At times, some fashion trends are so beautiful, yet so classically austere that humans like to stretch away from their seriousness, if only for a few months or years.
That was the case with Art Nouveau, which was born in the same period as the fascinating Edwardian Jewellery fashion that we talked about earlier, and the Art Deco trend, the third jewellery protagonist of the end of the 19th Century.
The three distinct trends that influenced fashion, jewellery, and many more arts such as architecture developed and died down over the course of a mere 25 years. They were all born at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, outlived her son’s King Edward VII reign, and ended abruptly, with the first World War that demanded all jewellery to be given to the war effort.
Art Nouveau as a fashion and jewellery trend is fascinating to observe, with beautiful shapes, colors, and techniques that differ greatly from the precision of the Edwardian jewellery style, giving more freedom to the wearer.
We can still enjoy pieces of a great beauty created during that period, which has lasted up to our days despite the fragility of some of the materials used to craft those jewels. At Carus Jewellery, we are so fascinated by the artistry molten into intricacy and detail that we felt like sharing the secrets of Art Nouveau with you.
Art Nouveau Jewellery: A Thriving Social Context
Spanning over the course of 25 years, from 1890 up to the first World War, the Art Nouveau period started with Queen Victoria, sparking the interest of the art-driven European and American populations, only to die a few years after King Edward VII’s reign.
Those two decades were a flourishing era for Europe and the United States; Art Nouveau was to be spotted in all kinds of arts and in society. It was a time for scintillating jewellery under King Edward VII, a time for endless high-society balls, a time for fun and social upheaval.
That peaceful period allowed factory-based work to increase, the middle classes to blossom, and minds to rest.
Techniques of Art Nouveau: Fascinating Craftmanship
No matter how much factories helped lower classes emerge and access wealth, jewellers of the end of the 19th Century felt that jewellery has lost in originality, creativity, and quality.
Art Nouveau’s jewellers responded to the increasing mass-produced goods movement the same way Edwardian jewellers did; with a strong return to hand crafted jewellery. Imperfection was once more fashionable, the artisan craft became even more valuable than precious stones and metals, and sat Art Nouveau’s pieces as pure art.
A few distinct craftmanship techniques appeared during the Art Nouveau movement, encompassed by famous jewellers such as René Lalique or Georges Fouquet. Curves, light, transparency and colors of jewellery represented freedom and a level of artistry very specific to the Art Nouveau era.
The Whiplash line, for instance, was an undulating motif that was the base of many a piece of Art Nouveau jewellery, whether they were fauna, flora or feminine patterns. That line symbolized sexuality and eroticism at a time when women became revered, almost feared because of their increasing liberties, with the right to vote, for instance.
Plique-à-jour, on the other hand, which relied on the materials more than on the color and light, brought back enameling in style.
Plique-à-jour and its stained glass, multidimensional effect was a technique that consisted in applying a thin layer of enamel in holes created by the separation of the metal setting. The jewellery created with plique-à-jour boasts light, transparent features.
Guilloché, a fascinating engraving technique already highly used in the Edwardian era, also made its mark on Art Nouveau jewellery; relied on mechanically-engraved intricate, very fine designs.
Not only were the techniques of the Art Nouveau period delicate and innovative in terms of jewellery, but they also complemented all sorts of colorful stones and gems that were selected for their beauty rather than their price.
Art Nouveau: Antique Colourful Intricacies
In the Art Nouveau period, intricate jewellery made its apparition once again. Confronted to a very exclusive diamond and platinum-based trend of Edwardian jewellery happening at the same time, Art Nouveau jewellers took freedom in creating colorful pieces that can be recognized at the glance of an eye even today.
Patterns of insects like wasps, bees and grasshoppers, flowers, plants, fruits were very current, designed in intricacy and richness of colors and enamels. Art Nouveau designs also regularly featured women-like motifs like nymphs and fairies, often eroticised and romanticised at the same time.
As far as materials go, diamonds were left to the Edwardian movement except for accents, and less noble stones were preferred; pearls, amethyst, opal, garnet or amber.
With the return to nature in patterns, materials followed, with moonstone, shell, and horn often decorating Art Nouveau jewellery.
Why is Art Nouveau important to us today?
The Art Nouveau movement embodies everything that the European population needed to counter the austerity and geometric lines of the diamond-based Edwardian jewellery. It rose to fashion and fell almost as quickly in oblivion, as WWI stroke Europe.
After the end of the war, the fun life was forgotten and the modern world followed instinctively straight lines and fashions. However, the Art Nouveau movement brought more innovations than we can count, whether it be in jewels, architecture or paint.
Art Nouveau vintage jewellery is still mentioned today for intricate, stunning curves of art, and grew in response to an ever-increasing factory-based society, as a last token of artistic appreciation of nature and feminine shapes.
When life gets tough, we find that color and beautiful shapes help in lifting our moods and letting happiness in our life. That is why Art Nouveau is so important to this date, and why Carus Jewellery loves pieces of this era.
Whether you are looking for a brooch or a pendant to wear in your daily life or for more formal occasions, take a look at those beautiful gems to further understand how Art Nouveau can make us so happy, even in 2021.