History of Jewelry

Art Deco (1915-1935)

See the Collection

The exuberant spirit of the Roaring Twenties, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the Fauvist Artists and a wave of orientalism give to women emerged emancipated from the Great War a bright palette which find ideal expression in Art Deco jewellery.

A new generation of jewellers, influenced by artistic movements and artists like Fernand Léger or Sonia Delaunay is inspired by Cubism, Futurism and Russian Constructivism. The designs are architectural and distilled. Lines are geometrical. The parure is composed as if it were a sculpture.

Jewellers such as Janesich, Lacloche, Marchak and, of course Cartier united East with West and form with colour in a synthesis of pure art and lasting luxury, as the exotic cultures of Islam, Egypt and China in turn inspired their designs. Coloured gemstones carved in the Indian style as flowers and leaves, or calibré cut in exotic shapes to specifically fit their mounts, often with domed « buff tops » to contrast pavéset diamond grounds.

Gemset wristwatches and accessories provided a new avenue for jewellers to exploit: nécessaires de soirs, cigarette cases and powder compacts provided flat surfaces requiring decoration ; panels of inlaid hardstone, angular outlines drawn in rows of diamonds, or enamel on lacquer. Double-clip brooches became de rigueur and the new method of invisible setting perfected by Van Cleef & Arpels allowed pavements of stones to be mounted without interruption, the stones miraculously held edge-to-edge without claws, using a grid system hidden beneath the surface.

During the 1930s, the investigation of abstract forms led to the sublime perfection of white Art Deco, as the « functional » approach and angularities of the machine age crystallized into stark, sober statements or inflated size and scale. Abstract industrial shapes became increasingly massive and almost architectural in form as colour crept away from jewels to leave entirely white expanses of platinum, diamond and rock crystal.

 Yet within these heavy forms, sleek geometry gradually softened into more sculptural, three-dimensional shapes: rounded pleats, scrolls and spirals displayed the beginnings of volume and movements to complement the returning curves of feminity, as demonstrated by the designs of Suzanne Belperron and René Boivin.