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  • Writer's pictureMeade Murphy

Antiques: Art Nouveau

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Art Nouveau movement swept through Europe, revolutionising architecture and the decorative arts.

Art Nouveau was more than a design concept centred on a desire to revive the crafts and offer good design to a mass audience. These new consumers, the ever-growing rich from the industrial age, bought everything the factories produced.

At its height in 1895, it affected every branch of the applied arts throughout the western world. This design concept changed how furniture, glass, china, lamps and household items looked to consumers. In no area was it more impressive than in jewellery.

Fantasy was one of the essential ingredients of Art Nouveau. No jewellers took this to a greater extreme than the famous French jeweller than Rene Lalique. Paris took the style to her heart, and by 1900 jewellers such as Lalique, Fouquet and Vever produced some of the best pieces of jewellery ever seen in this century. Their subjects were mainly drawn from nature, such as animals, fish, plants and insects. There was also an Oriental influence, such as a dragon head pin in gold with bird feathers or a serpent brooch in gold and emerald. The jewellers had a vast range of materials to impress their customers – such as gold, silver, opal, glass, horn, diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

By 1910 their scope was considerably widened by the use of platinum which rapidly replaced silver for diamond settings. Unlike silver, the new material did not tarnish and, because of its greater strength, reduced the metal required to hold a stone securely.

Then in 1914, WW1 reached every corner of the civilized world and brought about a virtual halt in jewellery production, which ended the Art Nouveau movement. The Art Nouveau movement was dead, a victim of its own self-indulgence and lack of discipline.

These days we scrap most of these hat pins, brooches and rings for gemstones, diamonds, opals, gold and silver, as these items are out of fashion today. If you want to view some lovely Art Nouveau jewellery, visit Lynzay Antiques website


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