Although generally regarded as geometrical and rather sober pieces, Deco jewels can also show a fighter side, which arguably can be thought to represent the general atmosphere of optimism that prevailed after the First World War. Art Deco figurals, here defined as pieces in the shape of recognizable images such as animals, plants, people, and so on, are very collectable partly due to their novelty value but also because they quite commonly reflect interests of the day. A good example is Egyptian Revival jewelry. In 1923, Carter uncovered Tutankhamun's tomb, and the world went Egypt-mad. The jewels found in the tomb provided the basis for a plethora of inspired designs.
The Deco years also saw a prolific amount of animal-form jewelry. Dogs such as Afghan hounds and Scottish and West Highland terriers; birds such as flamingos and parrots; insects of every species; as well as hands, aeroplanes, and cars, among others, were all rendered in silver, paste, marcasite, and enamel. Silver was frequently rhodium-plated to give it a high sheen.
Art Deco jewelry of this type was predominantly made in Germany, France, England, Czechoslovakia, and the United States. The English and French pieces were rarely signed by the manufacturers, but they almost always carry a stamp indicating the grade of silver used. This ranged from German silver grade 800 (that is, 800 parts silver out of 1,000, or 80 per cent purity) to 935 silver. Generally speaking, the English, French, and American manufacturers used sterling silver, which has a purity grade of 925. The English stamped their pieces with "hallmarks"(marks stamped by the Guild of Goldsmiths at Goldsmiths' Hall, where metals were graded), the French with kite-shaped touch marks, and the Americans with STERLING However; there are exceptions to this very general rule. Identification of English pieces may be made with a keen eye and a jeweler's loupe to discover the hallmark stamp, and, as we have seen, although few manufacturers marked their pieces with the company's name, exceptions include the company’s Trifari (with their early KTF mark) and Theodor Fahmer ("TF").
Silver Basket Brooch, mid-1920s
This brooch displays some interesting stylistic influences. The cornucopia idea is present in the overflowing of fruit and flowers, indicating abundance and fertility, a theme also evident in the use of the coloured glass fruit-shaped stones, which have their origin in the Tree of Life motif taken from the ancient Egyptian world and adapted in the Art Deco era. Many collectors call these carved stones Fruit Salad", but this term should be kept for the original Trifari versions.
Silver Palm Tree Brooch, mid-1920s
The Egyptian theme is carried on in this very unusual brooch depicting a pair of palm trees at an oasis, in silver with channel-set faux emeralds and crystals. The clever design of this piece results in a strong three-dimensionality, achieved by the use of the overlapping palm trunks and the gradation in the size of the faux emeralds. Its impressive design and rarity are what make it more valuable than the basket brooch on the left.
Writer - Steven Miners