Antique Art Nouveau jewelry. My trip to France Part III
I've been telling you about my recent jewelry-hunting trip and holiday in France.
If I can isolate one period and style of jewelry, it is the Art Nouveau. Jewelry made circa 1895 - 1905.
Wild, crazy, exciting and delicate all at the same time. Art Nouveau jewelry is seen as the pinnacle of artistic and
technically fabulous jewelry production and it's best protagonists were the French. Books and books have been written
on the subject, usually focusing on the uber-famous, such as Rene Lalique, whose Art Nouveau jewelry sells in the
hundreds of thousands of dollars and who set the bar for the ultimate fabulous Art Nouveau jewelry.
Today I'm chatting about a few pieces that came home with me from my adventures in France. There will be more posts
on Art Nouveau jewelry later.
bat ring 5349.
Grotesque creatures fascinated the Art Nouveau French jewelry artists. They transformed monsters, frogs, snakes, bats and
spiders into objects of utter grace and beauty. The English of the day were totally scornfull. They failed to appreciate
the beauty in these creatures. Today, collectors ardently search out these unusual pieces.
How lucky to find a ring that screaches Art Nouveau in the form of a bat.
Art Nouveau jewelry is simply graceful, with lines that flow and wind around each other. Whiplash lines - lines that
do a sharp u-turn and come back in the direction they started from, are a
dominant characteristic. Elongated, elegant, flowing designs that are more often than not, totally asymmetric. I noticed
that the English jewelry that mimics the Art Nouveau is more static and less flowing and loose than the French.
Themes from Nature abound. Contrasting colors, highlights, and the use of relatively simple materials as well as
diamonds and expensive gemstones are often features of this jewelry. Occasionally, jeweler artists combined common
and rare stones. Look at the way the diamond ribbons wind around one another in this brooch. Tapering and widening,
leading the eye in never-ending movement. The wonderful opal in the center, perfectly chosen as a flower-bud, is
highlighted by small, deep red rubies. The transparency of the opal in contrast with the rich red and highlighted by the
winking diamonds, with each facet reflecting light a different way. Each part is perfect on it's own and each part works
beautifully with the others. The workmanship is superb.
Art Nouveau Jewelry has another standout - it's use of plique a jour, that most difficult of enameling techniques,
that allows light to shine through an item, like through a magical miniature stained glass window. This technique was
especially copied by the Pforzheim Jugendstil jewelers, who immitated French Art Nouveau without so much as a blush.
Continueing my adventures in Normandy and Paris last month, here is one of two pendants using that technique.
The thistle is a popular, beloved French symbol, often used as a secret patriotic gesture, especially at the time that
parts of Alsace-Lorraine were lost to the Germans.
These items do not scratch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to antique Art Nouveau jewelry, but each, in it's own way
might give a taste of some aspects of this gorgeous style. I'm always on the hunt for the rare and unusual, so Art Nouveau
jewelry is a no-brainer for me, when I find the good pieces in my French travels.
post 29. See also website and other posts eg 147 for fuller discussion on Art Nouveau jewelry.