Tag Archives: platinum

Marc Newson’s Fractal Necklace

Behold “Julia”, the stunning interface of science, beauty and intense labor.  In an era where luxury goods are so paradoxically mass produced they are defined solely by their label, this one of a kind necklace has no comparison.

Marc Newson Julia


It’s named after Gaston Julia, a mathematician in the 1900’s who created a formula that, when graphed, produced a self-repeating structure at endless smaller scales, an infinity complex expressed in a formula.  It contains over 2,000 diamonds and blue sapphires, selected for the precision of their color and cut, and set in three-pronged mounts that make each gem appear to float.

The piece took over 1,500 hours to craft.  Such high-level craft items attract particularly adventurous types, and if history is any indication, a showpiece of wealth on such a scale is likely to intrinsically include a statement about the owner.  Welcome to the 21st Century, where the technocrats are opulently adorned with the science behind their ascent.

Boucheron Julia

Julia Close Up

You won’t see me posting too many broad spreads of arranged gemstones.  I can’t really see in them much that inspires my work, nor do they speak of a craftsman, the voice of the creator, nearly so much as they paint pictures of several specialist workshops.

This piece brings up a factor of interest in production of any kind today – transparency.  The labor factor of 1,500 hours they have provided is seriously questionable.  Hard stones like these are usually cut by trained professionals, at at least 2-3 hours per piece.  At over 2,000 stones we’ve already hit a minimum of say 6,000 hours.  This does not consider the time involved in mining, sorting and preparing the rough, heat treating, grading and handling.  So I’m assuming the 1,500 hours mentioned are limited to stone selection, smithing the platinum and stonesetter’s time.  In all, the piece may as well have 10,000 hours of time in it.  Which is fitting, like the fractal… the closer you look, the more there is to it.

And this is also where it begins to lose its charm, its talismanic properties.  The essence of the mathematician is lightly in there, like a sketch, but the layout was executed by computer like most modern jewelry, and the designer’s presence rapidly begins to fade from the piece.  The vast majority of crafting under the ‘house’ Boucheron was not conducted in-house at all, but through a buying of finished materials; they seem to have casually failed to state the lion’s share of the actual crafting involved here – the expert faceting of the stones.  Why decide to understate the hours?  Would a true number have been too decadent even for a design house that specializes in this practice?  Is there a professional curtain for high grade work, behind which only certain professions’ hours qualify as labor?

It’s amusing, and why I am never terribly impressed with this sort of work… it is less likely to reveal anyone’s essence than to resemble something more inanimate and collectively made, like a tall skyscraper.  It is eminently imperial in its manifestation.  Marc Newson becomes something more like a civil engineer or architect here, but unlike a finished building with most of its infrastructure concealed, peering closely at the piece reveals nothing but stones, with the real work laid bare.  They may not have been accounted for in time, and it is likely not the implicit intent of the designers, but one may get a taste of true craftsmanship laid bare by peering inward to every detail.

That said, if you want to kick up the crazy a notch, what about that full-sized diamond skull by Damien Hirst back in 2007?

The Diamond Skull

It’s proper title is ‘For the Love of God’ and it was created in 2007 by superstar artist Damien Hirst.   It is so well discussed out there I don’t feel too many words are required, but it may be news to fans of jewelry.  It does bring up interesting, long-running questions about how blockbuster fabricated concepts fit in, but that’s for my art blog.  Something like this stimulates one kind of opinion or another, with visitor responses assembled at one exhibit into this amusing interactive site: http://www.fortheloveofgod.nl/  In any case, after the ‘spots’ show I really don’t want to say much about Hirst at all.  There are a good thousand living artists that all could better use my time.

Damien Hirst For the Love of God

"For the Love of God"

What I can offer that’s relevant here are interesting pictures of the skull making in process.  I happened to run across an excellent article years back, and grabbed the images.  This is fortunate, as I can’t find the article any longer (link would  be appreciated).  I do archive images regularly.

Victoire de Castellane’s Dead Royal

With a touch that is either sarcastic or ironic, the live created by de Castellane for her Dior line ‘Reines et Rois’ in 2010 made a curious statement.  The ‘Kings’ are skull pendants elaborately festooned with diamonds, while the ‘Queens’ are similar rings.   Presumably, the King is to be worn like a badge on one’s chest, while Queen is wrappedThe skulls are carved of semiprecious stones, with names matching the stones, such as Reine d’ Opalie, Reine de Chrysoprasie, or Roi de Jaspe.  While ex-votos are not a new phenomenon in jewelry, these pieces are clearly for the amusement of the wearer, and perhaps in the vein of artist Damien Hirst, who produced a diamond-encrusted platinum skull at a cost of nearly £10 million, this is the designer’s way of  producing objects that mock death as a way of coming to terms with it.

Reines et Roi 1



One reviewer caught on to the curiosity of the line… in plastic or even silver these rings would be ordinary street kitsch, but the elaboration makes a statement about what we might regard as ‘elevated taste’, which is to observe that there seems to be no distinction within the classes between kitsch and ‘luxury’ at this point.  The unfortunately anonymous reviewer (perhaps a marketer of the design house) was poignant to note that ‘the line’s success indicates a strong morbid desire that has developed today, one that makes people clearly prefer skulls over hearts or symbols of love’.  Indeed mystery reviewer, the movement away from symbols of love and sentiment is a phenomenon across the arts and culture in general that arrived with modernism, and historically can be traced back to the onset of the crazy wars that shattered in the ‘New Arts’ ascendancy in the early 20th century.  It would appear that the door to morbidity is the only symbolic door that seems to have been left open in this post-modern, sentiment cleansed world.  That this is deeply embedded in our culture is well illustrated by luxury goods that bear no real distinction from the playthings of adolescents save their price.

Reines et Roi 3

At the same time, perhaps these might be regarded as simply high-end kitsch, and not an indicator of elite tastes.  The pavé diamonds are not terribly costly, and the skulls require so much material it is not a surprise that they are low quality and muddy in color.  It may be better to view this line as kitsch with a nice label, as most of luxury goods have become.  With the material factor out of the way, we can look with fresh eyes at the work of the designer, which shines through.  The care and fluidity of her crowns, feathers and collars are clearly graceful, and each is instantly distinguishable from each other.

Here, in a time when we have an essentially inverted culture – when luxury goods are cheap mass-productions and well-crafted artisan goods as valueless without a luxury label, or if you prefer, a time when skulls are preferred love tokens, it is always refreshing to see the touch of an engaged designer, even if they are nearly anonymous within a production house.