Art deco

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 August, 2006, 12:00am

Expert advice on watches and jewellery

Jewellery made during the art deco period between 1920 and 1939 is known for its simple linear and geometric lines.

As women's fashion was liberated with lower necklines and shorter skirts during the 1920s, there were more choices and styles in jewellery. Two of the most popular were long necklaces (called sautoir) comprising strands of pearls with diamonds and other precious stones, and double- clip brooches, which were worn together or separately on lapels, dress belts and hats. Art deco jewellery bears distinctive features:

Geometric shapes: Cubism inspired the symmetric and streamlined shapes. Diamonds appeared in different cuts and shapes other than round, including the baguette, emerald, triangle, pear and briolette. Different cuts were featured in one piece of jewellery, most commonly seen on brooches.

Platinum and precious stones: Apart from the prevalence of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds were abundant and usually set in platinum, which wasn't widely used before. These colourful gemstones were carved into leaves and flowers, and set as part of a floral arrangement in clips and pendants. Black onyx was used as a dramatic colour contrast to diamonds or as the backdrop for vivid red, blue and green gems.

Cultural influences: The discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 inspired designs featuring Egyptian motifs such as the scarab, sphinx and falcon. Ivory, jade and coral were used in eclectic pieces inspired by Asian cultures.

Collecting art deco jewellery prevails in Europe and the US, says Terry Chu Yin-yee, deputy director of Sotheby's China and Southeast Asia. Chu says some Chinese and Asian buyers are superstitious about buying second- hand jewellery. Make sure you use reputable jewellers and auction houses to ensure authenticity.

Does the piece come with an original box? Cartier, Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Boucheron were some of the prominent jewellers of the period. Chu says the overall condition of the piece is vital. Are the stones securely set? Does the clasp of the bracelet or necklace open and close properly?

'Attention should be given to the overall design and quality, rather than focusing on the individual diamond as if you are purchasing a solitaire,' he says.

Shopping list


Ground Floor, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2522 2963

In the 1920s, Cartier made pieces with sapphires, rubies and emeralds in a style known as Tutti Frutti (Italian for 'all fruits'), which has since become its speciality and registered trademark.


22/F Alexandra House,

18 Chater Road, Central;

tel: 2521 5396


Suites 3101-3106 One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 2822 811

Van Cleef & Arpels

Shop G15, G/F, Prince's Building, Central; tel: 2522 9677.

Ten of the 11 unique pieces of the Tresors Reveles collection feature designs from the 1920s and 30s.