Earlier this month, a jewelry exhibition opened at the Hermitage Amsterdam, a branch of the famous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Titled “Jewels! The Glitter of the Russian Court,” the exhibition encompasses 300 storied jewels and more than 100 paintings, accessories, and costumes, altogether creating a multimedia snapshot of the wealth and extravagance that informed czar fashion and culture, and St. Petersburg high society, over the course of 200 years.
Masterpieces from Fabergé and Cartier are of course among the showcased treasures, as well as snuff boxes and portraiture of lavishly attired czarinas and empresses.
And a single contemporary jewelry design has been invited to the ball: A ring by celebrated Amsterdam-based designer Bibi van der Velden, a longtime JCK editor favorite, who also serves as the exhibition’s ambassador.
“In my role as ambassador for the Hermitage Amsterdam exhibition, I visited the awe-inspiring Winter Palace in St. Petersburg,” van der Velden said in a statement. “I was struck by how romantic assignations at the Russian court were crucial to the twists and turns of the royal family tree, and how they propelled the cycle of life. This Memento Mori ring represents the beauty of life and its inevitable decay.”
As richly detailed and packed with symbolism as a Tolstoy novel, the Memento Mori ring is infused with all the regal flamboyance that characterized the Russian court.
The sculptural two-finger ring is designed as a parrot tulip that blooms across the hand in 18k yellow gold and sterling silver. Its petals glisten with Gemfields responsibly sourced Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds,
At the cut end of the stem is a moonstone dewdrop. The leaves are crawling with all manner of insects and invertebrates—a rock crystal maggot, a gold spider, gold ants, seed pearl eggs, a gold slug, and a caterpillar.
Another reference to the cycle of life is an 18k gold human figure emerging from an embellished mammoth tusk egg at the center of the flower. Specimens of this 60,000-year-old material have been found under Russia’s Siberian permafrost, another allusion to the country, this time to its infamous ice-covered hinterlands.
The van der Velden ring will be on view at the museum through March 15, 2020.
Top: Bibi Van Der Velden’s Memento Mori ring will be exhibited as part of “Jewels! The Glitter of the Russian Court” at Hermitage Amsterdam.
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