Estate jewelry: Art Nouveau

A very important period aesthetically and artistically, this era begins in 1890 and ends with the onset of the first world war. Art Nouveau evokes images of sensuousness, the Gaiety of Paris, Toulouse Lautrec, and silent film star Sarah Bernhardt who had an impressive collection of Art Nouveau jewelry, particularly in enamel by the Art Nouveau master, Rene Lalique.

Jewelry was often three-dimensional and sculptural -- and softened by the use of precious stones, particularly opal and moonstone. Plique-a-jour and other intricate enameling techniques gave the appearance of stained glass windows or softly shimmering waters. Nature was a major theme: trees, flowers of all species, dragonflies, swans, peacocks and snakes were some of the many natural forms reinterpreted and exaggerated. The female figure was exalted and depicted with long, flowing hair -- dreamy and exotic. Art Nouveau's design roots can be traced to a blending of Gothic arts, Celtic linear interlaces and spirals, asymmetrical Rococo curves, and other exotic influences coming from Africa and Japan.