Art Nouveau Manufacturers

Art Nouveau Manufacturers

Here is a list of some notable Art Nouveau Jewellery manufacturers. This is not a conclusive list but an additional overview. 

MURRLE BENNETT AND CO, LONDON, 1896-1914

Founded by Ernst Murrle and J.B Bennett.

The company produced Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts styles. Known for their Celtic inspired interwoven design and stylised foliate motifs.

 

GEORGE W. SHIELBER & CO., NEW YORK, 1876–1907

Founded by George W. Shielder.

The company became known for it’s silverwork and ‘Homeric’ and ‘Etruscan’ styles, incorporating ancient coin designs.

 

GORHAM MANUFACTURING COMPANY, RHODE ISLAND USA, 1831 – 1967

Founded by Jabez Gorham and Henry L. Webster.

The company is known for a wide variety of silver and foundry products and as a producer for Tiffany’s.  They were also a major producer of Art Nouveau jewelry.

 

BIPPART GRISCAM & OSBORN (AKA BIPPART & COMPANY), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, USA, 1885 – 1920S?

Founded by Achill Bippart in 1886 and joined by Benjamin F Grishamin in 1893 and Bennett Osborn in 1897.

Known for fine enamelled gold Art Nouveau Jewelry.

 

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Sources / Further reading:

http://www.vandenbosch.co.uk/Jewellery/MB/MBPage.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorham_Manufacturing_Company

http://www.treasuresmagazine.com/treasures/feature_articles/may_2012/gorham-manufacturing-company

http://medallicartcollector.com/gorham.shtml

Evaluating a Rolled Gold Phoenix Locket

phoenix art nouveau locket pendant victorian antique jewelry

In this post, I’d just like to discuss this rolled gold phoenix locket from my personal collection and breakdown how we can evaluate it.

There are several clues which help:

The first prominent clue is the fact that it has a maker’s mark from S & B Lederer & Co. This was a company founded in Providence, Rhode Island in 1878.  They later operated from Fifth Avenue in New York City. They produced gold plated and silver jewelry of good quality. They used a variety of signatures including S.B.& L, sometimes with an inverted triangle and sometimes with a star. They eased operations circa 1931 so we know this piece is from before 1931 and after 1878.

phoenix art nouveau locket pendant victorian antique jewelry

The style of the phoenix motif (created with repoussé and chasing, probably using a machine stamp) itself is very ‘Art Nouveau’.  The phoenix and mythical creatures in general were popular motifs in the Art Nouveau era.  However, it is the more the recurrent whiplash motif which genuinely place it as in the style of Art Nouveau. So we know that it is at least after the date of 1890, when Art Nouveau first came about and it is likely to be from before 1920, when Art Nouveau styles ceased to be the height of fashion (and we know it is not a replica because of the marker’s mark).

phoenix art nouveau locket pendant victorian antique jewelry

There are other clues to look at.  The barrel clasp on the necklace is indicative of a piece from before the 1940s, as after that date necklaces were made with the circular clasp we are familiar with.


phoenix art nouveau locket pendant victorian antique jewelry

Another clue is the rose hue of the gold.  Rose gold was very popular in the Victorian era. The gold actually tests as 9k rolled gold or gold fill. This places it after the date of 1844 when rolled gold was first introduced to the USA (I will discuss rolled gold more in a future post).  The fact that it is 9k rolled gold suggests that it from the Victorian era as 9k was very common in mid-priced jewelry like this.   But the biggest clue is that it has no hallmark for the gold purity. This places it from before 1906 as purity marks were required in the USA after that date, even for gold fill.

Some other clues to look at are the relatively large link size on the belcher or cable chain.  It was likely that although the links of this necklace were machine made, they might well have been assembled by hand. As mechanization improved, chains became finer and had smaller links. The length of the chain (it is 17 inches long, by 1920 longer chains were in fashion) also suggest it is from the late-Victorian era, as does the relatively large size of the pendant itself.

The glass paste gems are in imitation of diamonds and diamonds were very popular in the late Victorian era.  In addition, they appear to be foiled and possibly Swarovski Crystals, which place them after 1892.  They are cut, rather than molded, which make them higher quality and also indicate that they might be Swarovski Crystals.

phoenix art nouveau locket pendant victorian antique jewelry

So, all in all, we can say that this Art Nouveau 9k rolled gold American locket and belcher chain with glass paste gems is most likely from between the years of 1892 and 1906. As they were slightly later in adopting Art Nouveau style in the USA, it is likely to be towards the later end of these dates.

ps This beautiful locket is currently for sale here.

The Art Nouveau Whiplash Motif

Embroidery, Hermann Obrist: The Lone Cyclamen
Munich City Museum
note the Art Nouveau ‘Whiplash’ motif

Brooch

France, c. 1901

Brooch, enameled copper set with opals and pearls

V&A Museum

The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1910) was a design movement defined by many motifs, but none more so than the Whiplash Motif. The whiplash and curved motifs of Art Nouveau are seen as universally characteristic and are an easy way of recognizing an Art Nouveau piece. (Arts and Crafts Movement Jewelery, which many would define as a cousin of Art Nouveau, also uses the whiplash motif to a slightly lesser extent. Also it is important to note that there are many other names for Art Nouveau that I will be discussing in future posts).

Art Nouveau interior, featuring a profusion of whiplash and curved motifs

Whilst not all Art Nouveau design pieces contain whiplash or curved motifs, they are generally considered the most commonly found design feature.  Some would say Art Nouveau curves have their roots in Rococo Scroll Work, others would say they are inspired by Japanese or Celtic design elements.  Whilst all of these are no doubt true, I have always thought of the curves of Art Nouveau design as originating from something deep within us and to be a reflection of our biological nature. Arguably, all design is exactly this, but the curves of Art Nouveau seems to emanate from our deepest levels rather than directly referencing other design movements. These spirals, curves and whiplash-like shapes can be found in both the natural and man-made worlds.

For example, have a look for the Art Nouveau-like curves in the following:

Fibonacci_curve

Now, spot the whiplash and curved motifs in the following beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry pieces:

Pendant
Pendant gold, enamel, opal, pearl, diamonds
Lalique, c.1901
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pendant

France c. 1900, Lucien Gautrait.

Gold decorated with ‘plique-à-jour’ enamel and set with rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds,

opals and emeralds with an opal drop

V&A Museum

Pendant

Germany, c.1903

Enamelled gold, set with brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds,a ruby, hung with a pearl.

V&A Museum

Brooch

France, c. 1903. George Fouquet.

Brooch, gold, silver, enamel, pearls and rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds

V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://paterry.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/constructing-growth-spirals/

http://thetextileblog.blogspot.de/2009/05/art-nouveau-whiplash.html

http://binarybeam.blogspot.de/2012/04/art-nouveau-new-art.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Art_Nouveau_Jewelry

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/art-nouveau-and-the-erotic/

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/study-room-resource-art-nouveau/

Enameling techniques of the Art Nouveau period

Enameling is one of the most expressive and stunning techniques for creating jewelry.  It was used extensively during the Art Nouveau period (1890-1910).  An endless array of  colorful and intricate designs were created by applying the enamel in a variety of ways which have become very much associated with the period.  Thanks to enamel’s hard wearing qualities, there are many surviving enameled pieces from the era for us to enjoy.

Enamel is created from silica, quartz, borax, lead and feldspar ground together into a fine power (basically, it is powdered glass). Metal oxides in powder form are then added to produce the colors.  This mixture is then fired at a very high temperature, resulting in the gorgeous, rich colors of enamel work with which we are familiar.  The metals that the enamel work are fired on must be able to withstand such high temperatures. A large amount of time and care is required on the part of the jeweler.  Enamel work truly showcases the jeweler’s artistry perhaps more than any other technique. Enameled jewelry from the Art Nouveau era is highly prized and collectible (and there are of course many replicas.)

There were six main methods of enamel work that were popular in the creation of Art Nouveau pieces.  These were as follows:

Cloisonné

birds
Art Nouveau Cloisonne enamel and glass piece with bird motif

Cloisonne is created by soldering or arranging fine gold or silver wire onto another metal to create a design.  The main metal it is soldered onto is often copper or bronze in the case of cloisonne, but it can also be gold or silver.  The enamel powder is then used to fill in the partitions created by the wires.  As the enamel tends to shrink when fired, often several firings are required.  At the end, the enamel is sanded to be level with the wire.

Plique-à-jour

Plique-à-jour enamel with small rose-cut diamonds in the veins c1900 by Louis Aucoc (1850-1932)

Plique-à-jour is the type of enamel work which most people think of when they think of Art Nouveau jewelry.  It is the most delicate method of enameling and tends to fetch the highest prices.  It is remarkable because the enamel is created with no metal backing, hence the translucent and stained glass like effect of the end result.  To achieve this, the enamel mixture is made to be very viscous.  Sometimes a thin mica or clay backing is used and then removed after the firing.  Thin metal, which burns away during firing, can also be used.  Plique-à-jour looks truly stunning when held up to the light. Plique-à-jour means ‘letting in the day’ in French.

Champlevé

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Art Nouveau open work Champlevé button
Champlevé enamel work is created by first making cut out hollowed designs in the metal.  These hollowed out places are then filled with the enamel mixture and fired.  This is repeated as many times as necessary and then polished.  Copper and brass bases are often used with Champlevé as well as gold and silver. Champlevé means ‘raised field’ literally in French.

Basse-taille

Basse-taille button

Basse-taille is created by engraving the design into the metal, usually gold or silver.  The entire piece is then covered in translucent enamel so that the engraved low relief design shows through. Different effects can be created by adding different amounts and colors of enamel in different locations. Basse-taille literally means ‘shallow cut’.

Niello

niello

Art Nouveau Niello detail

Niello is usually classified as a kind of enameling technique although it is not a true enamel.  Instead of the powdered glass enamel, a mixture of sulphur, lead, copper and silver is used.  The design is engraved in the metal and then the mixture is applied.  The piece is then fired.  When it is polished, all of the mixture is removed apart from that which is left inside the engraving.  The result is always black; niello looks different from black enameling because it doesn’t have the same glassy effect and is more metallic seeming.

Taille d’epargné

detail

Taille d’épargne detail

Taille d’épargne was popular in the mid 1800s but was also used by Art Nouveau jewelry artisans.  The design was cut deeply into the metal and then filled, fired and polished.  Although any color can be used for the enamel, black or blue was generally favored. Taille d’épargne means “sparing cut” literally in French.

I hope this article helped give you an overview of the six different enameling techniques that were used in the creation of Art Nouveau jewelry and will be useful to you when you are identifying antique jewelry.  I will certainly be talking much more about antique enameled jewelry in the future as there is much to say about these stunning pieces.