Pearls have long been the stuff of legends, and their luminescent forms, swathed in symbolism, make them natural embellishments. UK-based artist and goldsmith Joy Bonfield-Colombara is the latest jeweller to look beyond the traditionally perfect clean white orb of a pearl, embracing pearls in moody hues with asymmetrical silhouettes. Her work, taking inspiration from the sea, intertwines Jung’s theory of the sea as the unconscious with surrealist influences for jewellery both playful and sensual.

Grey pearl earrings hanging from golden hoops

The resulting pieces put the pearl front and centre, looping them on gleaming curves which graze the jawline. ‘If I say ‘think of a pearl’ – I do understand that most people would probably think of a perfect white orb,’ says Bonfield-Colombara. ‘This is the standardised way in which we have been marketed and taught to perceive them. Why I use a certain pearl is because it speaks to me. As an artist, I think of a concept and how certain colours and forms convey that.’ She is drawn to colours of pearls which reflect the deep blues, greens and blacks of the sea; juxtaposed against warm golds and silvery yellows, they become iridescent. ‘This to me is like the moonlight on the sea at night or sunshine refracting through water,’ she adds.

The sculptural forms of the pearls deconstruct the art which inspires them, referencing Hellenistic sculpture in their fluid forms which, when paired with a contemporary design, come full circle. ‘Storytelling is so important, and imagination - the ability to dream and create fantasies. As we get older we are taught to stop playing,’ says Bonfield-Colombara. ‘I think it is so important to hold onto the ability to ‘play’ and be imaginative. I want my work to have this magical and mythical aspect to it. It creates a key into a doorway of dreams.’ §
 

Grey and white pearl earrings with precious stones