If you love the fashions of the Jazz Age and imagine yourself a character in the Great Gatsby, dripping with luminescent jewels, then Art Deco style jewelry is a great way for you to incorporate this vintage aesthetic into your modern wardrobe. These styles, which feature the repeating geometric motifs and sleek glamour of the 1920s and 1930s, work just as well for contemporary women as they did for the flapper girls of the past century.
Identifying Art Deco Jewelry by Eye
Most Art Deco-style pieces have more than one element of period design. To really represent this era, a great piece of jewelry will feature two or three of the following Art Deco elements.
Elements of Art Deco Style in Jewelry
Understanding what characteristics make a piece Art Deco can help you build a great jewelry wardrobe from this era. Whether you're purchasing antique pieces or collecting modern reproductions, you'll find that most items from the 1920s and 1930s include some or all of the following attributes.
Although yellow metals also made an appearance during the Art Deco era, the majority of these pieces are made of cool-toned metals or imitations of them, with platinum being the most popular choice of them all. This coloring lends Art Deco pieces a sleek, modern appearance and a sophistication that calls up chrome-covered images of the 1920s. You'll see the following white metals in authentic vintage pieces, as well as high-quality reproductions:
- White gold
- Sterling silver
- Silver-plated base metal
- Nickel silver and other white base metals
Another element that prominently features across the majority of Art Deco jewelry designs is filigree work. Filigree involves delicate openwork designs which are created by expert jewelers who take metallurgical threads and twist them together in braids and curls that can later be soldiered onto necklaces, rings, bracelets, and so on. This delicate technique evokes the feeling of lace, and it was a very popular trend during the 1920s and 1930s. Commonly, these lacy designs feature natural motifs like flowers, leaves, or swirls, but you can also find examples that echo the overall shapes and lines of the central gemstone in whatever piece you're examining.
Repeated Geometric Motifs
Geometric designs are one of the most defining features of the Art Deco aesthetic. Sometimes a variety of geometric shapes were combined to create a complex piece with eye-catching, though somewhat disarming, optics. While you'll most often find that these geometric designs have straight lines and angles, curves were sometimes included in these designs. Additionally, symmetry was a focal point of Art Deco designs, and so features like filigree are generally symmetrical across every piece. Expect to find the following shapes in jewelry inspired by the Art Deco era:
Many examples of Art Deco-style jewelry also have colorful enameled elements. Enamel involves fusing molten colored glass to metal, and it's a great way to add color or contrast to a piece. In the Art Deco era, many jewelry items featured black, blue, green, or deep red enamel, but you can find pieces in almost any color. It's popular in both fine jewelry and costume pieces.
Colored or Opaque Stones
Although diamonds and clear imitation diamonds were hugely popular during the 1920s and 1930s, many Deco-style pieces also include colored or opaque gemstones. In costume jewelry, these 'stones' may be paste, glass, or high-quality imitations. Among Art Deco jewelry, you'll find pieces that have colored stones as the central focus, as well as items with colored or opaque accents. Many pieces feature the following gems or imitations of these gems:
- Lapis lazuli
Pieces With Movement
In contrast to the sleek, geometric shapes of the Deco period, many authentic and reproduction pieces also include some elements that swing or move with the wearer. Hanging pendants and drop earrings are popular in both fine jewelry and costume examples. Many brooches and pins also have a teardrop bead or hanging piece that swings from the main portion of the design. You'll also see long, layered strands of pearls or beads that have lots of dangly movement.
Jewelry That's Timelessly Beautiful
Because of its classic beauty and gorgeous design elements, Art Deco-style jewelry is timeless. Teetering between masculine and feminine, this period's jewelry is suited for those with all types of fashion aesthetics. Whether you're a fan of vintage jewelry or simply love the look of this specific era, you'll find that these pieces work well in your jewelry wardrobe. Next, delve into some valuable vintage costume jewelry and see what you've been missing.