The artistic design movement of Art Deco was the visual embodiment of modernist principles that revolutionised function and form. An opulent style of visual arts, architecture and design first appeared in France just before World War I and went on to revolutionise styles between 1925-1935. The Great War had devastated European cultural centres and the wealth of aristocracy had been damaged. Therefore a revolution was imminent at this time of chaos and Art Deco was it.
Art Deco is celebrated for its streamlined designs, clean lines and shapes of modernity, relative simplicity and decorative geometric symmetry. It was influenced by the artistic movements of Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus and Cubism (Artistic movements of the late 19th and early 20th century) and went on to represent modernist ideals, sleek anti-traditional elegance and symbolised wealth and sophistication.
The movement derived its striking name from an abbreviation of ‘The International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts’ held in Paris in 1925 which was named ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne’ and saw an astounding sixteen million visitors over the seven months it was open from April – October. It is said to be where modernism and Art Deco was born and transported around the world. Thus, France wanted this new Exposition of 1925 in order to regain world recognition as the cultural arts capital of the world. The event was designed by the French government to highlight the new style moderne of architecture, interior decoration, furniture, glass, jewellery and other decorative arts.
Bold shapes and clean lines were favoured when it came to the design of buildings associated with the modern age and this style was applied to the likes of airports, ocean liners, cinemas, and swimming pools. Hotels and luxury apartments were home to some of the most glamorous interiors in the form of bright colours, decorative patterns and luxurious material.
Art Deco Architecture
The entire fashion industry was taken by storm with an exquisite global celebration of design reform. Geometric shapes and symmetry inspired both the fashion and jewellery houses of the time and as women’s clothes became stream lined, jewellery design followed suit.
Art Deco Jewellery
The jewellery worn in the post war era was highly influenced by the Art Deco movement and with innovations in technologies and advances in metal and gemstone cutting machinery it paved way for new inventive styles such as Calibré cut stones. ‘Calibré usually references faceted stones that are custom cut in order to line up perfectly together. Unlike most designs, there are virtually no gaps between the stones or against the setting. The shapes usually are either square, tapered keystone, rectangular, or rounded and are often set in a pavé around the centre stone.’
Function and form were at the forefront of the revolution and the likes of Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and Raymond Templier revelled in this style.
Jewellery houses drew inspiration from architecture producing grand and exquisite designs such as diamond drop earrings that echoed the building aesthetic.
It liberated women to celebrate their new found prosperity and glamorous lifestyles and highly sort after items such as cocktail rings and decorative enamel and gemstone encrusted cigarette cases emerged. Women carried them as a sign of sophistication and affluence. Black became a new in vogue colour used in jewellery with the prominent arrival of onyx and enamel which contrasted against white metals, diamonds and sea pearls.
New bright coloured gemstone combinations were born out of Asian and Indian influence with the popular use of emeralds, sapphires, rubies, coral, jade, turquoise and lapis lazuli innovating the previously diamond dominated industry.
Cartier released their famous masterpiece collection ‘Tutti Fruitti’ inspired by India termed at the time ‘East meets West’ with emeralds, rubies and sapphires carved in the Mughal-style set in beautifully crafted platinum among diamonds, onyx and enamel.
The end of an era
‘In 1937 came the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. Its emphasis on science and technology decisively, if unintentionally, marked the end of the Art Deco period.’ World War II solidified the end to the Art Deco movement replacing design with more uniform simplistic stylings. The mood was sombre amongst the people once again and The Great Depression made purely decorative designs and exotic materials seem irrelevant if not distasteful.
There was a great Art Deco revival in the 1960s. A time when the economy was stable and pop music and liberation was fashionable. Our love affair with Art Deco progressed throughout the 70’s and 80s and has continued to the present day. Art Deco represents hope, optimism and beauty and even during tough economic times, the appeal of Art Deco is hard to ignore.