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Hugo Maertens
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The story of art-nouveau jewellery begins in Paris with the jeweller René Lalique whose innovative designs made a significant contribution to the art-nouveau movement in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Lalique’s creations brought him fame that reached far beyond Paris. Indeed, his name became synonymous with jewellery all over France and in most of Europe’s prosperous cities. Like many great masters, he had imitators. In Belgium we had Philippe Wolfers, who designed more than a hundred items of jewellery and was dubbed the “Belgian René Lalique”. We also had Leopold van Strydonck, an important art-nouveau jeweller. This Belgian neck ornament was designed by Van Strydonck. His jewels were invariably executed to perfection by jewellers like Wolfers Frères or the firm Auguste Feys. At the beginning of the twentieth century ladies typically dressed in light, flowing evening gowns. The necklaces worn with them were also light in execution. Transparent green plique à jour gave the neck ornament colour and the various precious stones gave it brilliance. Jewellery set with diamonds and pearls adorned the décolletages. Though art-nouveau jewellery fired the imagination and was hugely popular, it was a short-lived fashion phenomenon. By around 1910 when the fashion had blown over completely, most art-nouveau jewels were stowed away in safes. After a while many were dismantled and the precious materials reused. So what remains from that time is extremely rare and valuable.

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