The 19th- century Art Nouveau movement was a revolutionary period in the history of mankind that put the strongest accent ever on imagination and creativity. It is considered as one of the most fruitful eras that represented art in each and every aspect of life. Jewelry pieces crafted during the Art Nouveau years are appraised as the most successful expression of the period itself, perfectly capturing the artistic freedom that was so evident at the end of the 19th century. Art Nouveau jewelry became authentic for its fresh designs and symbolic motifs that helped it carve its own path as a revolutionary style that is still incredibly popular among the modern jewelry audience.
When the concept of Art Nouveau appeared, it quickly reached all spheres of society, including art, literature, fashion and architecture. The other names for Art Nouveau at the time were “Jugendstil” and “The Glasgow Style”, all of them reflecting the idea of having art as a part of everyday life. The Art Nouveau origins date back to the late 1890s in the country of world’s best cheese and wine – France. Even the name of the period is French, meaning “New Art”. It is said that the apparition of Art Nouveau was a response to two major influences at the time – the British “Arts and Crafts Movement” and the Japanese “Woodblock Printing”. As a matter of fact, the creation of the Art Nouveau movement contains traces of both of these influences, particularly the Japanese floral forms and whiplash curves that can be frequently seen in Art Nouveau designs.
The opinion of art critics is divided when it comes to determining what is the first work of art that can be signed under the “Art Noveau” label. Some say that the paintings of Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh represent the birth of this broad artistic movement, as they display flowing lines and floral backgrounds that characterize the period. Others claim that the person who started the entire Art Nouveau adventure is Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, an English architect, interior designer and furniture maker. The title page of his 1883’s “Wren's City Churches” book is a great evidence of the European Art Nouveau design with a snake stalking of flowers, which is an element reminiscent of the popular Japanese woodblock prints.
Once the Art Nouveau movement conquered the entire France, it continued to spread all over Europe and the American continent. By the end of the 1910s, it invaded the world and became the fastest-growing trend in jewelry and art.
THE KEY IDEAS
What we like about Art Nouveau jewelry is the fact that it represents a one-of-a-kind mixture of tenderness, mystic and romance. Thanks to the pale colors and flowing curves, Art Nouveau jewelry has a soothing feel on the skin that makes it even more attractive and desirable. Let’s see what are the main ideas that brought Art Nouveau into existence.
✓ Victorian and Edwardian designs became overused and quite boring, so there was a general desire to abandon the styles behind Art Nouveau and concentrate on modernism. The goal of Art Nouveau practitioners was to revive the good crafts and raise again their status in the society. Since they wanted to achieve all of this through the prism of art, they started considering themselves “artists” rather than “artisans”.
✓ The old academic system (17th- 19th century) underappreciated intellectual works like painting and sculpturing and always put on the pedestal crafts like ironwork and furniture design. The second goal of Art Nouveau was to change that and replace the roles. Although faced with a wave of resistance, the Art Nouveau revolution successfully accomplished its goal and managed to raise awareness in fine and applied arts for the first time in history.
✓ Art Nouveau practitioners believed that previous designs were too ornamental and they did not reflected the use of the item. By applying the Art Nouveau concept, they wanted to show that the function of an item should dictate its form.
THE LEADING DESIGNERS OF ART NOUVEAU JEWELRY
Art Nouveau jewelry is remarkable and exceptionally important to us, because it changed the notion of preciousness. Thanks to it, platinum and diamonds did not remain the only materials for the making of high-quality, fine jewelry, thus adding a greater significance to other materials, such as gold, colored gems, enamel, glass and horn.
The two leading jewelry designers that followed this newly created principle were Louis Comfort Tiffany and René Lalique. Both designers became popular for breaking free from the boring historical styles and concentrating on nature-inspired designs with long, curving lines and a special dose of fantasy. Therefore, orchids, lilies, irises, ferns, dragonflies, snakes and butterflies became the symbolic motifs of Art Nouveau jewelry and they were usually combined with semiprecious stones and gems. Most of the Art Nouveau designs were used as an illustration of the female form.
The most employed technique in the manufacture of Art Nouveau jewelry was enameling. Designers of those times used to call it “Plique à jour”, which stood for transpired enameling with no backing. This technique was very tedious to perform, but the final outcome was immensely treasured as it represented the designer’s skills and artistry.
Usually, the beauty effect of Art Nouveau jewelry made with enameling resembled to a three dimensional painting. Other less popular techniques were guilloche enameling and basse-taille that required engraving the metal and then adding a thin layer of enamel over the piece.
Today, Art Nouveau jewelry stands for one-of-a-kind beauty and redefined notion of preciousness. This jewelry style stood the test of time and we can see it in many sought-after forms, mostly engagement rings. The best thing about it is that these rings do not come at skyrocketing prices, besides the huge historical value an Art Nouveau jewelry piece embodies in its design. So, if you feel like you want to get engaged with an off-register ring whose Boho spirit cannot be tamed, you definitely need a one crafted in Art Nouveau mode.