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.
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.
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?