Papier Passions

Cecily Motley’s 5 (over the) Top Art Jewellery Pieces

The art jewellery aficionado talks the bold, the big, the beautiful.




Eleanor Taylor

If you’re watching this year’s The Great British Bake Off, you might find yourself drawn to the rather oversized, artistic creations on screen. Yes, we’re talking about Prue Leith’s mammoth necklaces, not the show-stopping bakes. The presenter’s penchant for larger-than-life designs got us thinking about the top OTT jewellery pieces recently. And who better to cast their beady eye over the strongest contenders than Cecily Motley – Papier pal, art jewellery expert and co-founder of Motley London?

alt textMotley London x Sian Evans
18k gold vermeil on 925 silver with Majorcan pearl back

After studying History at Oxford, Cecily immersed herself in the art jewellery world, working for the prestigious Christie’s auction house then as director of Mayfair’s Louisa Guinness Gallery – a space that collaborates with contemporary artists, like Anish Kapoor and Ed Ruscha, as well as dealing with works by 20th century artists, from Alexander Calder to Picasso.

Realising that art jewellery pieces were far out of most people’s budget, Cecily co-founded Motley London in 2017 with Ilana Lever– a jewellery brand on a mission to democratise design. “I saw that the leading jewellery designers – sculptors, engineers and artists all in one – weren’t being recognised for their brilliance. Motley London is jewellery done differently: we collaborate with the world’s leading jewellery designers on exclusive collections that are brilliantly designed, beautifully crafted and – crucially – absolutely affordable.”

Read on for Cecily’s rundown of her favourite art jewellery pieces…

alt text
1. Alexander Calder’s Jealous Husband Necklace
“You can’t speak about big or OTT without talking about Alexander Calder. He was an American artist who redefined the horizons of sculpture – by making it move. His jewellery was intended to subsume the wearer in an art performance; they are wonderfully oversized contraptions. This piece is my all-time favourite.”

alt text
2. Salvador Dali’s The Eye of Time
“Dali worked with New York jewellers to make an amazing group of Surrealist pieces – dripping hearts, pearly smiles (literally a mouth made of ruby with pearl teeth) and this crying eye brooch/watch. There are only four known examples of the piece, most of which have come up at auction for eye-watering prices.”

alt text
3. Claude Lalanne’s Serpent Necklace
“The wonderful surrealist Claude Lalanne, one half of the artistic duo ‘Les Lalannes’ is a metalsmith who has made jewellery alongside her sculpture all her life. She uses the ancient technique of electroplating to create wearable copper sculptures. This isn’t OTT. This is JUST THE RIGHT LEVEL.”

alt text
4. Lucio Fontana’s Anti Sofia Necklace
“The story goes that Sofia Loren went to Fontana’s studio. After irritating the artist with various requests, Sofia demanded that he make her a jewel. Fontana devised this necklace that can only be worn by a flat-chested woman: on Sofia the spike would become a lethal weapon (!)”

alt text
5. Motley London x Sian Evans’ Bubble Earrings
“I couldn’t write a list without including some of the conversation stoppers in the Motley London launch collection. Sian Evans is cult British jeweller designer and former lecturer at Central Saint Martins, who creates designs inspired by her love of art, design and technology. Her bubble earrings are 18k gold vermeil on 925 silver, with a Majorcan pearl back.”

Head to Motley London's gleaming new website here.