Art Nouveau Jewelry Primer

The Art Nouveau movement set jewelry free with flowing lines and organic motifs. Picture the curvy lines of those famous Paris metro entrances and you get the feel for it immediately. Designers embraced a new individuality after the socially and culturally restrictive 19th century. Non-traditional gemstones in pastel hues and irregular freshwater pearls lightened the mood, and enamel of all colors and kinds shines brightly from many Art Nouveau pieces.

Enameled Pendant Necklace

Diamond and Enamel Ring

Enamel and Pearl Pendant

Cultural exchange between the West and the Far East opened up again during this period, resulting in mutual fascination and an exchange of ideas and techniques. European and American artisans made their own interpretations of Eastern design, especially Japanese aesthetics. Even if these interpretations weren’t always accurate (no surprise—they weren’t!), far more is gained than lost in translation.

Gold and Diamond Water Lily Bracelets and Brooch

Japonesque Sterling Guilloche Powder Box

18K Dragon Pendant

Flights of fancy were often quite literal in Art Nouveau jewelry, taken on sinuously-flowing gold or enameled wings. Griffins, dragons, mermaids, birds, reptiles, insects, and other creatures both real and fantastical make up the typical menagerie. Some of the most lovely feature “plique-a-jour,” an enameling technique that is partially translucent and lends itself perfectly to petals, wings, and other organic elements.

Griffin Pin

Mermaid Brooch

Plique-a-Jour Dragonfly Brooch

Though engagement rings aren’t the most well-known examples of Art Nouveau, the ones we do find show the same flowing lines and organic designs of the era. These unusual pieces won’t be spotted on anyone else, and make particularly lovely pieces for the right wearer.

Cushion-Cut Diamond Ring

Art Nouveau Three-Stone Diamond Ring

Cushion-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

The Art Nouveau was especially big in France, where its namesake gallery displayed works of the “new art” in Paris. Jewelers and other artisans specialized in the techniques these styles required, many of which involved collaboration among multiple makers. No wonder such stunning pieces came from a place where they could all work together, and where shoppers and art patrons came from around the world to find out what was à la mode.

Opal and Diamond Brooch

18K French Locket

French Freshwater Pearl Necklace

Follow those flowing lines to a more complete history of the Art Nouveau movement in our Advanced Learning Section.

Arts & Crafts

No, we’re not talking about those construction paper projects from grade school! Similar to the popularity of the DIY look in today’s tech age, the Art Nouveau and especially the Arts and Crafts movements reacted to the Industrial Revolution and an increasingly mechanized world by returning to handmade objects and traditional techniques. Rather than perfection and uniformity, these pieces proudly emphasized their individuality in an effort to bring art into everyday life. Of course—as always!—in trying to make their creations look “old,” Arts & Crafts artisans created something totally new that would go on to influence the way we approach design to this day. The results are as unique as they are beautiful.

Pink Sapphire Ring in Platinum

Sapphire and Diamond Bangle

Natural Pearl and Agate Ring