Art Nouveau Jewelry
The period of Art Nouveau jewelry is dated from the end of 19 th and the beginning of 20 th century.
The movement started in England by French jewelers such as Masriera, Lalique, Vever, Fouquet, Gautrait.
The distinctive features of Art Nouveau jewelry are enameled objects such as women, flowers, insects and birds outlined with curve lines. Art Nouveau was never static, always mooving and nature based. The jewelery designers of the period often reproduce the head of a dream faced girl with her hair falling downwards.
Enameling techniques had been revived in the second half of 19th century by Art Nouveau jewelers, particularly plique-a-jour enamel. Art Nouveau jewelers had used enamel in the unique fashion. By shading and blending enamels in subtle manner, Art Nouveau jewelers created pieces of jewelry of breathtaking beauty.
There are many techniques of applying enamels. Art Nouveau jewelers used transparent, opaque and plique-a-jour enamels. The most important of all enameling techniques used by Art Nouveau jewelers was plique-a-jour enameling. Plique-a-jour enamel is known as the "stained glass" effect, the effect is achieved by fusing transparent enamels into the openings of a metal filigree. The absence of a metal backing (gold or silver), allows the passage of light, through enamel creating the "stained glass" effect.
Unlike stained glass which can have one color per frame, plique-a-jour enamel can graduate into various colors.
Since there is a renewed interest in the Art Nouveau jewelry, many reproductions are being produced. When pieces are well made it is very easy to be misled; therefore it is important to follow certain guidelines that are essential in authenticating Art Nouveau jewelry.
If you are offered a piece of gold Art Nouveau jewelry, and you are told that this piece is French and upon examining it you see that it is stamped 14k, you will know right away that something is wrong. French Art Nouveau jewelry must always be 18k gold and it must have an Eagle's head stamp on it. If you are offered an American Art Nouveau piece, it may have 10k, 14k or 18k stamp.
All Art Nouveau pieces should have the same fine finish on both front and back of the piece. The edges of the gold work on the reverse side should be rounded with slightly irregular surface. The metal should not be highly polished.
When you are examining a gold piece of Art Nouveau jewelry the quality of sculpturing is of utmost importance. The sculpturing should be expressive and finely detailed.
The jewelers of Art Nouveau period had a unique ability to shade and blend enamel, which is almost impossible to duplicate today. Enameled Art Nouveau jewelry is fragile and easily damaged. One of the most frequently used methods of enameling Art Nouveau jewelry was plique-a-jour method.
Due to the delicate nature of Art Nouveau enameled jewelry pieces it was fairly easy to damage enamel while wearing them. Damaged enamel reduces the value of the jewelry piece. A small damage could be overlooked, while large damage is unacceptable. It is difficult to restore damaged enamel and poor restoration is not acceptable.
The gemstones commonly used in Art Nouveau pieces were opals, moonstones, small diamonds, semi-precious colored stones and pearls. Gemstones were used to highlight the design of Art Nouveau jewelry.
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