We’ve all heard of Art Deco and yet at the same time it seems to be one of those elusive, sentimentally-charged terms that mean many different things to many different people. Supposedly it was first coined in the 1960s and serves to encapsulate a style that spanned decades, from the frenzied ’20s, over the crippled spine of the Great Depression, right up to the beginning of the Peace Movement. For many people the Art Deco style would evoke a plethora of character types. It might instill an image of liberated flapper girls dancing wildly or perhaps a buttoned-up cad in a flawless suit. It could be applied to factory life just as easily as it could be applied to the happenings on the uppermost floor of a skyscraper. Needless to say that the Art Deco style pervaded every level of society, flourishing during the Harlem Renaissance, parading down the superficial avenues of Hollywood and generally catching the rip of the vibrant Jazz Age. This unique glamour was manifest in all forms of design, across the decorative arts, from typography to fashion. The broad aesthetic was influenced by the precision and high standards of the mechanised modern world. Clean lines were particularly prolific and a definite arrangement of shapes, partly responsible for the way certain skylines meet the eye, namely New York, which was widely regarded as the steaming heart of Art Deco and also integral to its popularity.
In addition there was a certain plurality that Art Deco encouraged in contemporary cosmopolitan society. It was a movement that embraced the individual and romanticised the innate human need for escape, taking a much more visceral approach, whilst focusing on that which is transient and sometimes even nonsensical. At the same time Art Deco became a malleable outlet used to let loose the inner fantasies of the artists at the reins. Much like its predecessor, Art Nouveau, this new style found beauty in the eclectic variety of life and discarded jaded traditions for a more modern form of design, which incorporated sophisticated European influences and the exciting pictorial stimuli of Avant Garde art. This helped to inspire an array of rich colours and motifs, many of which were noticeably exotic, such as the art surrounding the Ballets Russes. Conversely there were other distinctions that related to the Age of Machines, such as an appreciation of precision and order, as well as an ongoing fascination for ancient cultures like the Egyptians and Meso-Americans. In the end Art Deco was fueled by wealth and devoted to bold opulence, it could perhaps be said that the well-oiled cogs and wheels of capitalism had provided a much broader scope, somewhat diluting the definition of the term itself.
From The Great Gatsby Collection by Tiffany & Co., a slender White Diamond Daisy Brooch adorned with Yellow Diamond and Platinum
If you wanted to explain to someone exactly what Art Deco is, with particular emphasis placed on the influence of the Jazz Age, you might be just as well to hand them a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. If the Art Deco style was a religion then this masterpiece would undoubtedly be the bible. It just so happens that Tiffany & Co. has recently decided to revive Art Deco with their Great Gatsby Collection, boasting a new selection of Gatsby-esque jewels that exude a timeless beauty. Expect an assortment of diamond statement pieces, lots of pearls and a stark juxtaposition of colours. We particularly loved the tasseled ropes of pearls, pink conch pearls and luxurious diamond arrangements, extending to drop earrings, chokers and slender, swaying bracelets that hang loose on the wrist. Many of the more elaborate pieces are decorated with the typical patterned symmetry of Art Deco. They evoke the bold, often desultory optimism of that era, which later relished a widespread daybreak, having risen from the apocalyptic gloom of two World Wars and one Great Depression. Also there seems to be a continuous effort to capture the heady cool so effortlessly immortalised by that debonair and ultimately tragic character – Gatsby.
When asked about the New York launch of this Gatsby Collection, Jon King, Vice President of Tiffany & Co., said:
“The collection celebrates Tiffany as the premier jeweller of the 1920s, an era that saw a dramatic change in fashion and the rise of a fresh, exuberant attitude.”
Tiffany has now made a considerable effort to add a modern touch to the stars of the recent film, directed by Baz Luhrmann. The The Great Gatsby Collection, which they released in conjunction with the film, is styled for the high-flying millionaires of that era. Evidently they have fished out their finest jewels and delved deep into their archives to use the collection as a platform for an Art Deco rebirth. In fact you can see Tiffany’s jewels glittering on display throughout the film. Perhaps the most obvious example is the opening scene, in which Daisy, played by the gamine beauty, Carey Mulligan, shows off a decadent diamond ring, which looks abnormally large on her pretty little hand, by dangling her hand over the back of a chaise lounge. This is followed, shortly after, by plenty of lavish party scenes and chances for Daisy to show off the Buchanan’s supreme wealth. But it isn’t just feminine jewellery that’s included in the collection. There’s also enameled cuff-links engraved with the initials ‘JG’ and sleek cigarette cases replete with subtle period details and the endless charm of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby.
An assortment of Amethyst and Sapphire Rings from Tiffany & Co.’s The Great Gatsby Collection