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The French Artist Daniel Hourdé’s Take on Jewelry

PARIS — An 18-karat gold ring looked like a crown of thorns, studded with diamonds and cradling a 49-carat citrine. Another ring resembled skeletal fingers, in gold and rubies, holding a 48.16-carat amethyst. And a third ring had sharply pointed gold and diamond teeth, biting into a large shimmering gray pearl.

The jewelry came from the imagination of the French contemporary artist Daniel Hourdé. “The themes of my sculptures are mythological and biblical,” he said, sitting in a heavily carved baronial chair in his studio on Paris’s Left Bank.

But what explains the menacing, disturbing darkness of the designs? “The darkness is the best way to exorcise death,” he said. By creating it, he can control it.

In Paris, Mr. Hourdé’s exhibited pieces have included “Martyrium Mundi,” a crown of thorns encircling a metal globe, that stood on the Quai Conti in 2021; four monumental sculptures, 1,000 drawings on metal and other works shown in the Chapelle St.-Louis de la Salpêtrière in 2019; and eight life-size metal figures and 10 metal trees placed along the pedestrian Pont des Arts after 45 tons of lovers’ locks caused its railings to collapse in 2016.

“When I was in Brazil in 2015 for exhibitions,” he said, “I saw some gemstones I could buy, which gave me the idea of creating jewelry.” He chose large semiprecious gems — imperial topaz, yellow sapphire, pink tourmaline, green quartz, fire opal and even a 69-carat kunzite — and has paired them with small precious gems like rubies, emeralds and diamonds in a series of intricately detailed rings and cuff links, executed by ateliers around Paris. (The rings are 20,000 to 50,000 euros, or $22,050 to $55,130; cuff links start at about €9,000.)

His jewelry, like his sculptures, are made in the traditional lost wax method, and a pan, more than five feet wide, holds the wax needed for the process over a burner in his atelier.

The crown of thorns is a popular theme for the artist, who said he first used it about 25 years ago. “The crown is a symbol of power,” Mr. Hourdé said, but added that, as with everything in his world, there is a downside: “Power is ephemeral, and it can destroy.” In his home, a glass table top rests on a base resembling a metal crown of thorns; another metal crown of thorns hangs on the wall, like a large round picture frame; and a statue of a thorn-crowned Christ on the cross is visible in a recessed space in the floor, protected by a glass panel.

Mr. Hourdé’s jewelry, furnishings and artwork may be viewed by appointment at his atelier, where he lives with his wife, who is a lawyer, and their son and daughter. The rooms are packed with works ready to be shipped or still in progress by the artist, who is dressed, as always, in an orange jumpsuit, because “orange is the color of hope.”

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Mohammad SHiblu

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