Swiss art collector Thomas W Bechtler founded the online art jewellery portal Gems and Ladders with his business partner Alexander Pertot in 2014. The idea was to commission renowned artists to create limited-edition pieces of art jewellery. The site, which offers designs by Jean Dubuffet, Liam Gillick and Thomas Hirschhorn among others, is a hit in the US, where stockists also include MoMA and the Whitney Museum.
This month, Gems and Ladders launches in London. The latest piece in the collection is by Berlin-based artist Claudia Comte, better known for her public art installations and chiselled wood sculptures. Her preoccupation with carving informs her jewellery design too: ancient mammal bones are formed into semi-circular, polished disks. Each bone is fixed by a pivot, allowing it to be rotationally turned, on the whim of the wearer.
CC, The Neclace, by Claudia Comte
Former Turner Prize winner Martin Boyce's poetically titled Tapping Branches and the Whispering of Leaves earrings take a subtler approach. Linking 18k-gold, geometric shapes, they recall the Glaswegian artist’s hanging, minimalist light sculptures. Since 2005, when Boyce became acquainted with the Arbres Cubiste garden sculptures by French brothers Jan and Joël Martel, his work has drawn upon this abstract, minimalist vocabulary. Now, his first foray into jewellery design speaks the same language.
Tapping Branches and the Whispering of Leaves earrings, and Imagine Sunlight on Closed Eyelids Through a Canopy of Leaves (for S), by Martin Boyce
Alongside new commissions, the Gems and Ladders collection includes a host of archival art jewellery, including German-Swiss surrealist Meret Oppenheim's playful 1978 Fur ring.
Though the existing roster of Gems and Ladders design alumni is impressive, Bechtler and Pertot are constantly bringing new designers into the fold. Coming soon are American artist Doug Aitken and Chinese artists Cao Fei and Gu Wenda. Further innovative use of materials and encouraged 'weirdness' are sure to ensue, resulting in a covetable collection of design objects fit to decorate the body or indeed the walls of a gallery.