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.
This 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, firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit our gallery in the Berkshires, located at 81 Church St., Lenox, Massachusetts.