Enchanting Art Nouveau

10th April 2020

Art Nouveau took place from the 1890s’ to the 1910s’, in reaction to the high development of the mass-industry and increasing machine-made products. This ephemeral movement established itself to defend and promote crafts and beauty. Nature inspiration and intricate details were contrasting with the brutal environment of the end of the XIXth century.

Not only jewelry, but all métiers d’art such as architecture, furniture designs, paintings and silverware, were concerned by the refined and gracious Art Nouveau style. Involving all forms of art, it was called “art total”, and was seen as intellectual for its references to literature such as the book “Les Fleurs du Mal” published by Baudelaire in 1857.

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Orchid Brooch, Wolfers, 1905-7
Enamel, Ruby, Diamond, Silver & Yellow Gold

It was defined by numerous artistic characteristics including precious materials and specific themes. First of all, lines were curved, flexible and floating, reproducing the nature’s forms and curiosities. Delicate dragonflies and butterflies were extremely recurrent motifs that were adorning flowers and plants.

The artists were aiming at enhancing femininity and lightness and so, were also largely inspired by the woman body. Introducing metamorphose, jewelers repetitively represented women as dragonflies and woman-flower.

Art Nouveau Jewelry. Legends on pictures. 

In order to translate this sensibility, specific materials were particularly used such as moonstones, ivory, opals and pearls in jewelry. These elements were creating wonders thanks to their noticeable luster, play-of-colors, chatoyancy. The Big Three precious stones were quite discreet, giving more space to fine stones like amethysts.

Furthermore, the enamel technique was highly spread and allowed designers to integrate various shades to represent nature. When used with the Plique-à-Jour technique, enamel was appearing as transparent or translucent, so the light could go through the cells and perfectly reveal the shades. This method was very appreciated to reproduce wings, petals and leaves. The mountings were mostly composed of silver, platinum or yellow gold, creating interlacing and asymmetrical patterns.

As per the rather accessible materials used, the value of the pieces is especially based on the creativity and originality of the design.

Art Nouveau Jewels. Legends on pictures. 

For 20 years, Art nouveau shined in Europe, especially in France and Belgium, but also in USA and Japan. Mucha, René Lalique, Georges Fouquet and Louis Tiffany are some of the most famous ambassadors that highly contributed to the movement.

Lalique is an icon of Art Nouveau jewelry, he has led the movement with extraordinary brooches and necklaces representing the woman-dragonfly with majestic wings. But not only he was a jeweler, the French artist was also creating vases, chandeliers, perfume bottles and other objects with his talent for glass-making.

Art Nouveau Jewels, by Lalique. Legends on pictures. 

Through his jewels, Lalique was expressing the light movement of the insects and plants as well as the romanticism of nature. His palette was focusing on blue and green enamel matching with aquamarines, pearls and opals. The golden hair of a woman was becoming mirages and enchanting ribbons.

Art Nouveau Jewels, by Lalique. Legends on pictures.

Comparable to Lalique, Georges Fouquet also marked Art Nouveau with his idyllic jewels. His creations were more symmetrical, yet very free of movement. In 2017, Christie’s held a major auctions sales gathering masterpieces of the late XIXth and early XXth century. Coming from a private collection, about 110 jewels went under the hammer including Fouquet’s naturalistic and enchanting pieces.

Art Nouveau Jewels, by Georges Fouquet. Legends on pictures.

In jewelry, mostly small independent designers honored Art Nouveau, while Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and other big names of the sector showed more interest in the following Art Deco movement from the 1920s’.