The Art Nouveau movement started in the late 19th century as a rejection of mass-produced adornments and decor, which is ironic considering how much mass-produced jewelry was subsequently created in the Art Nouveau style. Victorian-Era industrialization had made jewelry widely available for the first time, as factories stamped out generic, fussy scroll designs in metal and sold them to the emerging middle class. Quickly, master artisans and craftspeople rebelled, asserting the importance of high-quality, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted furnishings, glassware, pottery, and jewelry.

Practitioners of Art Nouveau (or "The New Art" in French) adopted an asymmetrical, flowing, organic aesthetic that contrasted with the uptight, frilly, and historic styles favored by Victorians. French goldsmiths like Georges Fouquet and René Lalique, as well as American glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, made high-end pieces out of fine metals, enamel, glass, and precious and semi-precious gemstones, employing Art Nouveau themes like flowers, winged insects, and lovely ladies with long, sinewy hair. Lalique, in particular, came up with new techniques for using glass, enameling, and "humble" materials such as horn to make beautiful, wearable pieces of art.

World-traveling stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, known for her exotic and flamboyant head-to-toe adornments, flaunted this new style of jewelry on stage and off. Wearing Byzantine and Egyptian inspired pieces, she even put her pet chameleon on a gold chain to wear as a living brooch. In France, Maison Gripoix made cheap knockoffs of Bernhardt's jewelry out of metal, paste, and enamel, and these were snatched up at fashionable Paris boutiques. Bijoux Bardach made some of the diva's pieces—and likely, the most popular copies.

Piel Frères in Paris specialized in cheap but high-quality Art Nouveau jewelry, like its luxurious blue-green enamel peacock-feather belt buckle. This family jeweler, copying costumes seen in popular stage plays, replaced ivory with a new plastic called celluloid and used gilt copper and silver to achieve the look of gold. Companies like Rouzé and Mascaraud made stylish gilt fantasy pieces that were stamped out of metal by machine, but hand-finished.

The refreshing Art Nouveau aesthetic had a universal appeal, even to those with limited means, prompting factories to begin producing cheaper versions of the looks created by artisans. Starting around 1890, U.S. firm Gorham Corporation trademarked a line of "Martelé" jewelry that had a Gallic feel. Another American company, Unger Brothers, sold Art Nouveau-style jewelry in vermeiled silver. Other U.S. manufacturers—like Krementz and Frank M. Whiting—reproduced French Art Nouveau looks, but in low machine-made quality. Not surprisingly, by around 1910, Art Nouveau had reached its oversaturation point, and fashionable types were turning to the more modern, streamlined Art Deco style.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Art Nouveau Gilt Brass Chatelaine Notebook Pendant Portland Or SouvenirAntique Sterling Silver Genuine Dragons Breath Pendant Necklace Art NouveauVintage Signed Fish Cloisonne Enamel Art Nouveau Lily Dragonfly Brooch Shawl PinVintage Cloisonne Enamel Art Nouveau Celtic Knot Shawl Pin Jewellery BroochNouveau Sterling & Marcasite Intaglio W/ Camphor Glass Stone Screw Back EarringsVintage Rhinestone Brooches Lot Of 5 Old Art Nouveau Czecho #285Antique French Slide Mirror Pendant // Art Nouveau Chatelaine MirrorAntique Art Deco Nouveau Brooch Pin Lavender Purple Flower Filigree N15Lot Victorian Antique Fancy Rhinestone Buckles Art Nouveau Signed Foster F & Co.Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Gold Gilt Brass Emerald Glass Sash Pin Brooch32 Pcs Victorian/edwardian/nouveau/vintage Jewelry Lot Jet/garnets/amber/goldVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Pink Butterfly Glass HandmadeVintage 3 1/4" Big Art Nouveau Brooch Pin 4ct Citrine Artglass Stone 100 Yrs OldVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Royal Crown Glass HandmadeStunning Antique Art Nouveau Rolled Gold & Amethyst Lavaliere Drop PendantEstate Vintage Art Nouveau Panel Bracelet Blue Marble Lucite 7' Ornate Linked Antique Vintage Art Nouveau Deco Dress Fur Clip Rhinestone Pot Metal Unsigned Vintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Blue Lady Glass HandmadeMiniature Art Nouveau Germany Real Photo Album Brass Souvenir Book Charm PendantLovely Art Nouveau French Gilt Bronze Nymph/eve Brooch Signed "ab"Antique Vintage Art Nouveau Deco Victorian Pin Brooch Gold Toned Big 2 1/4"Vintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Dragonfly Coral Glass HandmadeVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Lady Pin Opal Glass HandmadeVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Egyptian Revival Glass HandmadeAntique Vintage Brass Art Nouveau Leaf & Filigree Charm NecklaceVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Egyptian Revival Glass HandmadeHuge 3" Vtg Nouveau Czech Sapphire Glass Rhinestone Filigree Brooch Pin On55Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Choker Emerald Green Crystal Glass Beads T138Vintage Signed Dd Art Nouveau Brass Tone Crescent Moon Starts Rhinestones BroochVintage Arts Nouveau George N. Steere Brooch Glass Citrine, Peridot, Amethyst Victorian Large Brass Art Nouveau Brooch Amethyst SettingsAntique Art Nouveau Deco Peacock Eye Foil Glass Brass Pin Brooch Vintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Lady Red Glass Handmade Mosaic Tile Bracelet Sterling Silver Filigree Art Nouveau 8" - All Clear TilesVintage Rhinestone Brooches. Lot Of 3 Art Nouveau Old Beauties!! #219Vintage Art Nouveau Lot Tiny Brooch Pins Gold Fill Opal Seed Pearls FlowerDanecraft Vintage Sterling Silver Art Nouveau Black Onyx Bezel Set Stone PinAntique Vintage Art Nouveau Deco Filigree Rhinestone Butterfly Pin Brooch NiceVtg Brooch Pin Flower Leaf Art Nouveau Rhinestone Baguette Crystal Beautiful 116Antique Victorian Gold Filled Watch Chain Necklace W/ Art Nouveau Purple DropAntique Art Nouveau Glass Ball Photo Necklace Pendant Original Lariat CordVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Egyptian Revival Glass HandmadeVintage/now Junk Jewelry Lot Craft/wear Art Deco/nouveau Victorian Revival Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Black Crystal Glass Beads Mourning T145Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Clear Crystal Glass Beads Graduated T140Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Black Glass Beads Mourning Super Long T144Vintage Antique Estate Art Nouveau Enameled Floral Pin Brooch "c Clasp"Vtg Victorian Art Nouveau Huge Brass Gilt Sash Pin Brooch ~ Amethyst Czech GlassVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Red Agate Glass HandmadeVintage Old Czech Necklace Jewelry Art Nouveau Black Red Glass HandmadeVintage Art Nouveau Metal & Faceted Amber Colored Glass NecklaceVtg. Art Nouveau Black & White Cameo Women Gold Plated Long Patent # BroochHuge Antique Art Nouveau Celluloid Brass Figural Woman Buckle Or Brooch FrontAntique Victorian Art Nouveau Peking Glass Necklace As IsAntique Victorian Art Nouveau Turquoise Glass Ornate Brooch As IsVintage Estate Art Nouveau Heart & Rose Lapel Pin 4" Long Silver Tone Hat TacVtg Brooch Pin Signed Jj Palm Leaf Art Nouveau Enamel White Sheen Brushed Awe 64Vintage Gold Tone Art Nouveau Woman Oval Frame BroochWow Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Nude Colored Glass Beads Super Long T143Antique Art Deco Nouveau Necklace Choker Milk White Glass Beads Graduated T142