D rawing on Mr. Graff’s personal passion for art and his most recent jewelry collections inspired by great artists, Sotheby’s celebrates the very best of Graff jewels by drawing parallels with art, specifically through light and form. A foundation of any work of art, Sotheby’s explores how these fundamental principles have spanned centuries of art history. From Neolithic jade carvings to Renaissance and Modern sculpture and finally to Mr. Graff, artisans have unlocked the hidden beauty in raw materials, to reveal inner brilliance, light, form and innate value.
“From the way we bring diamonds together through the skillful cutting of the stone to the making of each special piece, this is a great art form. We design what we consider to be the world’s finest jewellery. For us, it is essential that a jewel should have a mystique. There must be something enthralling and beautiful about it to capture the imagination.”
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"Graff designs are prized as contemporary classics, allowing the stones to shine supreme, capturing the timelessness that is the essence of great jewels and gems through history"
The way that any three-dimensional object interacts with light is crucial to how it is enjoyed by the viewer. With diamonds, it is the skillful cut that determines how the jewel refracts and reflects light from a brilliant sparkle to a rich, warm glint. The extraordinary reflective properties of diamonds sometimes make it appear as though the gems themselves are emitting light, almost playing a trick on the viewer as American artist James Turrell experiments with through his large-scale light and space sculptures, and the hidden depths of his immersive glowing projections.
In both cases, what might appear simplistic is deceptively a meticulous balance of proportion and placement. Worn as jewelry, diamonds are constantly moving and catching different light sources from different angles, meaning the careful design and composition of pieces is essential to ensure that the stone is displayed at its best.
The resulting sense of mystique invoked might be compared to Alexander Calder’s signature wire mobiles. Gently shifting in space to allow light to dance and play across the surfaces of suspended shapes and blocks of colour, his kinetic works ask the viewer to look more closely and even question what they observe.
"Gently shifting in space to allow light to dance and play across the surfaces of suspended shapes and blocks of colour"
From the potter deftly smoothing soft clay at their wheel, to the furniture maker meticulously carving intricate detail into ancient solid oak, to the sculptor honing vast blocks of marble into lifelike figures, centuries of human craftsmanship have seen masterful artists and designers turn the earth’s raw materials into objects of extraordinary beauty.
The journey of transforming rough diamonds and gemstones into exquisite pieces of fine jewelry is no different. All require a wealth of knowledge, expertise, skill, creativity and flair to realise the full potential and true beauty that may be unlocked by reimagining the form of natural resources. These raw materials are moulded, shaped, engraved, polished, whittled and hewn to tell new stories that will stand the test of time.
It is in the power of the artist or craftsperson to imbue these materials with emotion and life, from the sensuous rippling muscles of Rodin to the vivid naturalism of Michelangelo. And thus in Graff’s pieces – in which diamonds might be set tightly together in playful clusters, rounded into symbols of feminine strength, or arranged more sparingly in showers of stones that almost appear as flowing liquid – the raw material, mined from the earth, is made into miniature sculptures to be worn: works of art to enthrall, captivate and dazzle.
In this episode of Expert Voices, Sotheby’s specialists from across different disciplines discuss the very best of Graff jewels and how light, form and movement have influenced the art of craftsmanship.