Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry: Collectible favorites

Fairies of Art Nouveau

Fairies of Art Nouveau

The most popular vintage jewelry pieces I see in collections are Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Here’s some background on these two beautiful design periods.

Art Nouveau

This design trend (literally, “new art”) ran from the 1880s to World War I.It emerged as trade with Japan opened up and Europe became fascinated with Asian design and subjects.

Jewelers focused on natural beauty, using images from nature. Birds, flowers, and other botanical themes appeared, combined with geometric shapes. Winged creatures, fairies and dragonflies, were especially popular..think of Lalique and Tiffany and their free-flowing lines. Designers turned from large diamonds to softer looks using stones like moonstone, amethyst, opal, amber, citrine, peridot, and freshwater pearls.

Art Deco

If Art Nouveau fought the industrial revolution,  Art Deco  embraced it. The movement emerged after World War I, after the severity of wartime living, and lasted until World War II. It was part of the same

Art Deco earrings

Art Deco earrings

movement that gave birth to the Jazz Age, speakeasies, and flappers.

According to Art Deco, The Period, the Jewelry, “The central theme of Art Deco was geometry, symmetry, and boldness of both design and color.”

This period features streamlined, jagged forms (think of the Chrysler Building). You’ll also see lots of platinum, varieties of colored gemstones and bold, geometric designs. Contrast was everything, so onyx or black enamel was set against the stark white of diamonds or crystals.

How to identify these period pieces

  • Art Nouveau: Look for pastel-colored enamels and nature symbols, with curvy lines. This jewelry is lush, opulent, and romantic, totally focused on being surrounded by beauty.
  • Art Deco: Look for materials like stainless steel, aluminum, and chrome. You’ll find stark lines, sharp black/white contrasts and lots of sparkle.
A Riker Bros Art Nouveau brooch

A Riker Bros Art Nouveau brooch

In both cases, you need to be careful when buying vintage jewelry. There are a lot of good reproductions out there, so it can be tricky. Check out the findings (clasps, prongs, and hinges — but no lobster claws!).  And Antique Marks suggests, “try to find a picture of an actual piece of Art Deco or Nouveau jewelry to compare with the piece you are considering buying. You can often find photos in antiques related books and catalogues or period references.”


The best way, of course, is to buy jewelry from a reputable jeweler, or try to get a piece with documentation. And of course, if you have any questions, you should have your piece appraised by a knowledgeable jewelry appraiser who has the education and resources to evaluate your piece. Call me when you want to uncover the true value of your precious gems, silver, watches, or heirloom pieces.

What beautiful Art Nouveau or Deco jewelry finds have you discovered?

Brilliantly yours,


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