Art Nouveau sentiments cast aside the rigid and somber attitudes of the Victorians. It was alright for women to be more expressive and free from restrictions. This included shedding the massive layers of clothing worn by Victorian women. The movement opened the door to lighter, more practical attire for ladies by the turn of the century.
Art Nouveau gold and enamel ring.
This was the age of Rene Lalique, master jeweler and glass worker. His breathtaking stained glass windows can be found in prestigious buildings and museums throughout the world. It was also the age of masterful and prolific artists like Alfons Mucha of Czechoslovakia. Mucha's exquisite paintings and drawings are considered to be among the very best of the Art Nouveau movement.
Art Nouveau painting of Spring by Alfons Mucha.
(Public domain; Wikimedia Commons)
Art Nouveau jewelry was typically made by hand. Diamonds and other expensive gemstones were used sparingly. Colored enamel work, glass and lesser stones cut "en cabochon" were favored over faceted stones. Favorite gems included pearls, moonstone, peridot, lapis, malachite, citrine, opal, and amber. Other favorite Art Nouveau materials included natural elements like ivory, horn, tortoise shell, and seashells. The color palette was predominantly pastel compared to heavy and typically black Victorian mourning jewelry.
Art Nouveau pearl, enamel and diamond ring.
Art Nouveau pieces celebrated the female form and its sensuality. They often depicted scantily clad or nude dancing maidens or beautiful, smiling women with long, flowing hair. Those with rigid Victorian views rejected the seemingly scandalous female portrayals of Art Nouveau pieces. Most jewelry pieces were light and whimsical with relaxed, curvy lines. Themes from nature were also popular. Bats, dragonflies, irises and poppies were among the favorite motifs from the natural world.
Ironically, the exquisite craftsmanship and unique one-of-a-kind attributes of Art Nouveau jewelry drove up its price. Only the very wealthy could afford the best of it. And many of these individuals had become rich from the very industrialization opposed by the Art Nouveau movement.