Arts & Crafts Jewellery
When Arthur Lasenby Liberty (1843-1917) founded Liberty & Co on London’s Regent Street in 1875 his aim was to change the look of fashion in dress and decoration. He initially did this by importing Oriental carpets, ceramics and works of art. Then, in the 1890s, he built relationships with the leading lights of the British Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. As a result he was instrumental in encouraging both movements to create furnishings and jewellery.
Liberty’s art jewellery, which was sold as part of the Cymric range, complemented the fashionable furnishings and clothes the store sold. It was often decorated with enamels and cabochon semi-precious stones including moonstones, opals and turquoise, as well as mother of pearl. Pieces were mass-produced yet designed to look handmade, with hammer marks added to the die from which the metal was stamped. The majority of the jewellery was made from silver, although gold was also used.
Liberty employed designers including Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Oliver Baker but their work was to remain anonymous. However it is possible to see the Celtic inspiration favoured by Knox on some pieces, and the Glasgow School aesthetic in King’s belt buckles.