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The Aesthetic Movement in Jewelry:

A Japanese Tale



By Rebekah V. Wise,
Antique Specialist, R. W. Wise, Goldsmiths

The Aesthetic Movement flourished in America and England from around 1868-1901. Reaction against Victorian excess, ostentation and taboos led to a movement to re-establish the importance of craftsmanship in an era that was being consumed by the mass production of the Industrial Revolution.   In jewelry terms, this reaction meant that mechanically-produced jewelry was no longer fashionable.  There was a desire to break with tradition and return to artistic jewelry, where spontaneity of inspiration was more important than intrinsic value.

ramimage1.jpgThis desire to break with tradition would not have been possible without the discovery of Japanese art, which opened the way to stylizations of the natural world--asymmetrical yet fluid lines--sinuous shapes which alluded to life and movement in the circle of birth and death.  The Aesthetic Movement often used a predominance of nature motifs--flowers, birds, gingko leaves and peacock feathers. The images below right show detailed scenes  of water life--pond lilies, flowers, water fowl at the water's edge--all delicately rendered in mixed metal combinations of silver, gold, and copper.  The elegance of these nature-inspired pieces stands out in sharp contrast to the high ornamentation of earlier Victorian jewels.  Eminently wearable today, they remain as elegant and fresh as they were in the late 19th century. 



For these and more period jewels of the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Victorian & Georgian eras, please call Rebekah at 413.637.1589, or email, rebekah@rwwise.com .  Visit our gallery in the Berkshires, located at 81 Church St., Lenox, Massachusetts.  

 

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