With its sweeping curves, nature-inspired designs and mystical motifs, Art Nouveau is an important chapter in the history of jewellery design. Here, we’ve delved into the story and origins of Art Nouveau jewellery to bring you eight essential facts about this unusual design aesthetic.
1. Art Nouveau jewellery is part of the wider Art Nouveau movement
Art Nouveau was an international style of art, architecture, ceramics, glassware, metalwork, interiors and jewellery design between 1890 and 1910. Art Nouveau jewellery was seen as an escape from the fussier finery of the Victorian era and was beloved for its use of unusual gemstones and swirling, nature-inspired designs. The Art Nouveau era fell out of favour in 1910 and was quickly followed by the Art Deco design style.
2. Art Nouveau jewellery was inspired by Japanese art
As trade routes between the West and the East opened in the late 1800s, Japanese culture and art offered a fascinating insight into an undiscovered world for European craftsmen. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London, Japanese artists were invited to present their prints, woodcuts and furniture for the very first time. The cultural awakening this caused – known as Japonisme – had a huge impact on Art Nouveau jewellery and Art Nouveau jewellery designers.
3. Art Nouveau jewellery designer René Lalique is world-renowned
Of all the famous Art Nouveau jewellery designers, René Lalique is undoubtedly the most famous. Born in 1860, Lalique was highly sought-after for his incredible designs, often crafted with multi-coloured enamel, unusual gemstones and with mythical forms, including women with insect wings and flowing hair dusted with flower petals. Other famous Art Nouveau jewellery designers were Henri Verver, who specialised in exquisite hair combs, and Georges Fouquet who used opals, enamel over gold and coloured gemstones to beautiful effect.
4. ‘Whiplash’ lines are an important part of Art Nouveau jewellery
Curved, flowing lines were so popular in Art Nouveau jewellery they were given a special name: ‘Whiplash’ lines. The description was chosen because of the way Art Nouveau curves appeared to undulate and crack through the air like a whip. Whiplash lines can be seen in architecture, painting, sculpture and, of course, Art Nouveau jewellery pieces.
5. Art Nouveau jewellery is both magical and mystical
Nature and animal motifs were key themes in Art Nouveau jewellery. Dragonflies, butterflies, beetles, spiders, snakes, poppies, orchids and irises were captured in beautiful detail with plique-à-jour enamel, beautiful carved gemstones and textured precious metals. Peacocks, swans, swallows and cockerels were also popular choices, with many being given a mystical makeover to appease the magical, fairy-tale tastes of the day.
6. Plique-à-jour enamel also played a role in Art Nouveau jewellery
So, what is plique-à-jour enamel? Art Nouveau jewellers were incredibly creative in their use of jewellery making techniques. They experimented with gem materials like never before, including moonstone, chrysoberyl, opal, horn, ivory, coral and even bone. However, it was a mastery of enamel that added vibrant swathes of colour to their creations. Plique-à-jour enamel is technically challenging for even the finest artisans, as it is akin to creating a miniature stained-glass window. Transparent layers of enamel allow light to shine through, adding a characteristic sense of translucency to Art Nouveau jewellery pieces.
7. Art Nouveau jewellery celebrated women
Art Nouveau jewellery is famous for its depiction of women, especially delicate faces framed with flowers and mermaid-like forms adorned with wings. There is a feminine sensuality to Art Nouveau jewellery that makes it immediately recognisable, especially as so many artisans were inspired by famous actresses and opera singers of the day.
8. Original Art Nouveau jewellery is extremely rare and very precious
Original and well-preserved Art Nouveau jewellery pieces and Art Nouveau antiques are extremely rare. Most can only be discovered in museums, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, which houses a world-renowned collection of Lalique jewels. Pieces occasionally appear at auction and result in frantic bidding. Instead, most modern-day jewellery lovers turn to contemporary Art Nouveau jewellery replicas to celebrate this incredible era.
Discover replica Art Nouveau jewellery by Timeless Classics
When Dutch brand Timeless Classics took over a silver factory in 1984, they discovered a treasure trove of 30,000 original, well-preserved master jewellery moulds from the Art Nouveau era, among others. Today, Timeless Classics uses these incredible finds to recreate jewellery of the Art Nouveau movement in all its beautiful, nature-inspired finery.Discover the Timeless Classics Art Nouveau jewellery collection, here.