Art Nouveau Jewelry to Collect, Wear and Give as Gifts
The American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany and Parisians Rene Lalique and Emile Galle, all known for their work with glass, extended the style into jewelry, making a big splash in the decorative arts and the fashion world. By the late 1890s, accessories with art nouveau motifs resembling peacocks, butterflies and birds, orchids and other flowers, snakes, and dragons became very popular.
Art Nouveau jewelry is still very popular today, including both genuine antiques, vintage pieces, and new, very affordable designs. This page describes different techniques and types of Art Nouveau jewelry and features a beautiful collection of Art Nouveau necklaces, earrings, rings and pins in a range of prices. I hope you'll learn something new about Art Nouveau Jewelry and perhaps find one that would make a wonderful gift for yourself or someone special.
About Art Nouveau Jewelry
Early designers of Art Nouveau jewelry often made use of flowing lines mixed with "whiplash" curves, as they still do today.
They produced necklaces with handcrafted pendants, brooches and buckles, hair combs, diadems and tiaras and more.
The theatrical world of the late 1800s and early 1900s took full advantage of Art Nouveau jewelry in the costume and set design of their productions to show their imagination and creative flair. Some designs are still used in plays and films today.
Art Nouveau Enameled Jewelry
Enameling was one of the most popular yet also included some of the most difficult and expensive methods for embellishing art nouveau jewelry. Minerals are ground into a fine powder (basically powdered glass) and colored by adding metal oxides before firing at high temperatures to create the gorgeous deep colors and subtleties of shading that are characteristic of the Art Nouveau Period.
There are six variations of enameling techniques used for Art Nouveau jewelry including Cloisonne, Champlevé, Taille d’épargne, Niello, Basse-taille, and Plique-à-jour.
1. Cloisonne Enameling
In Cloisonne, a design is outlined with wire soldered onto another metal. The enameling (colored glass) powder is then used to fill in the design.
Several firings may be necessary because enamel shrinks when fired. The finished piece is then sanded so it is smooth and level with the wire.
2. Champlevé Enameling
In Champlevé, the designs are hollowed out in metal and then filled in and fired as many times as necessary as in Cloisonne. The finished piece is then polished.
3. Taille d'epargné
Taille d'epargné, which means "saving cut" is a variation of champlevé. It is also similar to basse taille enameling but lacks the subtle depth variations of the latter. Engraved lines form a design in the metal that are filled with opaque, usually black, enamel. The result is a fine tracery effect.
Many Eastlake style pieces of Victorian jewelry used this technique and it was a natural progression to apply it to art nouveau designs as well.
4. Niello Faux Enameling
Niello is not really enameling as it uses a mixture of sulphur, lead, copper and silver instead of powdered glass. A design is engraved in the piece and the mixture is applied to coat the entire piece.
After firing, the piece is polished, removing all of the faux enameling except what remains in the engraved lines. The result is a black and metal piece that lacks the lustre of enameling and has a flatter chalkier quality.
5. Basse-taille Enameling
In Basse-taille (French for "shallow cut"), a design is engraved in low relief into gold or silver and the entire piece is covered in translucent enamel so the carving shows through.
6. Plique-à-jour Enameling
Plique-à-jour is the most difficult, and therefore usually the most expensive, type of enameling. Plique-à-jour, appropriately for a technique that mimics stained glass, means "letting in the day" and the resulting piece has a transluscence that glows when held up to the light.
Plique-à-jour is a difficult technique because the enameling, unlike all the other methods, does not have metal backing. It uses a metal "skeleton" or framework like cloisonne but without a backing. The process dates to the Renaissance and was rediscovered in the mid-1800s and became the favored of Lalique, Tiffany, and other highly skilled artists.
More About Art Nouveau Jewelry
Original Art Nouveau jewelry incorporated precious metals, semi-precious gemstones, tortoise shells, sea shells and ivory, but the advent of mass production really brought down the value and prices.
Tiffany's, as in Tiffany stained glass, joined in on the jewelry-making, designing their own pieces and incorporating glass and ceramics.
It was Frenchman Siegfried Bing who opened the first galley to display Art Nouveau jewelry, and today you can also see collections in Paris, Belgium, and London.
The Art Nouveau Jewelry Shown on the right is typical of the style. Enameling was, and still is, a popular technique.
The Art Nouveau movement drew inspiration from nature and insect and floral motifs were plentiful and meticulously crafted. The pieces shown here are among the most popular today and they are priced from about $20 to $65 at Amazon.com
Art Nouveau Inspired Earrings Jewelry
The Popularity of Art Nouveau Jewelry
Inspired by the works of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Swiss decorative artist Eugène Grasset (1845-1917), and English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), Art Nouveau focused on natural, organic forms and sensuous curves.
The style was featured in architecture, furniture, artwork, clothing, interior design products and, of course, jewelry designs.
Some of the finest jewelry was produced in England by French jewelers such as Lalique, Vever, Fouquet, and Gautrait.
Art Nouveau Jewery and Mass Production
The actress Sarah Bernhardt, known for her exotic and flamboyant style, loved the art nouveau style and helped popularize it throughout the world.
Soon knock-offs of her jewelry were being made and with paste gems and cheaper metals. They were quickly snatched up by stylish French women in the shops lining Parisian streets.
By 1890, Gorham, Krementz, Unger Brothers, and Whiting, in the U.S., began mass-producing Art Nouveau jewelry by machine. The quality was lower, but so was the price which added to the popularity of the style.
Today's Art Nouveau Jewelry
Today's designers of Art Nouveau jewelry use gold, silver, platinum, diamonds and other gemstones to carry out their creativity and style.
You'll find jewelry of this style with precious and semi-precious stones as well as pearls, the latter especially in some of the antique jewelry pieces.
There are also many very affordable but beautiful options that use less expensive materials.
About Art Nouveau Jewelry
In the late 19th century, Art Nouveau jewelry visualized the characteristics, beauty, and traditions of the times, but it was conceived at the dawn of the industrial revolution.
Within a few years, art nouveau design rode the wave of the industrial revolution because it became easy to mass produce most items.The technology spread across Western Europe like wildfire and soon to the United States too.
Art Nouveau Pins and Brooches - From antique to new and in a wide range of prices
Back in the day, one did not necessarily have to be wealthy to own Art Nouveau jewelry, and the same certainly holds true today. Though the genuine Art Nouveau antiques and high-end newer pieces can be quite pricey (and you'll see an example of that below), there are countless vintage costume and reproduction Art Nouveau designs as well as modern interpretations of the style that are very affordable.
More Art Nouveau Topics
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© 2012 Chazz
What Do You Think of Art Nouveau Style Jewelry?
Angela F from Seattle, WA on February 27, 2013:
One of my all time favorite jewelry styles. Nice selections!
anonymous on January 31, 2013:
Absolutely gorgeous. Art Nouveau and Art Deco are my favorites.
Michey LM on January 25, 2013:
i love antiques and vintage Are Nouveau . Great lens
Deb Bryan from Chico California on January 20, 2013:
The Art Nouveau Jewelry designs are my all time favorite. I especially like the rings you have in your collection.
Vikki from US on January 17, 2013:
Beautiful; my favorite is the dragonfly pendant ;)
kabbalah lm on January 16, 2013:
There are some interesting pieces here that my wife would like
AlleyCatLane on January 15, 2013:
Love the dragonfly jewelry!