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Saturday, 16 March 2013

A dramatic chocker by LALIQUE

Rene Lalique, 1905,  Damselflies Nechlace

It was the turn of the Twentieth Century and European society was adjusting to the aftermath of a series of industrial, political and social revolutions. Economic buoyancy stimulated the growth of a middle class which flourished with the increase of commerce and manufactures. It was the perfect environment for an Art revolution. And Paris was right at the centre of it. The bohemian spirit was everywhere, and creativity and talent were qualities sought after and treasured in every discipline. So it also impregnated the world of jewellery and the short lived Art Nouveau movement appeared. It was led by Lalique in a daring and revolutionary challenge to the establishment. His pieces were affordable since he used colourful enamel and semi precious stones where high society still considered Belle Epoque "white jewellery" (diamonds and pearls set in platinum or white gold) the only acceptable ornament. Lalique designed for the artists, and so he thought his jewels as miniature works of art. He was obsessed with nature and used naturalistic motifs in almost all his creations. It was his response to the rigidity of the designs by his contemporaries.

Cartier Belle Epoque chocker and Boucheron bracelet, both c. 1900 

The three pieces displayed above are exhibited by London antique dealer Wartski at the current Tefaf exhibition in Maastrich. Almost contemporaries, yet the contrast could not be more dramatic. It is quite easy to imagine the provocative Sarah Bernhardt wearing the Lalique piece while the "respectable" society women were still advocating for sober and discrete diamond pieces as a key differentiator from their husbands mistresses.