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What is Art Deco Jewellery?

Q Report Team
Updated on October 06, 2022
3 min read

 

Savoy Headpiece with Detachable Brooch from The Great Gatsby Collection, Tiffany & Co. Savoy Headpiece with Detachable Brooch from The Great Gatsby Collection, Tiffany & Co.

 

Art Deco as a visual arts style first appeared in France after World War I, and increased in popularity and cultural significance globally through the 20′s and 30′s before falling out of popularity in the 40′s. It encompassed not only jewellery but architecture, fashion, graphic art, furniture, automobiles and more.

Its predecessor Art Nouveau had been inspired by the natural world, especially organic shapes like plants, flowers and the human body. But the rapid industrialisation and sustained economic prosperity of the period between WWI and WWII had created an atmosphere of luxury, glamour, and industrial progress. Art Deco was an expression of this “machine age” – if Art Nouveau was all curves and asymmetry, Art Deco was straight lines and symmetry. It was equally influenced by pre-modern art from around the world and modern art movements like Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism.

 

Art Deco spire of the Chrysler Building The Art Deco spire of the Chrysler Building

 

What results is a style which is bold, dramatic, geometrically pleasing. Designs aspired to be as grand as the great pyramid of Giza, yet as modern and mechanical as the motorcar.

Following World War II, however, the style fell out of favour. In a time of such austerity (rationing in Britain continued for almost a decade after the war ended) it was considered gaudy, inappropriate and wasteful.

F. Scott Fitzgerald might have agreed. He wrote The Great Gatsbyduring the “Roaring Twenties”, creating what many consider to in fact be an indictment of the decadence and social trends of the time. Its characters were selfish, callous dreamers who preferred to believe in their own imagination over reality. Though many readers might take Gatsby as a simple, tragic love story and perhaps even a celebration of the partying lifestyle, its themes in fact run far deeper as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of the American Dream.

“It was borrowed time anyhow – the whole upper tenth of a nation living with the insouciance of grand dukes and the casualness of chorus girls.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Pearl and diamond hand ornaments from The Great Gatsby Collection in the Tiffany Window Pearl and diamond hand ornaments from The Great Gatsby Collection in the Tiffany Window

 

Since Art Deco first fell out of vogue, the style had come back into fashion multiple times in following generations. Most recently, Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film adaptation of the novel has been the largest influence on the current resurgence of interest.

And this time, the luxury jewellery retailer Tiffany & Co. was there to lend a hand. Featuring jewellery from their archive and pieces created especially for the film including headpieces, bracelets, necklaces and strings of pearls. The venture helped Tiffany & Co. see their net income increase 20% over 2013.

Most importantly, the fortunate side-effect of the film was that the world has once again been reintroduced to Art Deco, a century-old classic visual style which also somehow manages to remain perpetually modern.

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