Art Nouveau was a broad artistic movement, with one of its key beliefs being art should be a part of daily life. Although short-lived, the Art Nouveau style is amongst the most celebrated periods of jewelry design.
Lasting only 15 years from 1895 through 1910, the style saw a flourishing of innovative ideas, materials and techniques that propelled jewelry designers into artists, crafting exquisite, often breathtaking jewelry.
At the turn of the 20th century, the zeitgeist called for bold, new ideas and an abandonment of the historical Victorian precedents of the 19th century in all forms of art, from the decorative arts to music, and architecture to poetry. During this time, colonial expansion by European countries re-opened trade routes with the East, bringing exotic products to the Western world. With widespread industrial production of the decorative arts, poorly made objects often imitating earlier periods were widely available. As a reaction to the overly rigid and somber Victorian period, a rejection of the machine-made and an embrace of Eastern aesthetics, the Art Nouveau style was born. Its masters sought to modernize design, revive quality of production and elevate the status of the artisanship.
The Rolex Daytona is an iconic success story that began as a tool of ambition. First introduced with the “Daytona” signature in 1965, the watch proclaimed Rolex’s sponsorship of the celebrated sports car race in Daytona Beach, Florida. For the Daytona specifically, Rolex had introduced a couple of major stylistic changes from its earlier chronographs, drastically improving the utility of the watch with a race car driver’s needs in mind. First, the inverse colors of the main dial and registers provided the watch with a sportier look and clear contrast to read elapsed times in each sub-dial. Second, the tachymeter scale was removed from the dial and engraved onto the bezel, allowing for greater legibility.
The historic Daytona race was born at the turn of the 20th century, at Daytona Beach (shown above). Only in 1959, did the race relocate to the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.
Yet despite its durability, aesthetics, and reliable movement, the Daytona was not hugely in demand when produced. In fact, many sat at retailers before they were sold, and often at steep discounts. At the time, Rolex was competing with a host of other watch brands that had already been well-known for creating chronographs. Furthermore, the Daytona remained a manually-wound timepiece until 1987, during the height of the world-wide craze for quartz movements.
Renowned for his unabashed love of ornament and theatricality, Tony Duquette’s inimitable design is one of the highlights of Fortuna’s September sale. A well-known painter, sculptor and jeweler, he was renowned for his over-the-top style in interiors, jewelry, costumes, and set design.
With the creation of pieces that are filled with such awe-inducing whimsy and wonder, it is no surprise that this American style icon started his career in costume and set design for theater. As a young man, Tony Duquette was awarded scholarships to the renowned Chouinard Institute in Los Angeles and the Yale School of Theater. Growing to become one of the most recognized LA designers of the time, it was through the patronage of Sir Charles and Lady Mendl, the then international arbiters of taste, that Duquette was able to establish himself as a designer for the film industry. He created both costumes and sets for theater, opera and ballet, as well as many Metro Goldwyn Mayer films.
Taking inspiration from Grecian, Byzantine, and a variety of other ancient jewelry styles to create contemporary pieces, the Athenian goldsmith Ilias Lalaounis has gifted the world with an appreciation for the venerable art of adornment.
Lalaounis started working as an apprentice in his family’s jewelry company in 1940. In 1969, he decided to separate from the family business to start his own production. Focusing mainly on the fabrication of chains, Lalaounis would later introduce ancient Greek revival pieces to incredible success. The jewelry house achieves the international recognition that it was striving for when in the 1960s, Aristotle Onassis started purchasing pieces for Maria Callas, as well as his later wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
An artist as well as a jeweler, Lalaounis explored the ancient jewels of his ancestors to breathe new life into forgotten crafts. He schooled his fellow craftsmen in the production of his pieces, using ancient techniques such as granulation, filigree, hand-weaving, and hand-hammering to create pieces that are steeped in antiquity. His inexhaustible creativity and appreciation of antique crafts led him to be the first goldsmith to be honored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres, for his contribution to the art of jewelry.
History of Ilias Lalaounis
Born in 1920 as a fourth-generation Athenian goldsmith, the art of fine jewelry crafting was always Ilias Lalaounis’s destiny. After taking the helm at his family’s jewelry firm, Lalaouinis began to pave the path for his future passion — blending a love for Grecian art and jewelry-making practices with the twist of modern technology. Before long, Lalaounis was making a name for himself as he crafted unique pieces that reimagined ancient Greek artifacts.
Introducing His Collection to the World
Lalaouinis’ first collection — which was heavily inspired by classical and Hellenistic art — debuted in 1957. This launch was met with international acclaim, providing the perfect starting point for a new company, which he would start more than a decade later.
Lalalounis’ company presented an avenue to delve even deeper into his distinct style, which was characterized by a focus on gold materials. He primarily drew inspiration from the historical periods spanning from prehistoric Minoan art through the art of the English Tudors, as well as humanistic elements of nature and animals.
Expanding His Legacy Overseas
Lalaounis’s company soon found success overseas, expanding to galleries across Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Between 1969 and 2002, Lalaounis presented 50 collections worldwide. In 1993, he unveiled the Ilias Lalalounis Jewelry Museum, located at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. This museum — run today by his daughters — continues to be a cultural center connecting ancient history with the present day through jewelry.
Discover Ilias Lalaounis’s Most Beloved Pieces
Ilias Lalaounis is said to describe his own pieces as “jewelry with soul.” This inspiration paved the way for a collection of lifelike pieces that draw incredible warmth and vivacity from each gemstone’s striking beauty. His iconic style is characterized by an orchestration of ancient styles with bold reimagined statement pieces. It is no surprise that Ilias Lalaounis fine jewelry has earned its place among a lineage of premium artwork.
In line with the unique craftsmanship of their creator, Lalaounis’s most iconic pieces cannot be defined. Among his most famed work, you’ll find pieces from his timeless animal kingdom collection. These include a gold necklace with lion heads featuring dazzling ruby eyes and an exquisite brooch with interlocked bull horns inlaid with sapphires. His dramatic gold statement pieces — including intricate gold cuff bracelets and 18-karat gold torque necklaces — are also commonly hailed as some of his most striking works.
Collections inspired by Helen of Troy and the Glory of Byzantium now take the place among his most treasured pieces, sought after around the world. From the neolithic era to ancient Greece, Lalaounis’s most iconic pieces reflect how history has shaped us and remains vibrantly alive in our culture today.
Claim Your Own Iconic Jewelry Piece at Our Upcoming Auction
Fortuna Auction is excited to offer a desirable collection of Lalaounis’s iconic and fashionable pieces including a bold brooch featuring bull heads with interlocking horns and pink sapphire-set eyes, as well as a garnet ring with filigree details fit for a Roman empress. Click here to view all the Ilias Lalaounis jewelry offered in Fortuna’s upcoming November Jewels & Watches sale. Our upcoming auction is a rare opportunity to purchase your own larger-than-life Ilias Lalaounis jewelry or sell yours at auction.
Recognized by their supremely sophisticated style, Robert and Louis Koch are two of the most celebrated German jewelers of their time. With their meticulous craftsmanship and keen eye for design, the jewelry house quickly received international recognition, becoming a favorite amongst European royalty, even being awarded in 1883 the title of “Jeweler of the Court.”
Shown in the above portrait, is one of many Koch tiaras commissioned by European royalty—a glittering diamond kokoshnik, created by the firm in 1905 for Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Crown Princess of Germany.
Originally founded in 1879, Koch opened their first store in Frankfurt to nearly immediate success. The Koch brothers’ production of regal tiaras, crowns, diadems and bandeaux, which supplied the German imperial family as well as aristocrats and millionaires alike, solidified their presence in the local market, while their acute business sense led to their successful expansion to further international clientele. The strategic placement of a store in the fashionable spa resort of Baden Baden and Louis’s impeccable taste and salesmanship drew the attention of even more European royalty; and soon, the King of Italy, the Russian Tsar and the Prince of Wales were all looking to adorn their courts with the brothers’ creations.
In 1902, Robert Koch passed away, leaving Louis to take charge of the company. Louis managed to successfully lead the firm for nearly half a century, through the difficult post-World War I years and widespread economic recession. Even after his subsequent death, the firm continued to be prosperous in the hands of his grandsons and nephews. During the oppressive Nazi regime, the company was “Aryanized,” and taken over by Robert Bosch and the family eventually lost control of the firm. Although the popularity of the company was briefly revived in the 1950s, Koch jewelry from the late 19th and early 20th century continue to be considered the golden period of the Koch House, are very much sought after in today’s antique jewelry market.
With her unapologetically bold style and sensually carved designs, Suzanne Belperron would distinguish herself among the first female master jewelers of the early 20th century, and as a designer whose aesthetic was so unique, it would serve as her signature.
Belperron’s creative genius quickly drew the attention of esteemed clientele including: the Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Diana Vreeland, and countless more high-profile figures; yet, she never sought public recognition. When asked why she never signed her pieces, as was customary of all haute joaillerie maisons, Belperron famously said, “my style is my signature.”
Writing in the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle in 1961, journalist Cécile Sandoz, expressed that the creations of Belperron possessed an instantly recognizable “abstract fluidity of form, a Pharaonic or Aztec sheen that gives a centuries-old patina and a highly personal technique of setting precious gems in larger semiprecious stones.”
“My style is my signature.” – Suzanne Belperron
From humble beginning, Suzanne Vuillerme Belperron grew up in a small town in eastern France. In 1916, she enrolled at the Écoles Municipales de Musique et des Beaux-Arts, located in Besançon, a city that would be known as the birthplace of France’s watch industry. It was here that she began her formal study of jewelry design. Knowing that versatility would give her the competitive advantage she sought, Belperron immersed herself and excelled in a variety of studies. Her early productions revealed an intuition of style and form, as well as a wealth of talent.