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Artists: Jewel purpose

Hi All, a friend sent me this link to fine artists designing
jewelry, and the market for it.

Artists: Jewel purpose
By Charlotte Cripp

Some of our greatest artists have switched to working with
diamonds and gold – and the results are wearable masterpieces

If you can’t afford a fabulous masterpiece on your wall, at
least you can wear one. How about an Antony Gormley necklace? A
Dinos Chapman choker? Or a Sam Taylor-Wood ring? Costing
UKP 10,000, the 18-carat white-gold diamond piece has a hollow in
the top to catch your tears and comes with a presentation box
containing five vials in which to decant these tears. More
lavish still, how about a Picasso necklace with a gold faun’s
head, at a cost of UKP 85,000?

You may chuckle, but artists’ jewellery can turn you into a
walking work of art. And if you don’t fancy putting on your
wearable sculpture one day, you can always plonk it on your
coffee table and enjoy it as a miniature work of art in itself.
Anish Kapoor has designed a special-edition ring for Bulgari’s
B.Zero1 collection. Made of reflective steel set between two
pink-gold rims, it’s a bite-sized version of the Turner
Prize-winning sculptor’s most famous concave works – and at
?630, far more affordable. Yinka Shonibare, too, has branched
out into jewellery, offering fans of his ship-in-a-bottle on
Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth a chance to wear it around
their neck in a pendant. But is the trend for artists designing
jewellery merely gold digging? Or is it worth its weight in

The British sculptor Anthony Caro has just unveiled his second
jewellery collection at the New Art Centre in Salisbury, the
delicate dangling earrings and finely wrought pendants a far cry
from his monumental steel sculptures, including Millbank Steps,
standing in the grounds outside. Caro, like many other artists,
came to designing jewellery later in his career, attracted by
the challenge of showcasing his artistic principles on a
miniature scale. Each item of his jewellery is unique, made for
Grassy jewellers in Madrid, and is marked in gold plate with his
signature (AC). Prices start at UKP 13,000.

“I enjoyed the challenge of what for me is tiny scale,” Caro
tells me. “It was intense work. I approached the process from a
sculptor’s point of view – not a jeweller’s. I started with the
piece itself and then saw where it would work as jewellery. I
used materials I had in the studio and the piece was then
fabricated in Madrid in either gold or silver.” When he embarked
on the first collection in 2006, he feared he lacked the
patience needed for such fiddly work.

While Caro creates one-off pieces of jewellery and treats them
as works of art, are some contemporary artists merely cashing in
– like pop stars with trashy perfume lines – or is this a true
representation of their work? And who buys it?

Louisa Guinness is the leading dealer of contemporary artists’
jewellery in the UK, from her gallery on London’s Cork Street.
She first approached Kapoor, Gormley, Taylor-Wood and Gavin Turk
in 2003, and commissioned them to make some pieces. This was,
she says, “the beginning of a new era”. “I was already
collecting and selling jewellery by Alexander Calder and Pablo
Picasso. But nobody was making anything new. That’s what I tried
to change,” says Guinness. “When I approached the artists they
were enthusiastic. For them, it is just another medium to
express themselves.”

Her collection includes Turk’s earrings with jewels that look
like pearls, but are actually moulded out of masticated chewing
gum, priced at UKP 3,000. Marc Quinn’s diamond pendant, Frozen
Strawberry, is more garish – and more expensive, at UKP 28,000.
But then it did involve removing every single pip from a real
strawberry, counting them and replacing them with 561 diamonds.
She also has some new Kapoor works, priced from UKP 4,000 to
UKP 20,000, including his hollowed-out Water Earrings, Water
Cufflinks and Water Rings, sold in limited editions of 10 or 100
and costing about UKP 10,000. “The questions that Kapoor poses
about space and form in his large-scale sculptures are also
evident in his miniaturised gold and enamel rings,” says

How is the jewellery made? The artists first come up with the
concept, then Guinness takes it to a goldsmith and interprets it
for them. “You can’t just scale down existing works – that’s
where I help. I show them the prototypes and they do the
tweaking,” she says.

Guinness’s current group show includes work by Shonibare and a
one-off Damien Hirst silver pill bracelet. “95 per cent of the
people we are selling to are art collectors,” says Guinness.
“This is like buying a mini sculpture to wear.”

It’s not just for women, either: men particularly like Tim Noble
and Sue Webster’s Fucking Beautiful necklace. “I only make
jewellery that I would actually wear myself and most of the
designs are based around some of the bigger artworks we have
made,” says Webster. “For instance, the Fucking Beautiful
necklace and bracelet was based on a very successful neon work
using my own script that was translated into individual handmade
letters then cast in both white and yellow gold. I wanted the
jewellery to look quite dangerous to wear. As I’m not used to
adorning my body in expensive jewels, afraid that I might lose
it, I opted to have Fucking Beautiful tattooed around my wrist

Sales of jewellery by postwar artists is also big business.
Didier Haspeslagh first started dealing in the 1980s and
launched a gallery on Kensington Church Street in 2005 with his
wife, Martine, to specialise in jewellery by master painters and
sculptors such as Picasso, Georges Braque, Man Ray, Lucio
Fontana, Salvador Dali and Roy Lichtenstein. “A famous artist’s
jewellery is instantly recognisable, like a Burberry coat,” says
Haspeslagh. “Big jewellery can hide bad surgery or a sagging
neck. Most of our clients are 40 to 60-year-old, wealthy,
cultured women.”

But will you have to re-mortgage your property to buy it?
Lichtenstein’s 1968 metal and enamel pendant/ brooch Modern
Head, complete with his iconic Ben-Day dots, costs ?8,500.
Meanwhile, Dali’s Eye of Time brooch, made by the artist in 1946
as payment for his bill at the St Regis Hotel, New York,
recently sold for UKP20,000. Further up the scale, Man Ray’s La
Jolie necklace, with its profile of a woman’s face made in pure
24-carat gold, set with a cabochon lapis lazuli eye, costs
UKP 100,000. Originally designed by Man Ray in 1961, it was
executed by his close friend, the Milanese jeweller GianCarlo
Montebello, in 1971, in a limited edition of 12.

And the market remains buoyant around pieces by the sculptor
Alexander Calder; one of his gold necklaces recently reached
$500,000 in a private sale in New York. Calder was unusual, says
Guinness, for hammering out 1,800 pieces of jewellery with his
own bare hand. Most artists employ a goldsmith.

The time to buy jewellery by artists is now, according to Joanna
Hardy, former head of the jewellery department at Sotheby’s, who
now runs masterclasses at her own Jewellery School of
Excellence, for connoisseurs. “In today’s climate, people are
more discerning with money. You can still collect an artist, but
artists’ jewellery costs a lot less,” she says.

“The perfect formula is for an artist to enlist the help of a
goldsmith. It’s very clever to do something so small that is
instantly recognisable and then have it beautifully made.”

Newer jewellery by contemporary artists is only just beginning
to trickle on to the art market. “People just haven’t had our
jewellery long enough to want to sell it. You only tend to sell
jewellery through death, divorce or bankruptcy and it hasn’t
been around for that long. People don’t buy it to sell it later,
they buy it to wear it,” says Guinness.

Bonhams December sale catalogue has dedicated a whole page to
Kapoor’s limited edition 2007 Water Ring, made of 22-carat
yellow gold. It comes with an estimate of UKP 6,000 to UKP 8,000. “It
shows that the art market is recognising these pieces as
important works. This is the start of things to come,” says
Hardy. “In time they will appear on the art market. It is a good
investment as long as they remain one-offs or limited editions.
If they become one of millions – then obviously not.”

Anthony Caro: Jewellery, New Art Centre, Salisbury
( to 30 January 2011; Artists Jewellery
2010, Ben Brown Fine Arts, London W1
( to 21 December

CharlesThank you so very much for that extremly informative
article/post it is great news for some of us who consider jewelry at
similar levels as painting and sculpture.

Hratch Babikian