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Britt’s Pick: Bibi van der Velden’s Unicorn on a Pearl


A unicorn. So much more than the magical creature we often see emblazoned upon children’s clothing and accessories (which are basically everywhere you look). The unicorn is a symbol of uniqueness, bravery, freedom, innocence, pride—its interpretations are numerous.

Do you remember that one summer when unicorns were everywhere? Not just for children adorned in rainbows but for everyone, especially millennials. Starbucks released its Unicorn Frappuccino, unicorn toast replaced the long-reigning avocado, and people started dyeing their hair pastel colors of the rainbow. Somehow this mass embrace of all things rainbow didn’t make it tiresome. It seems we really have no limit to the amount of rainbow goodies we can take.

Don’t mistake the unicorn as being synonymous with kiddies and cute culture, though. The mythical being has a rich history, and some of it is rather adult in nature.

I’ll personally never look at a unicorn the same way after visiting the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry in Paris, an exhibit of six woven works on display at the Musée de Cluny, acquired in 1882 but believed to be from sometime around the 1500s.

The tapestries represent the five senses, but there are six works of art. The last—Mon seul désir (or “my sole desire”)—is believed by some art historians to represent, putting it plainly, sex.

So yeah, not all rainbows and puppy dogs when it comes to unicorns, is it?

Which brings me to this: The unicorn is sophisticated, it’s complicated, it’s multilayered. It’s playful, but it can also be fierce. And the work of Bibi van der Velden, as ever, portrays that beautifully.

Perched atop a glossy baroque pearl, our gold-faced unicorn, sparkling in black diamonds, sends streams of colored sapphires running down, a rainbow of color that has a touch of youthfulness but with a luxury that could only be for grown-ups.

Aside from the unicorn angle, there’s the matter of the pearl: The cloudlike gem seen here illustrates designers’ creativity in putting it to use, and lovers of pearl might even see the horned beast as secondary to its larger pearl element.

While animals in luxury jewelry have become somewhat of a trend lately, the Amsterdam-based designer was creating them long before our post(ish?)-pandemic world warranted excess whimsy.

No matter the era, the magic of a unicorn is always a welcome sight.

Top: Animal collection pendant in 18k rose and yellow gold and sterling silver with diamonds, sapphires, tsavorite, and amethyst, $17,075; Bibi van der Velden

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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