If you know anything about jewelry, chances are that you’ve heard the term “art nouveau.” Art Nouveau was a very short lived, but dramatically recognized period. During this time, some of the most desirable pieces were created.
This movement began during the final years of the reign of Queen Victoria as both an artistic and creative revolt against the commonplace methods of manufacture and themes of the 19th century. The art nouveau jewelry was inspired by Japanese art imported into Europe during the 1800s. These Japanese influences were showcased by the interpretations of woodlands by seasons/times of day and landscapes.
Also characteristic of the art nouveau jewelry were curvy, dynamic, flowing lines. The style of these lines has become a way to identify the country where the piece came from. In France, the line was used to depict locks of hair or vines. However, in England, the focus was the line itself, which was inspired by a Celtic Revival. Finally, in Scotland, the line was very distinctive in that it was dynamic and severe.
Motifs such as birds, butterflies, dragonflies, irises, orchids, poppies, and reptiles were also quite popular. Snakes were used to depict eternity, life, and even sexuality. Georges Foquet and Rene Lalique created amazing rings, pendants, and bracelets that featured wriggling serpents.
On the other hand, the female form itself was also a very popular art nouveau theme. The femme-fleur was representative of dark-eyed, emaciated temptress or as virginal beauty.
Many times, non-traditional materials were used in jewelry of this time, such as horn. The translucency of horns worked to create a mood appealing to the designers of that time period. Ivory was also used in conjunction with horn to create hair ornaments, letter openers, brooches, and pendants. Glass was also used, as well as gemstones like agate, amber, garnet, and opals. Diamonds were used, but rarely.
The art nouveau style left a great legacy in design of jewelry. This style was responsible for creating jewelry that were actually works of art. Sadly, at the close of 1900, this style became so fashionable, that some of the themes were cheaply copied, which resulted in the downfall of this beautiful style.