Pearls have long been a symbol of status and beauty in various cultures around the world. Though they are rather gross when you think about where they come from, it’s an impressive feat of nature. Once cleaned up, they can have a shine, a color, and a unique smoothness nearly unrivaled in the natural world.
So then what happens when you take something natural and turn it into something equally beautiful yet infinitely more morbid? Japanese artist, designer, and sculptor Shinji Nakaba has the answer. He has been delicately carving pearls into tiny skulls for the purpose of jewelry.
The detail present in these pieces that are barely larger than a pea is astounding, and Shinji has been making jewelry like this since 1974. He is a fan of the ‘wearable sculpture’ school of artistic thought, and has exhibited his work on his own and as part of a group.
Speaking about his process and ethos, he says “I use not only precious metals and stones but also something usual, such as aluminum Beer can or plastic bottle, or even some discarded materials. I’m dealing all the materials equally no matter how precious they are; bringing out their hidden talents and beauty, then being re-born as treasure.”