imprint in jewelry design.
Brief History of Art Deco Jewelry
Many influences on Art Deco jewelry started to take form about a decade earlier. In 1909, Serge Diaghilev — a Russian art critic, patron, and ballet impresario — introduced Ballets Russes to Paris, France. Women became fascinated with the dance company’s extrinsic and colorful costumes. It became no wonder that the demand for jades, corals, turquoises, lapis lazulis, and other vibrant gemstones peaked during the Art Deco period. People were also intrigued by the East, particularly with Japan and China. As a result, motifs consisting of masks and fans started to appear in jewelry.
The biggest influence on Art Deco was the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. When the world witnessed the treasures hidden within Tut’s burial chamber, everyone went into a jewelry frenzy. In 1923, Pierre Cartier said that the discovery of King Tut’s tomb “will bring some sweeping changes in fashion jewelry.” He was right. “Egyptomania” left an enduring mark on all of the notable jewelry houses, from Cartier to Van Cleef & Arpels.
Characteristics of Art Deco Jewelry
Art Deco jewelry remained popular throughout the late 1930s and has since reemerged as a highly sought-after antique jewelry style. But before you invest in authentic Art Deco jewelry, you need to understand the unique characteristics of these monumental pieces. They should have at least one, or sometimes all, of the traits below.
1. White Gold or Platinum
Most jewels made in the Art Deco period were fashioned in either white gold or platinum. White gold made its debut to the public in 1915 to combat the growing costs of platinum and to meet the rising demand for a light-colored metal. During this time, yellow gold was out of style. While it is possible to come across Art Deco jewelry in yellow gold, it is rare and often inauthentic.
2. Old European Cut Diamonds
Authentic Art Deco jewelry does not feature modern round cut diamonds unless a jeweler modified it for contemporary muses. Instead, you will find antique cut diamonds, most notably the Old European Cut diamond. Other popular diamond cuts for Art Deco jewelry pieces include antique cushion cut, Asscher cut, and transitional cut.
3. Geometric and Symmetrical Design
Art Deco jewelry preceded the Edwardian Era. For jewelry novices, it can be challenging to determine the difference between the two periods since both made use of platinum and antique diamonds in their designs. What sets Art Deco jewelry apart from Edwardian jewels is that the former has an industrial feel, as well as features more geometric and symmetrical designs. Edwardian jewelry is nature-inspired, light, and flowy.
4. Calibré Cut Stones
Calibré cut stones are among the tell-tale signs of Art Deco jewelry. Unlike contemporary ring designs, in which prongs hold a diamond or gemstone in place, a calibré cut stone is any gemstone cut specifically to fit inside the jewelry design. The germs are tightly spaced together with other stones or metal. It has a unique impact on the overall look and design.
5. Filigree Work
Filigree is a form of intricate metalwork. It was never done as remarkably as it was during the Art Deco era. Artisans perfected filigree in jewelry in the late 1920s by using die-cast machines. The designs incorporated a lot of synthetic stones, as well as platinum, white gold, and a few diamonds. It is almost impossible to replicate the crisp, refined filigree work from the 1920s in the 21st Century because most rings were materialized through the use of wax molds. Reproductions have a softer look compared to the stark, stamped edges of authentic filigree work.
6. 10K or 18K White Gold
Most authentic filigree jewelry from the Art Deco period boasts 10k or 18k white gold. If you come across an “Art Deco” jewelry with 14k white gold and a yellow-like tint to it, the odds are it is a modern replica. The yellow tint is due to the different alloys used in modern jewelry making, which is different from the alloys artisans used in the 1920s.
7. Complete Description
Be careful of jewelry with the description “Art Deco style” because it may only be an inspired piece from the 1920s. If there is no indication that the jewelry was made in the early 20th century, you may be looking at a replica.
Household Names to Know
As for the names you need to know, there were two noteworthy categories of jewelers during the Art Deco era: the bijoutiers-joailliers and bijoutiers-artistes. The former category included many large jewelry houses such as Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Boucheron, Cartier, Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Black, Starr & Frost. The bijoutiers-joailliers encompassed jewelers like Gérard Sandoz, Raymond Templier, Jean Després, René Boivin, Suzanne Belperron, and Paul Brandt.
A Final Word
The one-of-a-kind Art Deco style in jewelry persisted through the 1930s, and it was not until the 1940s that there was a shift in design. However, the Art Deco style went through a revival in the late 1960s. Even today, jewelry designers continue to draw inspiration from the Art Deco era. Fascination with the Jazz Age is truly endless.
Trade Your Art Deco Jewelry for Cash
While Art Deco jewelry represents an extraordinary period in history, here at Biltmore Loan, we understand that their antique designs are not for everyone. If you are looking to sell your authentic Art Deco jewelry—choose us. We pay more than our competitors when giving out a loan or purchasing high-end valuables. Contact us online to request a free market appraisal.