Gems and Ladders is not your regular e-gallery. It displays works by world-famous names such as Turner Prize-winning Scottish sculptor Martin Boyce, as well as rising stars like Swiss artist Claudia Comte, but all with one crucial difference: they are meant to be worn.
Founded by Swiss art collector Thomas W Bechtler and start-up supporter Alexander Pertot in 2014, the site showcases an exclusive, limited edition selection of jewellery by contemporary artists. Bechtler invites the artists to create pieces for his project and gives them total creative freedom, letting them collaborate with skilled jewellers and craftspeople to make their vision a wearable reality. “We work with a studio in Switzerland that orchestrates the whole process,” explains Bechtler. “They consult with everyone from wood specialists to musicians and IT technicians.”
Boyce has translated his penchant for modernist design and architecture into a striking 18ct gold chain necklace (Imagine Sunlight on Closed Eyelids Through a Canopy of Leaves (for S), SFr18,600, about £14,900) that echoes the visual language of geometric shapes seen in works such as his installation Do Words Have Voices. Comte, meanwhile, is best known for her site-specific installations featuring sculptural forms alongside graphic, abstract wall paintings. Her interest in the results that emerge from the slight movement of a small number of variables is demonstrated in her bold CC, The Necklace (about £10,600), which consists of two semicircular discs of polished mammoth bone that can be set in 16 different configurations.
Also inspired by architecture and design are American artist Carol Bove’s blackened aluminium and silver earrings (Untitled, about £6,200), which recreate the light fittings that hang outside the David H Koch Theater in New York. Another standout is the delightfully subversive fur and burnished gold bracelet (Fur Bracelet, about £43,200) made in 1936 by surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim, a contemporary of Pablo Picasso.
Bechtler has just announced collaborations with American artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken and Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei. The results are still to be revealed but, as Bechtler says, they will bring “the energy and power of art to jewellery” – which is bound to be an interesting mix.