______By Richard Whitehouse______

During the Twentieth Century, there has been a fundamental change in attitude towards jewelry in terms both of its design and its function. This century has become a period of revolution in jewelry design, and the history of how jewelry has changed reflects much of the social history of our times.

Art Nouveau 1875-1919

Art Nouveau brooch by Piel Freres photo courtesy of Marbeth Schon

Art Nouveau literally means new art, a complex and innovative European artistic and design style of the last two decades of the 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s. It found expression in a wide range of art forms - architecture, interior design, furniture, posters, glass, pottery, textiles, and book illustration - and was characterized by its devotion to curving and undulating lines, often referred to as whiplash curves. Art Nouveau formed the bridge between the 19th and the 20th century. The term Art Nouveau is derived from La Maison de l'Art Nouveau, a shop opened by the dealer Siegfried Bing in Paris in 1896.

One of the major influences of Art Nouveau was the Symbolist Movement1, which began in the 1880s. imagery adopted by this group combined religious mysticism with eroticism. Art Nouveau combined inspiration from this source with some of the elements of Arts and Crafts philosophy; it was also highly varied and asymmetrical which reflected the political unease of the period.  Art Nouveau, traces of which are discernible in the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and even in that of the  18th-century visionary poet William Blake, concentrated on the treatment of surface decoration.  It is also characterized by long curving lines based on sinuous plant forms, and an element of fantasy.  It was primarily a decorative style and as such was used particularly effectively in metalwork, jewelry, and glassware, and in book illustration, where the influence of Japanese prints is often evident.  Another ubiquitous presence is the femme fatale- the seductive nymph of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Gold and Plique a Jour enamel pendant
  photo courtesy Richard Whitehouse

Gold, Enamel, and Diamond Brooch
  photo courtesy of Richard Whitehouse

Tiffany Favrile Goblet
  photo courtesy of Dorothy Brown

Two of the leading exponents of Art Nouveau were Louis Comfort Tiffany 2, whose shimmering Favrile-glass vases and stained-glass lampshades were fantasies of iridescence, and René Lalique3 who was a French jeweler and glassmaker. He became a designer of jewelry for firms such as Boucheron, Vever, and Cartier. Breaking free from historical styles, he based his designs on plant, bird, and insect forms. Emphasizing design rather than the intrinsic value of materials, he used enamel, ivory, glass, and horn as often as semiprecious stones and gems. His work had a profound effect throughout Europe.

Carved Horn Pin attributed to Georges Pierre photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

Gold and Pliqe a jour enamel pendant  
photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

Art Nouveau in Britain 

Art Nouveau Brooch  
photo courtesy of Richard Whitehouse

Jewelry in Britain at the turn of the century differed from the French because it was more backward looking and still owed much to the Arts and Crafts movement. The British decorative motifs featured primeval figures and floral tributes combined with interlace patterns of Celtic origin. These pieces were made in finely crafted silver enriched with polished stones and enamels. They took the form of belt or waist buckles, clasps, hatpins and pendants, reminiscent of the trappings of civic functions. Designers included Archibald Knox, Oliver Baker, Jessie King, Kate Fischer and John Paul Cooper. Liberty, a shop established in 1875 specializing in Oriental goods from the East Indies and Japan, employed many of these.

Other British jewelry designers of the time included Sybil Dunlop, Arthur and Georgina Gasken, Henry Wilson, Harold Stabler and Omar Ramsden. Their work drew inspiration from the religious iconography of the Renaissance, from Medievalism and Scandinavian folk art.

Liberty & Co. Brooch
  photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

W.H. Haseler Brooch
  photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

America and Tiffany

Detail of Gorham Dog Collar Necklace
  photo courtesy of Marbeth Schon

Until the first decade of the twentieth century, most American jewelry was imported from European collections. The first large-scale production began at the turn of the century when corporations such as Gorham of Rhode Island, and Krementz of New Jersey began to manufacture Gallic imitations. The most outstanding and prestigious jewelry establishment at that time was Tiffany and Co. which became involved in all branches of the decorative arts, including wrought iron and stained glass. In 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany opened an art jewelry department, which concentrated on the sort of Byzantine and Oriental pieces being promoted by its English counterpart, Liberty and Co. This was unusual at that time in America, where most jewelry designs were based on French Art Nouveau. Tiffany began to experiment with new combinations of colors and materials and was the first to make jewelry out of lava glass. Other important names in the field included Georges Fouquet who commissioned Alphonse Mucha, a Czech painter and graphic artist, to design jewelry for Sarah Bernhardt. Lucien Gaillard, Eugène Feuillârte, Henri and Paul Vever of La Maison Vever were other major figures of the time, as was Edward Colonna.

Art Nouveau was a pivotal development in the history of art, particlularly in architecture. By rejecting conventional style and redefining the relationship of art to industry, its practitioners helped prepare the way for the advent of modern art and architecture.

Theodore Fahrner Pendant  
photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

   in Germany

"Jugendstil" Pendant  
photo courtesy of Patrick Kapty

In Germany the equivalent of Art Nouveau was known as Jugendstil 4, this became a major influence on the decorative arts by 1900. In 1907, the Deutscher Warbund was formed to promote an alliance between art and industry. It was a teaching institution started by Van der Velde and Hermann Muthesius, partly inspired by British design developments. Its influence is particularly evident in the mass produced jewelry designs of the company of Theodor Farhner in Pforzhiem, which was the center of the German jewelry industry between 1900 and 1930.

Theodore Fahrner Bar Pin
  photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

Austria and the Wiener Werkstätte

Josef Hoffman and key members of the group led the search for a new style at the beginning of the century. The Wiener Werkstätte was established in 1897. The main objective of this group of Viennese artists and designers was to improve the status of the decorative arts. They sought to move away from the dogma of mass production extolled by German theorists and American industrialists. These principles were closely allied to the British Arts and Crafts, and their designs had their stylistic roots in German Jugendstil and French Art Nouveau.

"Jugenstil" Bar Pin
  photo courtesy of Patrick Kapty

Folk art
in Scandinavia

"Skonvirke" Brooch
  photo courtesy of Patrick Kapty

The Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway drew on the idealized democratic principles of craft production, searching for an aesthetic formula that was in keeping with their cultural traditions. Nevertheless, they recognized the need to invite industrial sponsorship, not only to maintain links with the market place, but also to provide financial support for the designers. Some of the best examples of this period include the work of the Danish silversmith, Georg Jensen 5.

The Tiffany Studios,  New York:
  The American Arts and Crafts Movement

Tiffany Bronze Bowl
  photo courtesy of Aaron Foreman

Tiffany & Co. produced a prolific amount of jewelry from the latter half of the 19th century, first inspired both by British Arts and Crafts and later by Continental Art Nouveau in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. They manufactured luxurious Byzantine inspired wares, utilizing materials such as opals and amethysts reminiscent of the jewelry at Liberty and Co. in England.

During this period, The Craftsman magazine extolled the virtues of simplicity and practicality. These beliefs were to influence the work of another artist jeweler, Madeline Yale Wynn, who explored the artistic nature of different non-precious metals such as copper, pebbles and rock crystals, rather than the more usual preoccupations with the precious and semi-precious metals and stones. Other American craftsmen who practiced within the Arts and Crafts arena included the silversmiths Clemens Friedell, Janet Payne Bowles and Mildred Watkins, and the jewelers Brainerd Bliss Thresher, Josephine Hartwell and Florence D. Koehler.

Charles Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft  

Silver Lavalier  
photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

Bernard Instone Sterling Enamel Brooch
  photo courtesy of Ramona Tung

Charles Ashbee established the Guild of Handicraft in 1888 in order to develop techniques and aesthetics in jewelry, as well as in furniture and metalwork. Ashbee was one of the first designers in the Arts and Crafts Movement to experiment with jewelry. He produced a range of items at the Guild of Handicrafts, including brooches and belt buckles. Fine craftsmanship and ideologies of the medieval period inspired their work. It was essentially a reaction to the shoddy machine-made goods that had been created by industrialization in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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