Jewelry Blog

Art Nouveau vs Art Deco Jewelry

Art Nouveau Jewelry and Art Deco Jewelry

The importance of jewelry for women is immeasurable. Many historical art styles have inspired jewelry design today. We all know that the Victorian and Edwardian Era were important and groundbreaking. However, two periods that made a great impact are the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras. Read on to learn more about Art Nouveau vs Art Deco.

What Is Art Deco Jewelry?

Four Art Deco-era pieces from the Estate Diamond Jewelry catalog.

Art Deco comes from the exhibition “Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes,” held in Paris in 1925. The Art Deco era, however, started spreading its influence and changing women’s fashion at the beginning of the 20th century.

At that time, France was the center of fashion events, and the emergence of Art Deco completely changed how jewelry was comprehended and designed. The new style boasted modern solutions and revolutionary designs. It followed industrialization and social changes that happened after World War I and inspired many jewelry artists to implement machine-based designs. Compared to previous eras, jewelry now featured straight lines, geometrical designs, sharp angles, and, as far as engagement rings were concerned, one center stone.

The geometric style and symmetrical designs are the essential features of Art Deco jewelry. Furthermore, the new style used platinum more frequently than yellow gold, a unique gem-cutting style, a lacquer technique highlighting the influence of the industrial period, and more.

Many different examples of Art Deco jewelry show the impact of other cultures, not just Western European. We could see brooches or pendants with distinctive Indian, Egyptian, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese designs.

What Is Art Nouveau Jewelry?

Four Art Nouveau-era pieces from the Estate Diamond Jewelry catalog.

We could say that the Art Nouveau period was the complete opposite of Art Deco. The “new art” period proved short-lived, but its impact shouldn’t be understated. Between 1880 and 1910, when Art Deco took the lead, Art Nouveau was spreading its influence against the Industrial Revolution and forms of mass production. Originators of this style claimed the jewelry shouldn’t be bound by the restrictive rules of the past century but handmade with a touch of individuality. Many jewel pieces of this “new art” actually required the work of more than one artist, resulting in unique brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and more.

Even though the Art Nouveau style didn’t last for long, it represented a fresh, new outlook on fashion and jewelry at the time. The most significant feature was natural ornaments and nature motifs. Curving and flowing lines were a fundamental part of Art Nouveau, and its jewelry usually featured more than one gemstone. This style shows the world how important it is to be unique in a world dominated by uniformity. The Arts and Crafts movement and its philosophy inspired the Art Nouveau period. Supporters of this movement believed that beauty is contained in handcrafted jewelry and that fine art is important.

Like Art Deco, Art Nouveau originated in France but was influenced by Egyptian, Japanese (or Japonisme), Scandinavian, British, and American cultures. All of these contributed to the design Art Nouveau presented the use of natural elements to the world, flowers, blossoms, nude female figures, and mythical creatures. Winged creatures, dragons, griffins, and insects are featured heavily. Mythological figures like Medusa or mermaids were also at the center of Art Nouveau jewelry.

Art Deco Design vs Art Nouveau Design

Infographic comparing the architectural influences of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

Besides the jewelry, these two movements influenced art and design in different ways. These revolutionary styles could be seen in architecture, furniture, decorations, crafts, etc.

Art Nouveau’s design featuring greenery like leaves and vines, with curved and flowing lines accompanied by many different colors, is the influence of Japonisme. The use of glass was common with Art Nouveau artists such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, while Gustav Klimt focused on the colorful patterns best represented by his “The Woman in Gold” portrait. Furthermore, some classic architectural pieces of this period we can see today are Hotel Ceramic in Paris and Hotel Tassel in Belgium.

On the other hand, Art Deco accepted industrialization and presented more technological and formal design to the world. Symmetrical and modern art, accompanied by geometrical shapes, was the main feature of Art Deco. The use of geometrics was influenced by Pablo Picasso’s Cubism. Besides Picasso, Georges Braque and René Lalique were just some of the renowned Art Deco artists.

Art Deco vs Art Nouveau Jewelry

Art Deco and Art Nouveau-era jewelry pieces from Estate Diamond Jewelry.

Since we covered the differences between Art Deco and Art Nouveau design, it’s time to move on to the jewelry from both periods.

Recognizable Art Deco Jewelry Features

Pieces of Art Deco-era jewelry with corresponding numbering from 1 to 6.

Art Deco, as already mentioned, focused on progress and sharper designs compared to Art Nouveau. This period brought new elements into designing jewelry, such as custom gemstones cut to fit a specific design. These, among other distinctive Art Deco elements, were later used to determine whether a piece was from this period. Some features in Art Deco necklaces, rings, brooches, pendants, earrings, and other jewelry are specific metal, geometric design, pearls, gems, filigree, enamel, and more.

Let’s break down each of these elements and provide a better understanding of Art Deco.

1. Art Deco Uses Platinum or White Gold

Platinum bands were popular during the Art Deco period. Even though this option was expensive, platinum could be seen on most jewel pieces of that time. White gold was a more affordable alternative to platinum, which came to prominence around 1915. Usually, all Art Deco jewelry featured white metal since yellow gold lost its previous distinction.

2. Art Deco Gems and Diamond Cuts

With the beginning of the Art Deco era, gems featured new innovative cuts that gave the center gemstone or diamond a mosaic look. The more shine and glitter the center stone boasted, the more extravagant the jewel. Nowadays, diamonds from the Art Deco period are Asscher, cushion, and transition cut.

3. The Most Recognizable Art Deco Feature: Geometric Shapes

What gives Art Deco jewelry an industrial and formal feeling is the geometry and symmetry. This period saw many geometric shapes and straight lines in jewelry. Some pieces even combined more than one geometric shape to make a complex design. Typically, Art Deco pieces were rectangular, triangular, octagonal, and more. However, this doesn’t mean that if you see a curved jewel, it doesn’t belong to the Art Deco era. Some designs contained curves as well, but these were rarer.

4. Prestige Filigree Art Deco Feature

Filigree was one of the elements featured on many jewels from the Art Deco period. This method and design required a lot of precise work. Necklaces and bracelets with filigree were a sign of royalty and prestige. The design is handmade with metal threads, usually white gold. Braids and other filigree techniques were mainly popular between the 1920s and 1930s.

Filigree designs and Art Deco geometric style went complemented each other, adding value to each piece. Some unusual Art Deco filigree designs involved lacy flowers and other natural imagery.

5. Colorful Art Deco Jewelry Pieces

Some jewelry from the Art Deco period featured enamel or lacquer coloring techniques. Both were used to add hue or shade to a jewelry piece, but lacquer was a less time-consuming method. Another way to add color to these stylish pieces was by using synthetic materials, mimicking the natural color of gemstones. Many colorful Art Deco examples were necklaces, earrings, pendants, and bracelets in black, green, blue, and other colors.

However, for the upper classes, Art Deco pieces featured genuine gemstones and colored diamonds such as onyx, opal, ruby, emerald, sapphires, aquamarine, etc.

6. Egyptian Influence on Art Deco Jewelry

Besides the hanging pieces on earrings, pendants, and necklaces popular in the Art Deco era, this jewelry also features many Egyptian motifs. Golden pins, earrings, pendants with blue and turquoise colors, sphinx, scarabs, and other prevalent Egyptian cultural elements were featured on Art Deco pieces.

Recognizable Art Nouveau Jewelry Features

Pieces of Art Nouveau-era jewelry with corresponding numbering from 1 to 3.

Let’s look at Art Nouveau and the features from this era that are still recognizable today.

1. Prestige Is Replaced With Unusual Materials

Art Deco pieces were considered prestigious, while those from Art Nouveau focused on art and craftsmanship. This is why works from this period weren’t made from platinum or white gold but from materials such as amber, glass, pearl, and horn.

Pearls, in particular, were a distinguishing feature in Art Nouveau jewelry. All shapes and pearl sizes were implemented on pieces from this era, which perfectly complemented the natural design and elements.

2. Central Female Figures

Mythical females and nudes were central figures in pieces from this period, including the Sirens, Medusa, and dragonflies. The prevalent themes were nature and naturalism with a sexual connotation. Artists from this period tried to portray the woman in all her glory, often highlighting the sensual body parts, creating, for example, an S-shaped female sculpture. Egyptian and Japanese Influence on Art Nouveau Jewelry

Egyptian motifs were one of the elements seen in pieces from this period. Green and gold were the dominant colors, especially for earrings and necklaces. Green beads with green pendants were also representative of the same cultural influence.

Furthermore, seeds, blossoms, leaves, and flower features are the perfect representation of the influence of the Japanese. While not as influential as Egyptian culture, there was a heavy symbolism for nature and life.

3. The Dark Side of Art Nouveau Jewelry Pieces

Besides everything mentioned so far, some Art Nouveau pieces have a dark side featuring pessimistic motifs. Inspired by the Decadence movement, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, supporters focused on the dangers in the world around us.

All of these are featured with insect jewelry pieces and necklaces with moths, spiders, bats, and other nocturnal animals. 

Chart of Art Nouveau and Art Deco Motifs

Angular LinesArt Deco
Curved LinesArt Nouveau
Nature MotifsArt Nouveau
Geometric ShapesArt Deco
Scroll MotifsBoth Art Deco and Art Nouveau
Egyptian MotifsBoth Art Deco and Art Nouveau
SymmetryArt Deco
Filigree FeatureArt Deco
Colorful GemsBoth Art Deco and Art Nouveau
PearlsBoth Art Deco and Art Nouveau
Female MotifsArt Nouveau
Mythological MotifsArt Nouveau

Art Deco Engagement Rings vs Art Nouveau Engagement Rings

A customer in the Estate Diamond Jewelry showroom shopping for vintage rings.

If you’re unsure whether you want to get your beloved an engagement ring from the Art Deco or Art Nouveau period, here are some aspects to consider:

  • Shape – The shape of the engagement ring can tell you whether it is Art Deco or Art Nouveau. Art Deco pieces are geometric and symmetrical, while Art Nouveau engagement rings feature unusual shapes resembling nature.
  • Material – Art Deco rings are made from platinum, white gold, and other prestigious white metal. In contrast, Art Nouveau rings usually feature peculiar materials such as amber, horn, yellow gold, and pearls.
  • Gemstones – A center big gemstone or diamond is a recognizable feature of an Art Deco period ring, while Art Nouveau-inspired rings can feature more stones placed in a curved design.
  • Visual look – While both periods are beautiful in their own way, Art Deco engagement rings are usually elegant, eye-catching, and prestigious. At the same time, Art Nouveau pieces are freer, featuring yellow bands, unusual twists, and curves.
  • Symbolism – Sometimes, the symbolism of rings is evident at first sight. The symmetry of Art Deco symbolizes the eternal commitment of both partners. Art Nouveau rings symbolize love for natural things, spontaneity, and passion.
  • Settings – Art Deco features pave and halo settings, which isn’t usually the case for the engagement rings from the Art Nouveau period.
  • Motifs – Engagement rings from Art Deco feature sharp shapes and modern motifs, while Art Nouveau-inspired rings focus on vines, flowers, leaves, etc.

Art Deco Engagement Rings

Engagement rings inspired by the Art Deco period feature brilliant-white metal bands and an eye-catching central stone. This timeless appearance and bold designs are why this engagement ring style is increasingly popular today.

Art Nouveau Engagement Rings

These stylish engagement rings are perfect for romantic and passionate couples. The flower patterns and curved lines express natural motifs, and the unusual and beautiful designs are unique.

Talk to a Jewelry Expert

Expert jewelers assisting customers with rings in the Estate Diamond Jewelry showroom.

If you’re in the middle of the selection process and are unsure whether to pick a jewelry piece from the Art Deco or Art Nouveau period, talk to our Estate Diamond Jewelry experts. They can help you choose the perfect piece for you and your loved ones.


About Benjamin Khordipour

Benjamin Khordipour is one of the jewelry researchers and gemologists at Estate Diamond Jewelry. He received his official gemological degrees from both the GIA and GUBELIN. He also regularly contributes to Business Insider, Forbes, Rapaport, CNBC, and Brides Magazine. Benjamin was born in New York and joined Estate Diamond Jewelry in 2014. He is passionate about vintage jewelry and diamonds. This blog was built on his strong belief that jewelers have a responsibility to properly educate their customers. In 2019, Benjamin co-authored the book The Engagement Ring Guide for Men. His favorite vintage jewelry era is the Art Deco Era and his favorite type of stone is the Kashmir Sapphire. He also collects rare antique pins.