Inspired by artists’ line drawings, our Face Earrings by A Weathered Penny are flying out of our store – jewellery inspired by the work of great artists is a tangible trend. Many brands are currently paying homage to the work of Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Salvador Dali, with conceptual, experimental and playful jewellery – often lines of faces and women’s curves.  Designs drawing upon fine art was evident at catwalk shows including Loewe, Stella McCartney, Proenza Schouler and Giorgio Armani.

Art-meets-jewellery fervour has meant that Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs exhibition From Calder to Koons: Jewellery by Artists run has been extended to September 9.

The show displays over 250 pieces of jewellery designed by 150 well-known artists. The majority of the collection is owned by Diane Venet, the wife of French sculptur Bernar Venet.  Diane has collected artist-designed jewellery for more than thirty years. Her interest was sparked when her husband “playfully bent a thin silver band around my left ring finger to make me a wedding ring; a spontaneous gesture that prompted me to discover these unique objets d’art, priceless for their rarity and symbolic meaning”. 

Like Diane’s simple silver band, many of these one-of-a-kind, wearable works of art were created as an expression of affection for a loved one. Diane had many artist friends, so her collection grew organically. 

The exhibition includes Alexander Calder’s handcrafted necklaces – there’s a stunning photograph of Anjelica Houston wearing his The Jealous Husband piece as well as featuring Jeff Koons' Rabbit necklace. Other unmissable pieces include Niki de Saint Phalle’s Brown Nana brooch – she drew her art projects so they could be transformed into tiny jewels, Picasso’s Le Grand Faune brooch – one of a limited number of medallions and brooches cast by his friend French goldsmith Francois Hugo, Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art Modern Head brooch, Louise Bourgeois’ Spider Spindles brooch, which was based on her famous spider sculpture “Maman”, Damien Hirst’s Pill Charm bracelet, Man Ray’s conical earrings (as worn by Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour),  and Salvador Dali’s surrealist brooch, which combines a watch, spoon and comb.

Of course, most fine jewellery and fashion jewellery is designed to be worn, the design fully completed when it is worn by a purchaser, and, by its nature, has to be commercial. “For a house, you have to bear in mind that people will live inside it, for jewellery, somebody will wear it so the considerations are similar. Spatial relationships between elements and materials are important in both cases: the end result has to be comfortable and look good (as well as giving pleasure)” says jeweller Marion Vidal. 

However, jewellery created purely as art is a three dimensional expression of an idea and does not need to be worn. It’s the result of visual artists, painters and sculptors expressing themselves through jewellery rather than through their usual medium. Diane explains that jewellery pieces can be “Miniature artworks that often echo the artist’s formal language”.

This reevaluation is long overdue; jewellery has long been missing from museum space, not deemed as “proper” art.  Art jewellery is highly conceptual, it can be complicated and expensive, and the designs tend to only reach those who visit galleries, so it’s often seriously underrated. But this is changing. Increasingly art blurs traditional lines – audiences recognise the interplay of art and design, of art and fashion, plus they also want contemporary art that they can wear – owning a piece a wonderful way of possessing a small piece of an artist’s genius. 

Shop our Art Edit