As all the great artists of the Twentieth Century, Dalí wanted to see his iconographic images in various mediums. Having always been fascinated by precious metals and rare jewels, Dalí created a body of work in jewelery and jeweled objects. He viewed himself as a Renaissance Man; to invent, imagine, paint, sculpt, and supervise artisans as did
the great artists of the past. According to Dalí, gold was a “celebration of the soul, a sign of purity” to be symbolized in his work, as a guarantee of eternity and an opportunity to be in harmony with the Cosmos. “In jewels, as in all my art, I create what I love” – Salvador Dalí
The history of jewels in Dalí’s artistic oeuvre goes back to the beginning of the 1940’s and lasted to the end of the 1970’s. In New York, he became associated with two fine art jewelers, Ertman and Alemany and collaborated with them to produce a major collection of art jewels.
In 1958, the Cheatham Foundation purchased the jeweled collection and added some new pieces. Today this collection is known the world over and is subject of several books.
In the 1950’s , Dalí collaborated with the extravagant designer Mafalda Davis. Together they created elegant gold cutlery with precious gems and spectacular tableware combining Davis’s sense of style and Dalí’s famous imagery. Studded rubies, rock crystal, and sapphires are some of the gems used in the vermillion plated place settings. They also produced a series of fantastic objects, in 18 karat gold, including, “Le Pain et le Vin” and “Oursin à Crayons”, a mythical sea urchin with genuine ivory teeth.
During the late 1960’s, Dalí went on to create twelve pure gold objects assembled from his Dalí d’Or coin collection. They included magical mirrors, pendants with serpent motifs and emblems in honour of the sun. Each coin is inlaid with the effigy of the great Catalan artist, together with his wife and lifetime muse, Gala.
He was inspired to style his coins after the one of most extravagant kings, Louis XIV, the ‘ Sun King’, who created his Luis d’ Or collection of gold coins adorned with his own image.
As Dalí himself said in 1959, when commenting on the jewels he created ‘ Paladin of a new Renaissance, I too refuse to be confined(……. ) In jewels, as I all my art, I create what I love ‘.
Recently in Sotheby’s New York, a pair of Telephone Ear Clips (1949) created in 18kt yellow gold, with rubies, emeralds and diamonds were auctioned and the estimate was $180,000- $200,000, These precious ear clips were conceived by Dalí in 1949, and created by New York jeweler Alemany & Co. Dalí created several jewelry items purportedly for Elisa Schiaparelli, including the telephone Compact, an exemplar of which was recently sold in Sotheby’s New York.
The continued popularity of the rare items that combine art, haute couture, and jewelry, emphasize the continuing relevance of Dalí as an artist in a sphere for which he is probably less well- know, that of jewelry design and creation.