“New Art” is the meaning of “Art Nouveau.” An artistic era, or a movement if you prefer. It swept through the world, gaining popularity mainly between 1890-1910. Art Nouveau was a period of transition in the fine arts, moving from the old into the new. Art Nouveau acquired distinctly localized styles as its geographic influence increased, leading to many regional differences among the movement. However, some general characteristics are indicative of the form.
Nature and curved lines heavily inspired this art; begin with a simple, natural shape and make it come alive. Not only did Art Nouveau challenge the mind and the heart, but it also invoked imagination and free thinking. Prior to this, many art forms were rigid and structured, focusing on geometrics and liner designs. Art Nouveau instead moved to flowing, unique, and natural elements. A whimsical style, soft and light in a way that previous arts had lacked, it had something of a spirit to it. One previously overlooked.
Although all the fine arts have stories to tell during the Art Nouveau movement, jewelry especially gained a new life. Jewelers allowed their creations to come alive. They used new metals and gemstones in their creations, moving away from the diamond-dominated market and into more subtle motifs like enameling, opals, and Japanese metalworking techniques. People began to appreciate the idea behind jewelry, the concept of a design, rather than simply the precious materials used to create it.
Colors moved from bold tones to monochromatic to pastels and bright colors. Glass and gemstones were used alongside diamonds.
The surge of new and exciting ideas flowed with the times and gave way to arched lines, brilliant scenes of nature, and wearable pieces of the finest art. Jewelers were no longer simply craftsmen. They were artists.
Click on the images below to get a closer look at modern designs by American Gem Society (AGS) members that remind us of this artistic era!
Discover more beautiful pieces from your favorite era by finding an AGS jeweler near you!