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What Is Art Deco Jewelry?

Written by Teresa Te on February 21, 2018

When you hear the term art deco used to describe a piece of jewelry, you might be confused. One of the most iconic and memorable styles of jewelry is art deco, which emerged in the 1920s. It has an interesting history as well as some specific characteristics. Read on to learn more about this iconic style that’s making a big comeback in contemporary jewelry.

Emergence During The Roaring Twenties

Art deco jewelry was perhaps most popular during the 1920s when parties, flapper dresses, bob haircuts, and loud jewelry were all the rage. When Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes came to Paris, women of the early 1900’s were mad for the exotic costume jewelry and art deco pieces the performers wore. It seemed to be the perfect complement to their romantic fashion of living.

The style was influenced by many world cultures, but the greatest influence on art deco was the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. Fashion-conscious individuals all over the world were fascinated by the exotic, colorful jewels enclosed inside the coffin, which caused a dramatic shift in jewelry as the world knew it.

The Distinctive Look of Art Deco

Once you’ve seen art deco jewelry, you can usually pick out the pieces again. Art deco style has some very distinctive points, as evidenced by these examples from the antique jeweler The Three Graces. Here are some things to look for:

  • Platinum or White Gold: Yellow gold was not as popular during the era when art deco jewelry was invented, which gave way to Platinum and silver. Platinum could be easily sculpted and made into fine and durable settings, and it doesn’t tarnish. Silver was also popular because it was less expensive than gold. Because the pale, metallic hue was the desired color for jewelry at the time of its emergence, white gold was also a common metal used in art deco jewelry.
  • Geometric Designs: Art deco uses more symmetry than the Edwardian era, which came directly before it. The lines, rather than being curved and soft, were more geometric and angular. These designs were inspired by the jewelry found in King Tut’s tomb. Additionally, better technology was developed, so stones could be given a more symmetric cut.
  • European or Calibre Cut Stones: This design is particularly important for the art deco theme because the stones are cut for the setting, rather than the setting made for the cut. In other words, the stones were carefully crafted for each individual piece of jewelry, and they’re often considered more valuable as a result. The stones could be custom-cut, and the designs could mold together as paving stones with very little of the underlying setting visible on the finished product.
  • Detailed Filigree: The filigree common to the art deco period was machine die cast and very intricate. Most filigree jewelry was made from 10k or 18k white gold. You can tell the difference between true vintage and copies by comparing this detailing. Today’s filigreed pieces are usually wax cast, and the lines are not as crisp as they are in true vintage pieces. Also, modern white gold is from a different alloy, so it takes on more of a yellow cast.
  • Diamonds and Colored Jewels: Diamonds were a key piece in art deco jewelry because they are timeless and go well with the lighter colored metal that was popular at the time. However, they are far from being the only stones used in art deco pieces. Jewels of varying value and color were very popular. It was common to find rubies, emeralds, and jade, among others. Many art deco pieces include a combination of diamonds and colorful jewelry.

Art Deco Is Popular Once Again

Despite a rough patch during the Great Depression, art deco pieces endured over many decades. During the 1950s and 1960s, this style regained popularity, and it continues to be popular today.

The clean lines and geometric shapes, as well as bold styles, are timeless. Whether it’s being used in jewelry, architecture, or home decor, art deco is here to make a bold statement that will stand the test of time.