How to Identify Art Deco Jewellery

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How to Identify Art Deco Jewellery

The Art Deco period is perhaps one of the most prominent and enduring periods in the history of jewellery design. The style largely reflects the opulence and exuberant attitudes of the era, and paved the way for various other forms and motifs commonly found in the jewellery designs of today. While the Art Deco period extended from the early 1920's to the mid-1930's, its impact can be seen throughout the 1950's and 1960's and through to the present day. Some of the most distinguished jewellery houses, including Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier, manufactured some of their most iconic pieces during the Art Deco period. A popular style across the globe, the Deco movement also affected several other areas of design. It heavily influenced architecture, interior design, industrial design, graphic arts, cinema and fashion, and the style can be found in many consumer products, such as; furniture, china, textiles, clocks, electronics and even automobiles.

History of Art Deco Jewellery

The Art Deco style first emerged in the early 20th century following the World's Fair held in Paris in 1925. The term itself was coined from the exhibition's name: 'Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Industriels Modernes, or 'The International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts'. The style remained in vogue until the mid-1930's, and later experienced something of a revival in the 1960's and again in the 1980s onwards. The term gained traction as a stylistic description in 1968 when an historian published a book on the subject. He noted the heavy influence on Art Deco of pre-modern art from around the world. As travel became increasingly affordable in the 1920's, it exposed more people to other countries and cultures. There was also significant interest in archaeology due to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt and excavations at Pompeii. Art Deco designers blended ideas from ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and Rome with elements of the Machine Age. However, the rations imposed by the Second World War caused a decline in the popularity of Art Deco because, in a time of austerity, it was sometimes perceived as gaudy and unnecessarily luxurious. However, the genre experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1960's and the style continues to inspire the jewellery designers of today.

Discover Art Deco Jewellery

The Art Deco style influenced many other designs of the period, from architecture to furnishings, and automobiles to fashion, and was itself inspired by Constructivism, Cubism, Functionalism, Futurism and Modernism. The style is characterized by its playful use of geometrics and bold colours. Often circles, squares, triangles and rectangles are woven together to create ornate patterns. Art Deco jewellery was no exception, and was designed with the same focus on geometry as seen in other designs of the period. Diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies were all commonly used in the production of fine jewellery, while costume pieces mimicked the look with faux stones, plastic and enamel. The use of black onyx juxtaposed against white diamonds and crystal is a particularly defining style of the period. Often Art Deco jewellery of the time depicted animals and live subjects, with some examples appearing realistically and others more stylized.

Materials used in Art Deco Jewellery

Art Deco jewellery incorporated many materials, from metals and plastics to precious gems and stones. Some popular materials include:


  • Bakelite
  • Rubies
  • Gold – yellow and white
  • Silver
  • Pearls
  • Chrome
  • Steel
  • Diamonds
  • Onyx
  • Platinum
  • Coral
  • Jade
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Emeralds
  • Glass
  • Sapphire
  • Quartz
  • Carnelians
  • Enamel

Types of Art Deco Jewellery

  • Commonly found examples of Art Deco jewellery include:
  • Brooches
  • Earrings
  • Bracelets
  • Necklaces
  • Rings
  • Duette Clips
  • Dress and Fur Clips
  • Watches
  • Flapper Beads

Characteristics of Art Deco Jewellery

The Art Deco movement introduced styles that made use of bold colours and geometric shapes. Technology was emerging and Art Deco incorporated elements of a new modern look. While many traits characterize jewellery from the Art Deco period, these attributes are generally considered to define the Art Deco style:

  • Geometric and angular shapes
  • Vibrant colours
  • Use of chrome, glass and enamel
  • Composed of yellow gold, white gold, silver and platinum
  • Accented with precious stones, such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies (as well as semi-precious stones)
  • Symmetrical design
  • Theatrical contrasts such as the darkness of black onyx against the brilliance of white diamonds
  • Motifs from nature (including seashells, animals, flowers)

Factors to Consider When Buying Art Deco Jewellery

It is important to first consider the following points to ensure an Art Deco piece is genuine and of a good quality:


Take a close look at the colour of the jewellery. Colours used in Art Deco pieces are generally much brighter and more vivid than jewellery created during other periods, such as Art Nouveau or Arts and Crafts. Often, the use of bright colours is an indication of a genuine Art Deco piece.


Examine the shape of the piece. Compared to the soft, curved shapes of fine jewellery from other eras, the lines of Art Deco jewellery are typically straight and geometric. Common stone cuts of the era include emerald, baguette, triangle and shield cuts.


Consider the materials used. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires are all commonly found in Art Deco-style jewellery. Dramatic combinations of materials and stones are typical of the style.


Motifs from Egyptian, Indian and Far Eastern art and design were incredibly popular during the Art Deco period, and materials from these regions ─ such as ivory and jade ─ were commonly used. Scarab beetle and sphinx designs were inspired by the Egyptians, and animals and transportation symbols (such as planes and cars) were also recurring themes in Art Deco pieces.

How to Care for Art Deco Jewellery

Older Art Deco jewellery items are often delicate and require special care when cleaning and storing. To prevent scratching, store jewellery in a cotton-lined bag or box at a moderate room temperature. Fluctuations in temperature are not good for any pieces of jewellery and they can be particularly sensitive to extreme heat and cold. Lotions, makeup and natural oils from the skin can also be damaging, so it’s a good idea to apply such products before putting on a piece of fine jewellery. It is also wise to avoid bathing, cleaning, gardening and exercising while wearing jewellery. When sending Art Deco jewellery for repair, it is important to make sure a jeweller does not use an ultrasonic cleaner. These methods may be useful for contemporary pieces, but the machines can loosen stones, remove patina and cause damage to materials such as enamel and glass. The use of commercial dip solutions should also be avoided since they can be abrasive and often contain chemicals too harsh for older items of jewellery. Instead, use a bowl of fresh warm water and a small amount of mild soap or detergent. If a stone becomes loose, take it to a jeweller for repair as soon as possible. Keep a few supplies on hand for cleaning Art Deco jewellery:

  • Soft toothbrush
  • Jewellery polishing cloth
  • Ammonia solution - one third ammonia to two thirds water (for gold, platinum and gemstones)
  • Mild soap (for emeralds, opals and jade etc.)
  • Baking soda (dilute in water to clean silver jewellery)

Popular Art Deco Jewellery Manufacturers

  • Raymond Templier
  • René Lalique
  • Gérard Sandoz
  • Jean Després
  • Emile Brandt
  • Cartier
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • G. Ravasco
  • Theodor Fahrners
  • Sybil Dunlop
  • Harold Stabler
  • H.G. Murphy
  • Georg Jensen
  • Georges Fouquet
  • Van Cleef & Arpels

Finding Art Deco Jewellery on eBay

Once you determine the type of Art Deco jewellery you want to purchase, visit the Jewellery & Watches portal on eBay, click on 'Vintage & Antique Jewellery&' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Art Deco Jewellery on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Art Deco jewellery. For example, to find a sterling silver diamond and emerald Art Deco brooch, type ‘sterling silver diamond and emerald Art Deco brooch’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for art deco jewellery with keywords. If you can’t find the exact item of jewellery you want, try shopping eBay Stores..


Before buying Art Deco jewellery, it is important to know what to look for. With this knowledge shoppers will get the best possible price for the piece if they ever come to resell it. Consider the materials used, intricacies such as clasps, the cut of gemstones and the overall style. Knowing exactly what styles were popular throughout different eras and regions is also useful when identifying a piece of Art Deco jewellery. With careful consideration of the materials and designs on the market, it is easier for buyers to ascertain which style of jewellery best suits their taste. Armed with this information, Art Deco jewellery can be purchased safely and securely on eBay..

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