Art. Nature. Romance. This is what the Art Nouveau period embodied for a 20 year span from 1890 – 1910. This era was essentially sandwiched between the Victorian and Edwardian periods, but made a massive impact on the artistry used by jewelry makers of the time. Looking back, the Art Nouveau period sharply contrasted the growing advances of technology in the industrial age.
The Art Nouveau Era of Jewelry
Unlike the Victorian and Edwardian eras of estate jewelry that were grounded in influence from the wealthy and elite, the Art Nouveau period was inspired by nature and art. Specifically, a large influx of Japanese traders in the late 1850’s and 60’s provided a massive spark to the European jewelers (especially French) of the time.
The Japanese historically have had a strong bond between human and nature in their art. Art Nouveau jewelers were inspired by the Japanese culture and began to incorporate insects, flowers, and animals into new jewelry creations. The female body also became an important theme throughout pieces during this era and was evident on the wavy lines used on settings.
It is extremely common to find lilies, ferns, butterflies and dragonflies, and many other naturalistic elements in an Art Nouveau piece.
Settings and Gemstones
Unlike the diamond explosion that happened near the end of the Victorian era in the late 1800’s, Art Nouveau jewelers emphasized a stone’s setting much more than the actual stone itself. This led to an emergence in the use of enameling, which is the practice of taking powdered or clear glass, adding pigments, and then melting it into a smooth texture.
The larger settings also gave jewelers a better palate to create their nature inspired designs. This extra space gives Art Nouveau pieces a flowing feel that resembled artwork much more than preceding jewelry periods.
As the focus on diamonds declined, the use of different materials and gemstones emerged! It is common to find stones like amethyst, amber, citrine, freshwater pearls, and peridot as the featured stone in rings. Gold was common during this time for settings, but alternatives like copper and even horn were used periodically.
Although the Art Nouveau era lasted during a fairly small timespan jewelry’s history, it was also part of an broad and influential artistic movement that took hold throughout Europe and America. Art Nouveau had a lasting effect on jewelry creation for decades to come!
Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers has dealt in vintage jewelry for over 25 years. One of the early staples of our business revolved on identifying, buying, and selling vintage estate jewelry. If you are interested in Victorian Era jewelry or would like us to evaluate pieces in your possession, call or send us an email to schedule an appointment. You can also view our eBay store to find some of our current inventory.
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