Erte: Art to Wear from The Father of Art Deco

The beautiful ring fascinated me! I’ve never been all that much into Mother of Pearl, but I’ve always loved amethysts and diamonds, and this 14k gold ring had all three. It had been labelled “Erte” and “CFA” but neither of those were familiar to me. Yet I couldn’t walk away from that beautiful, somewhat unusual ring. I had to buy it!

To my absolute delight, as I found out after doing some research, was that I had purchased the “Clair De Lune”, one of the most popular rings in the limited editions of “Art to Wear” by Romain de Tirtoff, a Russian artist, painter, illustrator and sculptor, who is considered by many to be “The Father of Art Deco”. Romain, whose initials shortened to create the name he became known by, ERTE, ran off to Paris at the age of 20 to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist in 1912. Under the tutelage of a famous fashion designer, Erte’s designs brought him recognition in major fashion circles. Eventually, he moved to the US where his marvellous illustrations capturing the beauty of the female form were featured constantly inside and on the front covers of Harper’s Bazaar.

When it was suggested that Erte’s fabulous drawings would make some gorgeous jewelry, Erte, always a forward thinker agreed, but it was no easy task to render his artwork into wearable pieces. The designs were so intricate and Erte was fussy. He had to have only the best diamonds and gemstones and that often proved difficult to acquire. Eventually, he allowed his “Art To Wear” jewelry to be produced by the Circle of Fine Art (CFA) and the first of Erte’s magnificent jewelry began to appear in 1979 in very limited editions, which today are highly collectible, valuable and more often than not, expensive.

Since acquiring that first ring, I have become totally enthralled with Erte’s “Art to Wear”. I purchased the large hardcover book titled “Erte: Art to Wear” and have poured over every page, showing some of his original designs and art on which the jewelry is based. I’ve also located some wonderful articles online showing his superb skills as a painter, illustrator and sculptor. What magnificent work! And I’m now on a hunt to locate and purchase what Erte jewelry I can find, but it’s not easy to find these original limited edition pieces.

For Erte, who was still designing in his 90‘s, jewelry always had a purpose beyond mere beauty. For instance, the “Alouette”, (shown in a ring above) is meant to capture a lark, soaring to the skies in the early morning. The Mother of Pearl is the moon; the diamonds are the stars and the topaz is the sky. As one studies Erte’s jewelry, especially the rings, one sees much use of the sharply tapered, long designs, as in the Peacock  and Plume Rings. Those tapered designs are based on bird feathers and Erte had a great love and fascination with birds, and especially admired the Peacock. One of the loveliest pieces I’ve come across and would love to own, is Erte’s “Fantasy” earrings, again based on birds with long plumage. A pair like this was sold recently by a Ruby Lane vendor. These incredible earrings contain diamonds and rubies and are stamped 17/500. That means they were #17 of only 500 ever produced. Oh how I’d love to own these! I also really like his jewelry in the “La Mer” series, like the pretty amethyst and diamond earrings below. According to the book, the Fantasy series had either rubies or sapphires; the La Mer series featured amethysts, madeira citrine, blue topaz and/or onyx. I’d happily take any one of them if I could find a pair I could afford!

If owning a piece of Erte jewelry appeals to you, be diligent in your search. You will find online many pieces that are quite affordable, but realize that, as with so many famous designers, reproductions are now flooding the market. The price alone should make you question whether you are buying an original Erte. The originals will have both the Erte signature and ©CFA along with the gold carat used.

And while you’re online searching, do look up Erte’s illustrations and drawings too. They are simply amazing! I’ve fallen in love with Erte’s work and jewelry. I hope this post has helped you discover an Art Deco designer you might really like to know about.

by Viga Boland

Divine Finds Jewelry


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