Antique Early 1900s Art Nouveau Choker Necklaces
White Diamond, Emerald, Pearl, Diamond, Gold, 18k Gold, Platinum, Enamel
A Close Look at Art Nouveau Jewelry
Art Nouveau — generally considered to have begun in the late 1800s and ended with the start of World War I — was a movement in the decorative arts that drew inspiration from natural forms, such as trees, flowers and, of course, the human figure. The three main themes present in Art Nouveau jewelry and watches were flora, fauna and women.
Art Nouveau, which reached its pinnacle in the year 1900, spawned from artists who rejected the historicism of their predecessors to create an entirely new visual vocabulary. As compared to Art Deco jewelry’s geometric patterns and sharp lines, the extravagant style of antique Art Nouveau jewelry is characterized by curvilinear forms and whiplash lines, vibrant materials and dramatic imagery.
The first art and design movement of the 20th century, Art Nouveau was also a reaction against the Industrial Revolution, and took its inspiration from the theories of the Symbolists, the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, the ideas of John Ruskin and his follower William Morris and, most importantly Japanese crafts. (The country was a fertile ground for inspiration after it was opened to the West in 1854.) The Art Nouveau style touched all manners of the arts, including the most exultant jewelry.
Nature was a favorite muse for artists going back to the 18th and 19th centuries, but in the hands of 20th-century artists, it was depicted in new ways. For example, a withering flower was considered just as beautiful as one in full bloom. Winged creatures, such as insects and birds, were also a popular subject. Dragonflies and butterflies were particular favorites because they morphed so dramatically in different life stages.
This was also a reference to women, whose role in society was evolving. It was not uncommon to see a piece of jewelry that would at once reference a woman as a winged creature (think René Lalique’s famous Dragonfly brooch, circa 1897–98, at the Gulbenkian Collection in Lisbon). However, just as women’s roles were ambiguous, so was their image, as the femmes nouvelle were simultaneously eroticized and romanticized.
In addition to Lalique, vital figures in Art Nouveau jewelry included Louis Comfort Tiffany in the United States, Vladimir Soloviev, who designed jewelry for Peter Carl Fabergé in Russia, Fuset Grau of Spain, Karl Rothmuller of Germany and Philippe Wolfers of Belgium.
Art Nouveau jewelers used every “canvas” imaginable, looking beyond brooches and necklaces to belt buckles, fans, tiaras, dog collars (a type of choker necklace), pocket watches, corsages and hair combs. Multicolored gems and enamel could complete this vision better than diamonds. Jewelers also favored pearls, particularly baroque pearls, for their large size and irregular shape. However, opal was the most popular stone — its iridescence harmonized perfectly with the enamel, and it could be carved into any shape. Art Nouveau jewelry was primarily set in yellow gold.
Find a range of antique Art Nouveau jewelry today on 1stDibs.
Finding the Right choker-necklaces for You
Vintage choker necklaces are elegant, alluring and stylish. Cameos, pearls, diamonds and other stones can decorate these necklaces, which come in single or multiple strands. Whether it is a statement piece or a delicate chain, these short necklaces always stand out and turn heads.
The history of the choker can be traced back thousands of years, with Sumerian examples discovered from 2600–2500 B.C. They endured as a popular form of adornment through the centuries, and during the French Revolution they took on a symbolic significance. Women wore ribbons around their throats to mark the passing of those killed by the guillotine. Soon, the plain ribbons were adorned with small cameos and other ornamentation.
European choker necklaces gained a salacious reputation in the 19th century when prostitutes were associated with black ribbons tied around the neck, such as the model in Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). Queen Alexandra, Princess of Wales, reversed the trend in the late 19th century by wearing a large pearl and diamond choker, reputedly to hide a scar.
Fashioned from gold, pearls and other precious stones and metals, chokers continued to be worn into the 20th century, alternately statements of wealth and rebellion. They experienced periods of revival in the 1920s, ’40s, ’70s and ’90s for both men and women.
Vintage chokers make a statement with an unmistakable air of femininity. On 1stDibs, find an alluring collection of vintage chokers today, including gold, sapphire and emerald chokers.