The term"Art Deco is derived from art decotatif after the Exposition des arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925, and the movement was at its height during the late 1920s and the 1930s. The Art Deco style is generally a very easy one to identify and as such it is a fertile field for the collector. The jewelry made during this era has stood the test of time and is very wearable today, remaining fashionable. Also, the standard of manufacture is generally high and the materials used are good quality. Thanks to these factors, good Art Deco jewels remain in high demand and can fetch very high sums. Add to this a good maker's name or original illustrations and design sketches, and you can see examples of this type of jewelry go for record prices.
For the collector, the overriding criteria for the purchase of a piece should be its style and design. The piece should be a good example of its time, displaying easily recognized themes and forms. For Art Deco this should include the ideals of Cubism and the simplicity of unadulterated lines. As the jewelers of the time were very skilled indeed, you should be looking for extremely high
Standards of manufacture and materials any piece offering less than this is second best and the price should reflect this. Art Deco jewels have been made in a great number of materials but the best costume examples were made in silver (either 935 or 925 - sec Glossary,) with crystals or mar casites claw-set by hand. Many examples have high quality baked enamels and semi-precious stones.
A further criterion is the presence of a name. This should take second place to the design because, if the designer was worth his or her salt, the design will stand up to scrutiny and the signature will be a confirmation of quality and provenance. Names to look out for include Theodor Fahrner Despres, and KTF. One of the great problems of this period is the lack of manufacturers' marks on pieces. In many cases the pieces are marked on the reverse with hallmarks, such as the grade of silver, but generally there is very little else. The large manufacturers, such as Maison Burma in Paris, rarely marked their jewels. Quite often it is an achievement simply to identify the country of origin.
Fahrner Brooch, 1920s
One of the great, and most desirable, names of European costume jewelry design, Theodor Fahrner (1859-1919), employed many designers and followed many styles. After Fahrner's death, Gustav Braendle bought the firm and produced archetypal Deco jewelry for many years us ally striking geometric designs in silver often with onxy and coral stones set over marcasities.
KTF Crystal Bracelet, late 1920s
KTF was one of the early marks used by the Trifari jewelry company standing for the three partners Leo Krussmann, Gustavo Trifari, and Carl Fishel The early item shown here bears the mark on its reverse and as such is very collectable. Produced in Rhode Island in the United States, these pieces were made with rhodium plated base metals.
All jewelry must be inspected for damage, including the reverse of a piece, and this is particularly relevant with Deco jewelry, because collectors should aim for the best they can afford. Bracelets such as that above were made of a relatively soft metal, and so are prone to breaks, especially around the hinged links. Flaking rhodium plating on the back may also be evident, but it is not a major issue. It is also important to ensure that all the stones are in good condition and regard any replacements with suspicion, because they may not match the originals in quality or appearance, which is something that would substantially affect the value.
Another typical feature that can affect condition is the use of glue. From this time onwards, rhinestones relied almost entirely upon a glue setting, rather than a claw setting for example the problem with this is that the glue can rot the foiling on the back of the stone, making it look black. Alternatively, if used in excess or carelessly, glue may sometimes have been accidentally deposited on top of the stones this can go yellow with age, making the stone appear ye I low tinted.
Writer - Steven Miners