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The Art Deco collection on display at the Legion of Honor was comprehensive and truly magnificent. It represented French art decojewelry created in different materials and global influence. The jewelry included pieces made from platinum and diamonds, to sterling,plastic and nylons all in the interpretation of each artist’s decostyle.
After the great war, new artistic styles emerged in painting,literature, music, furniture, architecture and fashion. France led theway for freedom of expression, and Paris was the place this change began.
In 1925 the Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modern
was held in Paris. It was here that new motifs, styles and colors weredisplayed in every type of medium imagined—hence the term Art Deco wasderived. The Eiffel Tower was lit with electric lights and Laliquecreated a large crystal fountain with flowing dyed water— thecelebration was more than just new art, it was freedom itself tocelebrate.
Jewelers designed jewelry to accommodate the relaxed style of clothingintroduced by Chanel, Poiret & Schiaparelli. Large oversizedbracelets were created to wear with the sleeveless dresses, longnecklaces (often with tiny watches) were made to wear with the newstyle of short dresses and colorful bold gemstone jewelry accompanied evening wear. Elaborate vanity cases (minaudieres) were alsofabricated to hold cigarettes and red lipstick.
Jean Fouquet, known for his incredible art noveau jewelry, was one ofthe first French jewelers with his son George to create an Art Deconecklace for display at the 1925 Paris Exposition. This necklace madeof glass, silk, onyx and coral is significant because it introduceswhat was to become the identifiable Art Deco style using geometricshapes and introducing the color combination with black, white andorange-red.
The discovery of King Tuts tomb in 1922 influenced artists both in useof color and shape. Geometric shapes, especially squares andrectangles, which resembled some of the early Egyptian jewelry, wereused for creating elegant evening diamond jewelry. One of the mostincredible platinum sapphire and diamond Art Deco necklaces was createdby Cartier for Majorie Merriweather Post and is a perfect example ofthis style. With a huge and perfect blue sapphire in the center ofthis neckpiece with pave set diamond and sapphire bar shaped chain, theentire necklace could be unclipped and worn as two bracelets and thecenter large sapphire as a brooch. Mrs. Post called this her “bluejewelry.”
Mixed metals (silver, copper, gold) were used in combination withcolorful stones such as lapis lazuli, jade, jasper, coral, onyx andmalachite. Necklaces, bracelets and rings became large art pieces thatwere abstract and sculptural in design.
ExoticFar Eastern influences were seen in the colorful styles of clothing andjewelry. One of my very favorite designers is Suzanne Belperron. Shedesigned large bold colorful jewelry, using clashing colors andgemstones that many jewelers didn’t use during the 1930’s and early40’s. Belperron created her own style which is still in vogue today. Using scrolls and swirls as one of her favored motifs often paved withdiamonds and sapphires. Below is a ring that she created in 1935 witha large cabochon amethyst and red tourmalines.
Verdura started creating large colorful and whimsical jewelry for CocoChanel both as costume jewelry and fine jewelry. He used gemstones ofdifferent mixed colors and types of cuts which he often set intolarge oversized cuffs, necklaces and huge clip earrings.
Many important clocks were designed during this Art Deco period by thefine jewelry houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels andMauboussin. The use of hard stone combinations and the design of themystery clock, where the hands appear to float in the space of thegemstone, put the colorful clocks in great demand.
The artistic creations and styles during the Art Deco Period remainclassic. In 1939 this luxury of freedom of expression and worldcelebration came to an end with the start of World War II.
Written by Janet Deleuse, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Masterpieces of French Jewelry, Judith Price
Running Press, Philadelphia 2006