Art Deco Chinese Style, What Is It?

Chinese Art Deco Jewellery, What Is It?

1. Diamond Brooches on Clothing... & Hair

Shanghai in the early part of the 20th century was great, partly because it was the ‘Paris of the East’, and then because her influence reached Chinese dominant places Paris herself would not.

South-east Asia, and Singapore in particular, a small, multi-racial entrepot, enthused at the finer life of not just the British Isle or fashionable Paris, but at how Chinese in other places could be both Chinese and ‘Western’ at the same time. The lovingness at which overseas Chinese looked at Shanghai’s riot of life is surely reflected in their own adoption of art, fashion and jewelry.

Peranakan kerosang

Gold ‘kerosang’ pins designed for buttonless blousons.

Many were adapted from Western Art Deco and Art Nouveau ideals, such as ‘giardinetti’ or fruit baskets, birds or insects, and even paisley motifs of the Arts and Crafts movement.

diamond hair brooch

Much of the adoption was actually in adapting finer points of Western fashion into local habits.

The gold pins originally designed for buttonless blousons were now worn on the new short bobs, inspired by Gatsby fashion, in those striking women in photographs or those who actually made it overseas and back. But you know what? No where else had more real gold hair pins than in the Straits community.

2. Hoops that Don't Swing

Diamond Huggie Earrings

Here’s a classic Straits Chinese diamond hoop that is just gorgeous. Then and now. Perhaps, even better now.

We were told this is once ‘the standard’. So why is it a piece like this, with fine quality diamonds, remain elusive? 

Because so many are melted down. One reason, the spring hinges on these hoops are very hard to repair. 

The Mystery Of Half-Serious, Half-Flirty Huggie Hoops

The East had huggie earrings very early on, which were already popular by the end of the first war (the time when cinema adapted fully to the new “talkies” around the late 1930s). There was a simple reason for this. 

Asian women were short(er) and their covered clothing did not allow for much skin to show. Short earrings that *sorta* hoop but do not swing fulfilled their need for a sassy ‘modern’ look without looking too out of place. Over a long time, these huggies developed from ethnic earrings which were traditionally worn on *baggy, can’t-help-it* earlobes.

Enamel Hoops, Gemstone Hoops
Emerald Diamond Huggie Earrings Ring 18k RESERVED

Here’s another ‘modern’ huggie hoop. Mid-century pieces were structured, a little closer to contemporary fine jewellery, but nonetheless made in earlier times.

Solid Gold Huggie Hoops, Filigree Huggie Hoops
Diamond Huggie Hoops

3. Chinese Art Deco Ear Studs

Our ear studs were comparatively bigger than Western pieces.

To be continued.

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