In real and historical terms America is still a young country, and like any young country antique jewelry designs and its making were not considered priorities in the formative years. In the major cities in the US it was starting to become popular in the very late 1800's, but for the rest of the country it was not until the first part of the 1900's that there became a real enthusiasm for antique, vintage jewelry.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art had been attempting to elevate public taste in estate jewelry, with exhibitions of Antique jewelry from different periods, but by 1923, it became evident that what really fascinated the public was archaeology.
The tomb of Tutankhamen had been discovered in 1922, and there were excavations at Luxor in Egypt, with many of the finds being lavishly illustrated in magazines and periodicals; in fact many Americans traveled to the sites. These great excavations were world wide news, and news makes fashion and fashion influences antique jewelry design. Ancient designs entered into antique jewelry vocabulary almost immediately, influencing everything from line bracelets to vanity cases; in fact the art deco line bracelet became the jewelers archaeological antique show piece.
In April 1923, Vogue proclaimed, 'The mode Has a Rendezvous by the Nile.' The 1920's woman saw herself mirrored in the pyramidal tomb paintings with Egyptian style of dress, and antique Egyptian revival style jewelry. This Egyptian antique style jewelry in the next months issue of Vogue was attributed to the American jeweler Theodore B. Starr (he signed his jewelry T. B. Starr), and it was one of the last collections he had publicized before going out of business.
In the following year 1924 at the French Industrial Exhibit, American Antique Jewelers previewed the new Art Deco Jewelry by the preeminent Parisian firms of Cartier, Boucheron and Mauboussin, who were planning to establish other branches in New York. The work of all three of these French antique jewelers showed new combinations of Onyx, turquoise, coral and diamonds, in their art deco designs, which was known as Egyptian style; and every evening at the exhibition there was a fashion show were models showed off designer clothes in sport, street and evening styles, by the well known houses, all accessorized with the latest French Art Deco Jewelry.
In 1925 American Antique Jewelers were continually looking for a distinctly American style, and were not very successful. It was a time when unlike the French, the American Government did not support American Art Deco jewelry designers. In 1925 American Art Deco jewelers were invited to participate in the 1925 Exposition; but Herbert Hoover the US secretary of Commerce declined, saying "...... I do not consider that we could contribute sufficiently varied designs of unique character or of special expression in American artistry to warrant such a participation."
But the American antique jewelers even though they did not participate went to the Exposition, and noted much of the Art Deco jewelry there were large pieces that contained very few precious stones, but gained their effect through semi-precious materials. Earlier in the century Antique Jewelry had been linked to costume and treated as a fashion accessory; but after the exposition Estate jewelry was now considered in its own right as a branch of decorative arts.It was also a time when American Vintage Jewelers started to look at home, and American Indian pottery, landscapes and aerial views also began to play a part in the creation of Antique Jewelry designs. Music also played its part in Estate jewelry design. The 'new music' of this age was Jazz, and in art deco jewelry jazz motifs included not only geometric patterns, zigzags and polka dots, but also exuberant stylized flowers; and bright colors were also an important part of design in this period of antique jewelry design, with bright colored semi-precious stones, like lapis lazuli, jade, coral, onyx, moonstone and amethysts.
From the outset, French antique jewelers realized that art deco jewelers of other nationalities would admire their designs, analyze their techniques, and adopt their ideas. Their exhibits represented the modern style to everyone.
New Vogue took its readers to the Rue de la Paix the Parisian jewelry area, where American women were depicted wearing the most lavish of jewels; the only drawback being that many of them were European, American antique jewelers had suffered a setback by not exhibiting in Paris, yet many maintained buying offices in European cities, which bought gems and looked at the designs of the European Antique jewelry designers, and even employing some of the designers to train American estate jewelry makers. American art deco retailing and manufacturing jewelers, however tended to translate the designs of the European vintage jewelers by using precious gem stones rather than semi-precious stones. Also the desire in the Art Deco period for Cubist Art was also influencing diamond cutting in antique jewelry manufacturing. These new cuts were termed: kite, hexagon, square, lozenge and pentagon.
At Beverley R Jewelry in Chicago, we have a large collection of early Art Deco jewelry and Art Deco engagement rings from the 1920's, much of which can be seen on our web-site, but we also have a lot more in our shop on Walton Place for those, who in these depressing times with the pandemic want to add a little glitz and sparkle to their lives, and give yourself a good feeling inside of owning something beautiful.
1/ Platinum, Cabochon Onyx & Diamond line bracelet, Circa 1925
2/ Platinum, Tourmaline & Diamond Bracelet, Art deco
3/ Platinum, Marquise Cut Diamond ring with Calibre Emeralds, Circa 1920
4/ Platinum, Square Cut Diamond ring, Circa 1925
5/ Platinum, Triangle cut Sapphire & Diamond ring, Circa 1925