Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Devlin "Blue Eyes" Brooches, 1978

The Victoria & Albert Museum

For some reason, I felt like dragging out these weird brooches, today. 

Though kind of creepy, this pair of brooches is also cute and, certainly, opulent. The brooches are rendered in the form of two blue eyes with pupils of black pearls, irises of sapphires and diamonds, and the whites of diamonds. The eyelids are ridged in gold.

Historically, eyes were frequently depicted in jewelry—as portrait miniature mementos in elaborate jeweled frames which were given by a lady to her love. This work from the 1970s is an interesting play on that idea. And, truly, if you examine it, with the exception of the portrait miniatures, the use of human body parts in jewelry design has, historically, been anything but literal. Stuart Devlin, the creator of these “eye” brooches adds a note of surrealism to his design which make these jewels all the more interesting from an art historical standpoint and all the more flashy from the standpoint of fashion.

In London in the 1960s, a group of jewelers emerged, offering new ways of looking at jewelry and catering to women in high society who were once again turning to their jewels as a way of expressing their wealth and status. Like the jewelers of the Victorian era, these modern masters knew that, for the upper-class woman, what mattered most was an expression of individuality,

Stuart Devlin was certainly one of the best of this crop of contemporary British jewelers. The Australia-born Devlin was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art, London in 1958 and afterwards at Columbia University in the US. In 1965, he returned to London and opened a workshop where he designed jewelry, silver, trophies, coinage, medallions, furniture and interiors. He was granted the Royal Warrant of Goldsmith and Jeweller to Her Majesty the Queen in 1982.

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