Copper, zinc, and tin have been used in combination for at least two thousand years. Together, these three alloys make a single metal of superior strength. People began calling it "gunmetal" after it was used to build cannons in the Middle Ages. Characterized by it's matte, dark gray appearance, gunmetal has long been abandoned for use in weaponry in favor of the more durable steel, but it has retained a place in the manufacture of jewelry and other decorative objects. This aide memoire necklace made c. 1930 is fashioned in gunmetal and hangs from an elegant doubled figaro chain which fastens at the front. The face of the notepad is spring-loaded and held in place by the pencil (no lead, unfortunately), remove the pencil and it pops open to reveal it's original perforated pages.
ART DECO (1915 – 1940)
Art Deco is highly recognizable for its minimalism and futurism. Simultaneous art movements—Cubism, Bauhaus—informed the geometric style, along with “exotic” foreign influences like the Ballet Russe. Motifs like ziggurats and sunbursts, stripped of visual clutter, conveyed the optimism of an increasingly technological world.
In jewelry, the predominant use of white metals let colorful gems take center stage. Stones that were opaque and true in color, like lapis lazuli, onyx, jade, coral, and opal were worked into designs alongside more precious and brilliant gems, like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Extra-long beaded necklaces and tasseled “sautoirs” followed the narrow flapper silhouette.
The baguette cut was an Art Deco innovation, and the decade saw increased use of other angular diamond cuts, like the precise caliber cut and the emerald cut. Synthetic gems, like sapphires, were celebrated as a scientific marvel. Marcel Tolkowsky, 21 years old at the time, published the design for the round brilliant cut in 1919.