Dr. Brenda Forman jewelry historian and Art Deco provocateur shared with us the sleek, sexy, highly stylized and modern jewelry movement known as “Art Deco”. Like a phoenix emerging from the ashes of World War 1, the style was characterized by sleek, streamlined forms, geometric patterns, and use of industrial materials such as metals (stainless steel, aluminum), plastics, and glass. It was jewelry about COLOR, the play of light on the piece was more important than the intrinsic value of the materials used.
This was not your grandmother’s jewelry, it was jewelry for daring spirits where women piled on multiple Art Deco bracelets. As Miss Piggy was fond of saying “Less is not More, MORE is MORE”.
From the Pre-Deco period, the Art Deco scene with the Exposition des Art Décoratifs in Paris in 1925, to the End of Art Deco, Brenda provided insights and interesting stories to keep our attention.
High lighting four leaders of the Art Deco esthetic:
Gérard Sandoz came from a family of jewelers and designed geometric pieces for the Sandoz firm while he was still in his twenties. His output was significant within the realms of the Art Deco period.
Jean Fouquet, was the third of a great dynasty of French jewelers, he was the son of George Fouguet a famous Art Nouveau designer. Jean was one of the great artist-jewelers of the Art Deco movement. Jean designed for the family business ” Maison Fouquet”, and his designs were among the most audacious and innovative of the period, winning many awards.
Raymond Templier came from a family of Parisian jewelers. His designs were boldly geometric, and sported geometric stones with a scattering of diamonds against dark platinum fields. He was especially fond of precious white metals such as platinum and silver, and paired them with onyx and other dark stones in stunning pieces.
Jean Després had an aircraft industrial-design back ground which was reflected in his art deco pieces. His machine age aesthetic may be interpreted as unwieldy and masculine, but it was well suited to the increasingly strong image of the liberated woman. Després’ modernist, industrial derived pieces are some of the most desirable for collectors of vintage jewelry today.
A little known woman leader in the Art Deco period:
Suzanne Belperron began her career in 1921 as a drafts-woman at the celebrated Maison Boivin in Paris. But lack of recognition at the firm eventually forced her to leave. Recognizing her talent, Bernard Herz, a Parisian stone dealer, hired Suzanne in 1932 to design exclusively under his company name, B. Herz. Asked once why she never signed her work, Suzanne Belperron replied: “My style is my signature.”
While the Art Deco designers may have used unconventional materials, the big names Cartier, Boucheron, Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Raymond Yard and Lalique all reached dizzying heights of Art Deco splendor providing diamond, gold and paltinum designs to their customers.
In addition to art deco jewelry, approached by Andre Citroen to produce a suitable car mascot to adorn their new model, Rene Lalique created car hood ornaments molded from a special glass, untarnishable and almost unbreakable. Motor Mascots achieved a rare combination of art deco beauty and distinction and were enhanced by illumination. Soon the rich & famous were seeking-out Lalique’s car mascots to adorn their radiator caps on such exotic makes as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, Duesenberg, etc.
The DCGIA Chapter warmly thanks Brenda for sharing her time and knowledge with us!
Summary by Charlie Marts
Photograph by Melanie Marts GG.