My grandmother wore a spectacular Art Nouveau engagement ring. She also traveled the world, collected African masks, gifted The Feminine Mystique to her granddaughters, and carried $2 of “fuck you” money in her purse on dates (to pay for her meal if she wanted to leave early). I always suspected that people with idiotic political views probably got the best view of that ring, as it dazzled on her finger next to an openly flipped bird. Needless to say, I’m partial to the Art Nouveau style rings.
Art Nouveau rings are known for their soft, esoteric qualities – curved lines, filigree inlay, and floral motifs. Unlike other jewelry styles, Art Nouveau emphasizes the settings as much as the gemstone. Diamonds, moonstones and opals were all part of a total effect, rather than the centerpiece of the ring. You can read more about the history of the Art Nouveau movement here.
The Twisted Diamond Ring
What this ring lacks in color, it more than makes up for in sparkle. The remarkable swirling wings are covered in thirty old-cut diamonds that surround the centre stone. While highly abstracted, the wings seem to mimic two orchids, a popular floral motif in Art Nouveau.
The Opal and Leaf Ring
From the curvaceous shapes to the leaf-like, golden ornament around its gemstones, this vintage ring has all the smatterings of Art Nouveau. The six brilliant-cut diamonds along the shoulder of the ring work in tandem with the drop-shaped opals to create an effect that is as much mystical as it is beautiful.
The Filament Ring
With seven rose-cut diamonds and two old-cut diamonds, this ring defies 18th and 19th century traditions of highlighting a central stone in favour of a more modern design. The twinning effect, moreover, lends symmetry to an otherwise organic pattern that evokes natural filaments like stamen.
The Snake Ring
This emerald and diamond ring with gold enamel is nothing if not a conversation piece. While the ring is undeniably more aggressive than some of its more whimsical counterparts, Art Nouveau often incorperates snake motifs, as well as butterflies and dragonflies, to highlight their curved shapes. Moreover, although snakes take on a negative connotation in Western culture, in Japanese culture – which Art Nouveau borrows heavily from – they symbolize fertility and rebirth.
The Pearl in Clam Ring
Edged with fourteen diamonds, the wings of this ring mimic a clam shell encircling a pearl. While feminine and playful, this ring is also wilfully erotic. Art Nouveau artists often incorporated the female form and sensual imagery to cultivate an effect that was at once soft and revolutionary.
At first glance, Art Nouveau jewelry – with its pastel colours, swirling shapes and whimsical imagery – appears romantic and soft. However, the use of snakes and sexually charged shapes also endows Art Nouveau with an edginess unseen in other jewelry forms.