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”)

Modernism

Modernism

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

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]

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    

Gorgeous Large Vtg Art Deco Nouveau Czech Glass Wear Repair Jewelry Lot! Ki461Antique Art Nouveau Gold Filled Repousse Lily Of The Valley Flower LocketAntique Victorian Art Nouveau Gold Filled Lily Flower Cross Bangle BraceletVintage Jewellery Beautiful Silver Art Nouveau Design Fairy Brooch SignedAntique Arts & Crafts Art Nouveau Signed Hermann Bauer Silver Enamel Brooch PinAntique Art Nouveau Copper Gem Set Jugendstil Bracelet BangleAntique Art Nouveau Puffy Heart Goldtone Pendant Vintage Stunning Silver Art Nouveau Design Abalone Shell Flower Pendant NecklaceAntique 1880s Lg Victorian Art Nouveau Locket Paste Flower & Leaves Hallmark H&hAntique Art Deco Nouveau Huge Flower Brooch Pin Red Rhinestone Filigree Q52Antique Art Nouveau 10k Rolled Rose-gold Bohemian Garnet Necklace W/locketVintage Old Art Nouveau Brass Green Glass Long Heavy Lavaliere NecklaceVintage Jewellery Beautiful Art Nouveau Silver Flower Girl Ring Size 'p'Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Pin Lavalier Pendant Lot Parts Or CraftsAntique Art Nouveau Duette Double Fur/dress Clip Rhinestone 3" Pin Vtg BroochAntique Copper Art Nouveau Pendant // French Lady // Dated 1930Antique Victorian Nouveau Purple Rhinestone Koi Fish Repousse Brooch Q2323 Piece Estate Lot Vintage Necklaces Chains Art Deco Nouveau Monet Emons Rmn Wonderful Vintage Silver Framed Art Nouveau Style Cameo BroochBeautiful Antique Art Nouveau; Gilded Bunch Of Grapes Design: Dress Clip/broochBeautiful Antique Art Nouveau Enamelled BroochAntique Art Deco Nouveau Brass Flower Turquoise Enamel Cabochon Brooch Q36Antique Art Deco Blue Molded Celluloid Flower Nouveau Pot Metal Brooch Q30Vintage Jewellery Michaela Frey Signed Pretty Enamel Brooch Art Nouveau StyleVintage Art Nouveau / Deco Era Faceted Sapphire Blue Czech Glass Bead NecklaceAntique Art Deco Sapphire Rhinestone Flower Oval Crystal Nouveau Brooch Pin Q41Vintage Art Nouveau / Deco Silver Tone Black Coral Pendant Beads Czech Glass ?Vintage Art Nouveau Style Repoussé Fairy BroochGorgeous Vtg Art Nouveau Turquoise Glass Brass Filigree Dangle Necklace! Ki461Vintage Art Deco / Nouveau ? Silver Enamel Swallow Bird And Butterfly Charm Magnificent Antique Gold Copper Brass Bronze Locket Art Nouveau Round 1-1/4" Vtg Repousse Green Rhinestone Flower Deco Nouveau Fleur Gothic Bracelet Q172Antique Art Nouveau Locket Front Pendant With Lady & StonesVintage Jewellery Signed Sea Gems Cloisonne Enamel Art Nouveau Tulip BroochAntique Victorian & Art Nouveau Stick Pin Lot, Sterling, Gold-filled, EnamelArt Nouveau? Large Gold Plated Brass Pinchbeck Cameo Brooch UnusualFab X-wide 2" Repousse Hinged Cuff Bracelet Art Nouveau Floral BeautyVintage Art Deco Nouveau Bracelet Repair Lot Rhinestone Brass Celluloid Mix LotVintage Art Dangle Pendant Romantic Art Nouveau Design Signed Faux JewelsStuning Nouveau/deco Large Brooch From Dotted Series By Neiger Brothers ExquisitArt Nouveau Brass Photo Book Locket ~ Rare ~ Calvary ~ Crossways ~ Early 1900sVintage Art Nouveau Bezel Set Czech Crystal Daisy Flowers Fur/dress Clip C.1940Vintage Czech Art Nouveau Earrings !!!Vtg Art Nouveau Deco Black Enamel Rose Monogrammed Sun Shape Brooch Pin D191gStunning Vintage Estate Art Nouveau Copper Tone Blue Rhinestone Brooch!!! 6160hVintage Art Nouveau Scroll Blue Faceted Glass Necklace With Teardrop PendantBeautiful Vintage Art Deco Nouveau Blue Glass Detailed Etched Pendant NecklaceAntique Art Nouveau Unmounted Cameo With Small Diamond NecklaceEarly Nouveau Micro Mosaic Pin Brooch GuitarAntique Art Nouveau Or Deco Bracelet With Seed Pearl Estate ~~~Antique Repousse Large Amethyst Rhinestone Victorian Nouveau Brooch "c" ClosureVtg Brooch Pin Leaf Filigree Art Nouveau Rhinestone Crystal Silver Tone Awe! 106C&r Art Nouveau Pin Brooch Sash Pin - Gold Tone, Green Stone Vintage *stunning* Lot Of 9 Pairs Earrings Art Nouveau Crystal/rhinestones/glassGorgeous Antique Art Nouveau Reverse Carved Czech Crystal Butterfly Pin Vintage Nouveau/deco Era Faux Pearl & Enamel Panel Link "flower" Necklace- 16"Art Deco Nouveau Rhinestone Plastic Wood Enamel Pin LotVtg Brooch Pin Flower Leaf Art Nouveau Enamel Red Purple Green Runway Awesome 88Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Amber Glass Deep Locket Engraved Lady Flowing HairAntique Vtg Orlando Art Nouveau Renaissance Opal Adventurine Glass Gld Gilt Ring