A Quick History of Art Nouveau Jewelry
February 05 2016

It was another gorgeous day in So Cal, and I was running errands in beautiful Seal Beach. Since I had finished early and it was such a nice day, I decided to visit my favorite antique store, Joanne’s Antiques, located on the quaint Main Street. The reason this is my favorite is that she has a great selection of antique and estate jewelry. Other antique stores might have a lot of “old” jewelry, but nothing noteworthy of the styles of different eras. Here, you can appreciate the period pieces because, well, there they are. I’m most interested in Art Nouveau pieces, and it’s always a treat to look at them up close, even through the glass cases.

Here are some pictures:

Art Nouveau Antique Gibson Girl Button       Art Nouveau Antique Jewelry Woman's Face Pin

Art Nouveau Painting 

I often forget about paintings and such. Some beautiful images came out of that time. 


Art Nouveau* movement was from 1890–1914, and in jewelry, from 1895–1910.

*Art Nouveau is a style and not an era or period. Same with Art Deco, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve frequently called them periods.

The introduction of Japonisme (with its philosophy of simplicity in composition and lines, and nature-inspired colors and themes, rather than the exact duplication) to Europe was the single most important influence on Art Nouveau jewelry. (Becker 12)

Before the advent of the Nouveau movement, jewelry in the 19th century didn’t require innovation or creativity, except to highlight the value of gemstones and precious metals. It borrowed heavily from the past, e.g., excavated relics and religious images, and it continued the tradition of being a status symbol. (Becker 8)

 With the introduction of Japanese art and the adoption of its philosophy, the new style known as Art Nouveau focused on the artistry, designs and the techniques over the perfect imitations and duplications afforded by the Industrial Revolution. (Becker 13) In addition to the style focused on nature, the artists created works to reflect the newly emerging era of emancipation and changing roles (Becker 18), “as well as passion, vitality, the youthful vigor of the new ideas” (Becker 14).

It also introduced the idea of art being accessible to all people and not just for the elite.

The dominant themes and motifs of Art Nouveau jewelry were nature and its association with femininity and fertility, and the flowing “whiplash” lines. Art Nouveau incorporated the use of semi-precious gemstones and inexpensive materials for artistic value, rather than their monetary value (Snowman 137). 

One name that’s synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement is Rene Lalique, known as the “the genius of Art Nouveau jewelry and arguably the greatest artist-jeweler ever known” (Snowman 126). After looking at his work, I think you’ll have to agree. He is a god.


   Butterfly woman sculpture Renee Lalique Art Nouveau  Butterfly Woman (pic)

Carved Horn Hair Comb Art Nouveau Renee Lalique  Carved Horn Hair Comb (pic)

Poppy Maiden Pendant Lalique Art Nouveau JewelryPoppy Maiden Pendant (pic


Becker, Vivienne. Art Nouveau Jewelry. New York;Thames & Hudson, 1998

Becker, Vivienne. "Lalique". The Master Jewelers. Ed. A. Kenneth Snowman. London; Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 1990. 125-140