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Get to Know your Art Nouveau - Jewellery in Paris

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Art Nouveau in full flight
The Sylphide neck brooch by René Lalique circa 1900

It opened on my 60th birthday - an exquisite exhibition of Art Nouveau jewels at Van Cleef & Arpel's School of Jewellery Arts in Paris. I’d chosen to celebrate my milestone in that heavenly city so I booked myself in for an oggle.

People were being let in to L’École’s 18th-century building in pre-ordained, hour-long time slots. Once cleared through security, we walked up a sweeping stone stairway to the entrance of the school, then through reception to a doorway which led down another historic staircase to the heavily guarded exhibition.

Art Nouveau is such an imaginative and elegant style and to see it expressed in this miniature art form is such a delight. My mother has been dealing in antique jewellery for over fifty years and has always had beautiful examples from the period. But these ones were next level.

There were almost 100 priceless pieces designed by some of the most famous Art Nouveau craftsmen including exquisite examples from René Lalique, Henri Vever, and Georges Fouquet. All of these jewellers were producing in a relatively short period between 1890 to 1910 and drawing freely from nature and the supernatural.

One of my favourites was a green glass oval-shaped flask with a gold conch shell cap made by Lalique. A master of glass, he had somehow managed to carve several nymphs inside the vessel which may have held a big shot of absinthe or some other intoxicating liquid.

Many of the pieces were on loan from institutions like the Musee d’Orsay and lovers of jewels will drool over them.

A New Art: Metamorphoses of Jewelry, 1880-1914" runs through until 30.9.2023 and entry is free so if you happen to be in gay Paris, get on over there.

And for another dose of Art Nouveau at its best, dine out at Bouillon Julien where the interior is an absolute dreamy delight. The four seasons are represented by Louis Trezel's “femmes-fleurs”, and every detail of the decor is original. The food's not bad either. Cheap authentic French fare in luscious surroundings - a feast for both eyes and tummy.

One of the “femmes-fleurs” at Bouillon Julien


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