Roaring Twenties Redux



From fashion to jewelry, Art Deco is currently the leading style inspiration. “And come this spring and summer, it will get stronger, then even bigger by fall/winter 2013,” says Ellen Sideri, CEO of ESP Trendlab in New York City, which tracks fashion trends and cultural patterns. Interestingly, the real excitement isn’t about original vintage jewelry and fashion, but rather contemporary styles inspired by that roarin’ era of the 1920s and ’30s. It’s more “Deco redefined.” Each in its own signature style, luxury brands are creating modern collections based on design elements that defined the Deco movement: streamlined shapes, a strong color palette, graphic patterns, geometric stone cuts, linear symmetry, elongated silhouettes and ancient Egyptian and Aztec forms.


Before we tell you what you should look for and how to wear it, let’s explore the big question of why Deco, why now? What brought on jewelry’s obsession with the brilliance of the Jazz Age? In spring 2013, The Great Gatsby remake hits theatres and, with A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio starring as Jay Gatsby, Art Deco designs will be very much in the spotlight.

Added to that, in both ready-to-wear and couture for 2012/2013, Art Deco references ruled the runways. Sideri notes, “We’re seeing lots of beads, feathers, and embroidery—but elegant and luxurious—with one designer after another using the 1920s (and the 1910s) as their muse.” For his fall/winter haute couture collection, Jean Paul Gaultier has embraced the period in a big way, with highly graphic gold metal cage designs pieced into dresses and jackets, as well as softer glam flapper looks. And Alexander McQueen’s 2013 resort collection spectacularly marries Art Deco with inspirations from the linear work of the legendary Gustav Klimt.

Amanda Gizzi, director of communications for the Jewelry Information Center in New York, explains: “As our country has been coming out of difficult economic times, more and more customers are asking for jewelry that isn’t cookie-cutter. And these modern pieces, which are influenced by Deco but a bit edgier, are perfectly suited to what they want.”

THE “NEW DECO” LOOK: To do New Deco, there are a few jewelry items you want on your wish list:

TASSEL EARRINGS AND PENDANTS: Swinging tassel earrings and pendants were the perfect complements to high-hemline dresses, and today you’ll find lots of colorful versions in whatever gemstone you like.

ROPES OF PEARLS: If you already have a strand of opera-length pearls, think Clara Bow or Daisy Buchanan and drape them on! Then be sure to get another long rope of pearls to layer in; finish the look by knotting that second strand. The knotted pearl necklace is back!

DANGLY COLORED-GEM DROPS: “Deco earrings are always very desirable at auction,” says Ann Lange, senior vice president and director of jewelry for the prestigious auction house Doyle New York. “The linear hanging kind, because they’re simple yet they have strong design.” 

DIAMOND CASCADE EARRINGS: In the ’20s and ’30s, women often donned earrings made of cascading diamonds to add femininity to their newly in vogue short bobbed haircuts. Back then, diamond chandeliers (as they’re now known) replaced ear clips, hair combs and hat pins.

BIG GEOMETRIC RINGS: Rings were large and rectangular, and women often wore several on one hand. For evening, oversized emeralds and rubies played a strong role, in white or yellow metal. Contemporary Deco jewelry gives you lots of price options, with many brands even making Deco-style uber-rings with sterling silver and natural gemstones.

BANGLES AND BRACELETS: When women started wearing sleeveless styles, bracelets became an important accessory. Bangles were clustered on their wrists or higher on the upper arms. As for flexible gemstone bracelets, Lange says, “Deco diamond bracelets are also very desirable at our auctions; the workmanship was exceptional.”

DECO-THEME PIECES: If you’re someone who likes to wear symbolic jewelry, there’s a lot of New Deco pieces inspired by the iconography of the ’20s and ’30s, skyscrapers like the Eiffel Tower and the Chrysler Building á la the era’s unique architectural movement. Or choose something unique with carvings or silhouettes of pyramids, obelisks, palm fronds and lotus flowers—motifs that often appeared in period pieces, influenced by the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb.


With the exception of tiny beads used for tassels, reminiscent of renowned Deco jewelers like Jean Fouquet, the geometric bent of Art Deco jewelry design is typically achieved by incorporating angular stones, especially emerald cuts. “In our Important Estate Jewelry auctions, the top three diamond cuts in original Art Deco are emerald, Asscher and cushion,” says Lange. “Emerald cuts are forever classics, and I’m seeing a lot of interest in contemporary jewelry with cushion cuts.” Step-cut shapes like trapezoids and half-moons are often seen as side stones in Deco designs, so this year and going forward, you’ll see them in the New Deco collections, too. Actress Sofia Vergara’s engagement ring, for example, features a cushion-cut center stone with a trapezoid diamond on either side.

COLORS: Deco jewelry tends to rely on bold gemstone colors, in contrast to the austerity of the Edwardian period that preceded the Roaring ’20s. The most notable shades are black, green, red and blue, plus white, which, if done in enamel, for example, can impart a distinctive boldness.

Black: Onyx was perhaps the most widely used black gemstone during the 1920s and ’30s, so some New Deco pieces incorporate it, too. But they more often feature black diamonds, black sapphires and black opals.

Green: “Carved jade was [used] in a lot of vintage Deco,” notes Lange, so modern jewelry artisans are favoring this green variety as well. But emeralds and agates are two other green favorites. This year, in fact, emeralds are so hot in fashion that it may even be difficult for May born women (whose birthstone is emerald) to get their hands on it!

Red: Rubies, ruby-red enamels and deep red corals top the list of must-have New Deco reds, but especially ruby, as Lange notes, “because there were a lot of Burma rubies in original Art Deco jewelry.”

Gizzi adds, “Since this movement started to grow, I’ve seen a lot more dark-red corals in jewelry—something I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

Blue: Look for primary-color blue gems, like lapis-lazuli and sapphire, but also cobalt blue alternative materials like enamel, resin and ceramic. A wealth of lapis jewelry was found in King Tut’s tomb, a key reason the blue gem became an important influence on jewelry of the period.

White: Rock crystal, white pearls and white diamonds top New Deco’s white stone list. “Certainly, rock crystal was used a lot in Art
Deco—it was very prized then and it is now, too,” says Lange. “There were also lots of natural pearls back then.” Consider, too, some of the New Deco pieces that mix black Tahitian pearls with white metal, as the black-and-white color scheme was a key color combination then and now.