One of the old but relished jewelry designs that collectors would be interested in today is the Art Deco jewelry.
It is a unique genre of vintage jewelry, and in this article, we take you through everything you need to know about Art Deco jewelry, including an answer to that burning question on the value of this type of jewelry.
So, let’s dive right into it.
What is art deco jewelry?
Art deco is a jewelry style that emerged in the world jewelry scene in 1925 when it was exhibited at the World Fair in Paris, France.
What you may not know is that the art deco jewelry style is actually the shortened version of the event’s name – the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts,, better known as the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. So, as the name suggests, it’s safe to say that art deco jewelry is jewelry with decorative art depictions.
It’s also important to note that there are certain elements in design that appear consistently throughout the period that these pieces were popular, which is why art deco jewelry is as easily identifiable as fashion, cars, or buildings. Notably, authentic Art Deco jewelry is said to have been created between the years 1920 and 1935, and the jewelry is identified based on its unique set of features/ characteristics.
The brief History of art deco jewelry
Art Deco jewelry remains one of the most iconic, popular, and enduring jewelry styles whose tones are borrowed and used in modern jewelry.
Art Deco Jewelry was birthed and became a popular jewelry style in the 1920s and the 1930s, although the style actually emerged in 1915 or thereabout. This was after WWI, and at the time, there was a lot of optimism in the art. But as WWII neared, the jewelry style had dimming popularity. However, this style never really died, and it was reignited and extended into the current jewelry/ fashion scene from the 1960s. What this means is that the lifetime of the Art Deco jewelry style really stretches throughout much of the 20th Century – save for the 1950s when this style seems to have been booted to the back.
But how exactly did this jewelry style come to be?
Well, this jewelry style made an appearance around the 1920s when women said their goodbyes to the tight clothes and corsets instituted by society, becoming daring, independent, and bold flappers.
During this time, the hems of the clothes worn by women, as well as their hair, got shorter, and their dresses more streamlined, sleeveless, and vertical. To match the new fashion, the women needed long earrings along with bangles that they could wear all the way up the arm.
This period was also characterized by simpler dresses worn during the day, which meant that long strings of beads would become the ultimate way of dressing up the dresses. This led to the increased demand for dress clips and brooches, which would be worn every day, with everyday clothes. This versatility in dressing and the capacity to wear dresses and accessories that could also be worn in the evening meant that the women of this time opted for these accessories because they would be easily clipped on hats, collars, coat lapels, and even hats. This look would be complemented by their little mesh-style purses and the beautiful Art Deco compacts for a complete look.
And as expected, extravagance and opulence were pretty much the order of the day. This fashion style was taken up after the war aggressively, and it showed the recklessness and the vigor of what’s now known as the jazz age.
Art deco jewelry characteristics
Art deco jewelry is unique, elegant, and enduring, but to be sure that what you have is an actual Art Deco piece, here are some of the primary characteristics of Art Deco jewelry.
1.Materials – White gold and Platinum
The first thing that you must look at to determine the style and age of vintage or antique jewelry is the type of materials used.
Art Deco jewelry was made of elegant and expensive materials like chromium and platinum, which is why the most popular art deco jewelry featured flat, cool white, geometric shapes. There was also the adoption of steel along with Bakelite from the Industrial Sector, and for that color pop, the most common gemstones used include Sapphires, Emeralds, and Diamonds. There also were rhinestones used and also paste, especially for the people who wouldn’t afford the real thing.
There was also the use of white gold, which is why most Art Deco jewelry was fashioned out of platinum and white gold. Notably, the white gold art deco jewelry was first introduced to the public in 1915 – white gold was invented to combat the rising cost of platinum, along with the high demand for light-colored metals. At this time, yellow gold was out of style.
2.The Old European-cut Diamonds
Authentic Art Deco jewelry will not have any of the modern round-cut brilliant diamonds seen today, which means that if the jewelry is sold as Art Deco but has that brilliant round-cut design of the diamond, then it is a new piece or it’s been modified. In addition to this, you’d also find that real/ Authentic Art Deco jewelry bear that incredibly unique, antique diamond cut like the Old European diamond cut, which is the most common.
Besides the Old European Cut, the other common diamond cuts reminiscent of the Art Deco Era include the antique cushion cut, the Asscher cut, and the transitional cut.
The other characteristic of Art Deco jewelry is their unique design of the jewelry and the use of geometric designs.
Essentially, the Art Deco jewelry era precedes the famous Edwardian Era, which featured a lot of the nature-inspired, flowy, and light jewelry, unlike the Art Deco era that features more jewelry designs incorporating more geometric shapes, a distinct industrial feel, and very little free/ unused space.
So, while these two eras can be hard to differentiate, especially to novices, and because both eras used platinum along with antique-cut diamonds, Art Deco is pretty much made of the most number of geometrical shapes and designs.
The other noticeable characteristic of Art Deco jewelry is the presence of Calibre-cut stones as an important part of Art Deco jewelry.
In case you are wondering, the Calibre-cut stones refer to the custom-cut diamonds and gemstones that are cut to fit into to specific design of the jewelry. As a result, these gemstones are tightly spaced together and against both metal and the other stones for a very compact design overall.
Art Deco jewelry also features a lot of filigree work. Filigree work can be defined as the use of intricate cut-outs. Though this style had been around for a while, it was used very well in the Art Deco era, thanks to the design’s perfection around the late 1920s. This was made possible through the use of die-cast machines, resulting in the mass availability of filigree design works by the beginning of the 1930s.
Note that the filigree work designs feature the use of significant synthetic stones along with diamonds, white gold, and platinum. Because its replication is almost impossible, the highly refined filigree works dating back to the 1920s is what’s seen and used in the rings made today. For design reproduction, wax molds are used, but the results are not as good as the original works. So, if you have a piece sold as an Art Deco piece and it has the filigree design, you could tell that it’s a reproduction if it has a more goopy and soft look, rather than the stamped and stark edges of the authentic filigree work. Also, filigree works from the Art Deco era were made using 10k and 18k white gold. So, anything made of 14k or with a yellowish tint is a reproduction. Note that the older white gold didn’t have a yellow tint, even after years of use/ existence.
The jewelry featured a lot of bold colors
Is Art Deco Jewelry Valuable?
Yes. But the value of Art Deco jewelry depends on its authenticity. Generally, the jewelry is valuable if it has all the characteristics laid out above.
The value also varies depending on the metals used – platinum or white gold and the stones used.
With an authentic piece made of white gold or platinum and adorned with sapphires, diamonds, or emeralds, for example, the piece would fetch a few thousand.
So, if you are sure yours is an authentic piece, get it appraised professionally to know exactly how much it’s worth.
How To Identify Art Deco Jewelry?
- First, look at the filigree’s work. Use the guide above – impressionistic filigree work is soft, and the gemstones would be set on 14k gold or even yellow gold, which isn’t the case with authentic pieces as they are set on white gold (no yellow tint) or platinum.
- Also, authentic pieces feature tightly fitting filigree works with sharp/ stark edges, which might not be the case with modern pieces.
- Check the diamond cuts. Authentic pieces feature the Old European diamond cut, transition cut, Asscher cut, or the antique cushion diamond cut. Nothing modern like the brilliant round-cuts.
- Regarding materials, no sterling silver or yellow gold – more platinum and white gold
- You may notice Chinese Motifs in some of the authentic pieces.
Art Deco jewelry dates back to 1920, and it was popularized first in France before it became popular with the rest of the world.
This jewelry allowed the newly independent women the best and the boldest of ways for self-expression, and it’s the reason why the Art Deco jewelry era is regarded as the age of jazz, recklessness, and speakeasies, fuelled by the booming economies and the fact that women had the freedom to vote.
And yes, this jewelry style is valuable.