In the 1890s, jewellers began to explore the potentials of the growing Art Nouveau style. Very closely related were the German Jugendstil, British (and to some extent American) Arts and Crafts movement. René Lalique, working for the Paris shop of Samuel Bing, was recognized by contemporaries as a leading figure in this trend. The Darmstadt Artists’ Colony and Wiener Werkstaette provided perhaps the most significant German input to the trend, while in Denmark Georg Jensen, though best known for his Silverware, also contributed significant pieces. In England, Liberty & Co and the British arts & crafts movement of Charles Robert Ashbee contributed slightly more linear but still characteristic designs. The new style moved the focus of the jeweller’s art from the setting of stones to the artistic design of the piece itself; Lalique’s famous dragonfly design is one of the best examples of this. Enamels played a large role in technique, while sinuous organic lines are the most recognizable design feature. The end of World War One once again changed public attitudes; and a more sober style was set to take centre-stage.
Growing political tensions, the after-effects of the war, and a general reaction against the perceived decadence of the turn of the century led to simpler forms, combined with more effective manufacturing for mass production of high-quality jewellery. Covering the period of the 1920s and 1930s, the style has become popularly known as Art Deco. Walter Gropius and the German Bauhaus movement, with their philosophy of “no barriers between artists and craftsmen” lead to some interesting and stylistically simplified forms. Modern materials were also introduced: plastics and aluminum were first used in jewellery, and of note are the chromed pendants of Russian born Bauhaus master Naum Slutzky. Technical mastery became as valued as the material itself; in the west, this period saw the reinvention of granulation by the German Elizabeth Treskow (although development of the re-invention has continued into the 1990s).
French jewellery typically speaks of novelty, individuality, and timelessness. French designers usually go for either the classic small elegant pieces suitable for daily wear, or big ornate andgem-covered ones ideal for grand events. Flowers are the choice motifs, usually made of diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies.
Germans seek the sleek, ultramodern type of jewellery. In this case, smooth geometry and brisk lines are of the essence. The German earrings, for instance, are simple, eye-catching and priced well, targeting the self-purchase market. Germans prefer their earrings to be prevalently dangling, sometimes intricately designed with a geometric figure on the post, a long tube or wire as the body, and matching facet attached to it. They may be chin to mid-neck in length and possess movement. Hoops with dangling elements, brooches, bejeweled eyeglasses and pins are also common German trademarks. Most of their pins are made of gold with diamond accents. Matte gold or platinum is the common metal in German jewellery and hammer-set diamonds are the most commonly used stones. Germans usually prefer smaller diamonds; hence, one piece of diamond is often used as the centrepiece of jewellery. Gold wired eyeglasses accentuated with stones have also become a popular European trend. Germans stick to simpler designs – white or yellow gold orplatinum andsmall diamonds. Germans have their way of making jewellery not just a fashionable item but also a form of art