ART DECO JEWELLERY 2
In the art deco era, new motifs and new materials were combined to create wonderfully decorative pieces of costume jewellery.
Two distinct styles dominated the jewellery of the 1920s and 1930s. While geometric jewellery concentrated on abstract shapes, other designers made brooches, earrings, bracelets and bangles with figurative motifs drawn from the symbols of the modern age.
The approach of the figurative designers was still recognizably in the art deco style. Animals, plants and even people were sleek and stylized, and the materials used included chrome, glass and plastic alongside the more traditional precious metals and stones.
In the Victorian period, most costume jewellery tended to be made as copies of more expensive items. By the 1920s, though, this no longer applied. Some of the most inventive designs were made in the cheapest materials, because there was no need to be limited by the value and permanence of real stones.
The Roaring Twenties was the decade of luxury liners, mass-produced motorcars and daring aviators. Brooches shaped as miniature planes, cars or ships were pinned to many a lapel. Many other pieces symbolized the cult of speed. Lightning flashes, arrows, gazelles, greyhounds and the paraphernalia of horseracing all appeared on jewellery.
Movie idols and fashionable flappers in cloche hats were among the motifs drawn from films and street life. The glamour of Hollywood was captured in miniature
set pieces composed of palm trees with gold or platinum trunks and foliage of carved jade, sheltering a diamond limousine with moveable wheels of shiny black enamel. Such pieces were made possible by the use of flexible, resistant materials like lacquer and enamel, and by technical advances in cutting gemstones to fit an overall design.
Among the most popular and versatile pieces were diamond or paste clips and brooches, which could be fastened almost anywhere - on a curl of hair, a cloche hat, a shoulder strap, lapel or neckline. Some of them were even worn on a belt.
The range of motifs seen on jewellery of the 1920s was vast, although all of them exhibited a certain sense
of style and glamour typical of the period. Bold shapes with strong outlines and bright colours were very much the order of the day. Brooches and clips were very popular, and were often worn on hats and belts as well as on lapels.
The term 'costume jewellery' is loosely used to refer to pieces that have been designed by an artist, but produced in some quantity. It does not necessarily imply that all the materials used are imitation or worthless. Deco costume jewellery used materials such as amber, jade, coral, ivory, mother-of-pearl, shagreen, marcasite, crystal and enamel, as well as imitation pearls, synthetic stones and various types of plastic.
This meant it was cheap enough to have been bought in great quantities, but expensive enough to be kept, rather than thrown away. It was generally well made, too, and enough good pieces have survived to make it an subject for today's collector.
Deco costume jewellery can be found in a variety of sources. Clothing and jewellery dealers markets, antiques markets and
antiques fairs will almost certainly have a selection, while cheaper pieces may well be found in general second-hand dealers, jumble sales and boot fairs.
Plastic versions of jet, jade and other gemstones can be very realistic, but a lightweight feel and surface scratches often give them away.
Check all pieces for damage. Repairs are possible, but are best left to professionals. Enamel is particularly difficult to repair. Badly chipped or cracked pieces are best avoided. Surface scratches on silver should also be left to experts.
Look carefully at paste pieces. Any flaws, including both yellowing of the paste and poor refractions, as well as missing or replacement stones, should be reflected in the price.
All jewellery should be polished regularly with a cloth. Never attempt to clean it by immersing it in water. This is particularly true of pieces containing foil-backed paste, whose sparkle will be destroyed forever.