Gemstone

About

Because of their scarcity and beauty, gemstones such as diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies have been used for centuries to indicate wealth, status, and power in visual culture. Some ancient societies believed certain gemstones had supernatural properties, and many cultures have their own gem lore. In religious art—including that of Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism—gemstones decorate devotional offerings and divine objects such as reliquaries, altars, and holy book covers to indicate their sacred importance. Likewise, around the world, royal and ruling classes have long used gemstones in their jewelry and décor, a tradition updated in French contemporary jewelry designer Victoire de Castellane's fantastical rings and necklaces. Playing on this history of ornament and its signification, Damien Hirst's For the Love of God (2007), a platinum skull with over 8,000 diamonds, demonstrates the spectacle, dominance, and status-generating capabilities of the current art market.