Unreal Jewelry

More and more jewelry brands are diving into the metaverse and embracing NFTs. Here is why digital jewelry you cannot even wear in the real world is so expensive.

Text: Polina Samorodok

NFTs and luxury increasingly seem to go hand in hand. NFT art is taking over the world, with numerous artists eager to earn an extra buck on Web3 and make a name for themselves. A 2007 Banksy piece was the first artwork to ever become an NFT. Injective Protocol, a blockchain company, bought his piece called Morons (White), physically burned it, and then digitized it as a non-fungible token, or NFT. 3LAU was the first musician to revolutionize the music industry. A pioneer of intertwining music and blockchain, he sold his album as an NFT and made $11.6m. The media are getting on the NFT bandwagon, too. TIME designed its cover, “Is Fiat Dead?”, exclusively as NFT, hitting the mainstream and staying ahead of the curve. The jewelry world is eager to join in on the NFT craze and experiment with digital art.

What is an NFT?

An NFT is a non-fungible token. It is a protocol recorded in a blockchain; it cannot be substituted or copied, meaning the asset is unique.

NFTs can come in the form of music, pictures, GIFs, or any other content that cannot be reproduced or copied. By buying an NFT, you obtain ownership of a unique token. In other words, NFTs are digital goods, so they are very similar to cryptocurrencies. They are basically a code you can buy with cryptocurrency or fiat (physical) money. A user chooses how to pay from the options offered by the provider or NFT owner.

Your file is stored on a digital wallet and recorded in the blockchain. As mentioned before, you can replace an NFT with another one, except when their respective owners choose to barter—perfect for industries where creation and originality dominate, like paintings, design, jewelry, and what have you.

Tiffany and CryptoPunk

Tiffany & Co. announced in August 2022 that it would be launching a new line of NFT-inspired pendants. It sold out in 20 minutes. The NFTiff collection was limited to holders of CryptoPunks only, contemporary art NFTs that comprise the modern crypto art movement. Tiffany & Co. collaborated with the creators of CryptoPunks to dive into the world of cryptojpegs.

The initiative was spearheaded by CryptoPunk and Alexandre Arnault, Tiffany VP. Each NFTiff represented a digital pass to the tune of $50k, or 30 Ethereum (ETH). You could buy it on the NFTiff website for cryptocurrency—fiat money was not accepted. Sufficient funds could buy an NFT CryptoPunk owner up to three digital passes (pendants). The digital pass allowed CryptoPunk owners to redeem a custom physical pendant resembling the CryptoPunk NFT, which would be modeled after the user’s CryptoPunk avatar and feature the CryptoPunk unique ID.

Each physical piece will be set in an 18-karat rose or yellow gold chain and feature at least 30 gemstones and diamonds, Tiffany said. The company custom designed the chain in the style of pixels, which was inspired by the pixel NFT CryptoPunk art.

Bulgari Metaverse

Italian luxury brand Bulgari has also joined the metaverse. At the 2022 Vivotech, the brand unveiled its metaverse concept. Vivotech is Europe’s largest technology conference dedicated to innovation and start-ups, so it was the perfect place for Bulgari to announce its NFT plans. Brand CEO Jean-Christophe Babin’s avatar welcomed visitors in a journey through a metaphysical Rome to admire the views from the rooftop of the Bulgari virtual store, with the opportunity to interact with the reproductions of Bulgari’s jewels, all enveloped in the gorgeous sunset.

This was only the first step. The company went on to launch its first NFT jewel, Beyond Wonder, designed by Lucia Silvestri—an audacious foray into the cryptoworld. The digital jewels wrap around the body, neck, and face like a climbing plant. It would be almost impossible to wear it in real life. Of course, that is what the metaverse is for: it transcends boundaries and trailblazers NFT jewelry art, where imagination’s the only limit.

Francis de Lara’s Digital Haute Couture

Francis de Lara is the world’s first fine jewelry-eyewear brand; it now takes the next step in its evolution and introduces Eve, its first NFT collection, based on the imitable and iconic gold eyewear design featuring Gemfields’ Zambian emeralds. Francis de Lara is all about marrying innovation and history, embracing both the past and the present, taking a deep dive into the future. This design takes us back to the Renaissance, romanticizing and embodying the evolutionary time of art and creation.

The real-life Eve glasses are handmade, featuring two golden serpents as the side temples. The larger, Gemfields’ emerald-encrusted serpent’s tail curves around the wearer’s ear and transforms into a miniature tourmaline apple dangling from the earlobe. The second serpent sparkles with cognac diamonds, pink sapphires, and 18-karat gold cabochons. They are joined by empty trompe-l'oeil settings, making the piece look like an ancient creation that has lost one or two gems over the course of time. There are white enamel details on both serpents’ faces. The tongue-in-cheek creation design is the epitome of the creationism concept, the idea that we were all created out of nothing by God.

BNV reproduced this stunning creation in the virtual world, whereas the real glasses are actually available for sale at £19,800. Francis de Lara’s idea behind the NFT was that any person could buy an haute couture artwork as a digital copy. That was how their creative director came up with the NFT concept for the legendary eyewear. The NFT drop will consist of 10 Eve pairs.

ЦDigital Stones with Soul by Ellen Sheidlin

Ellen Sheidlin is the ideologist of a new direction in art—survirtualism. She revealed her first NFT collection in the summer of 2022. Released on the TON blockchain, the Annihilation collection was presented on the Ton Diamonds marketplace, featuring 1000 avatars, each representing a stone with its own special soul.

An NFT holder could only see the stone after the purchase; in six days, though, it opened up to reveal the hidden avatars, transforming into a surrealist creature—a bird, an animal, an insect, or a plant.

The Genesis AI-generated collection features thousands of digital stones modeled after 28 unique NFT stones designed by the artist.

The dynamic NFT stones are as good as alive, changing over time into something completely different, representing a new page in the NFT development history.

Dynamic NFTs can change based on external conditions. You might assume we are basically talking about a GIF or a video, but it is not necessarily that. Think of it this way: we all grow, age, and put on weight. We are changing creatures, and so are dynamic NFTs.

Phygital Experience by Simone Faurschou

Scandinavian-born designer Simone Faurschou unveiled her new NFT jewelry collection before showcasing its physical counterparts. Her Blockchain collection features white and yellow gold blocks linked with chains and bejeweled with cultured diamonds, evoking our relationship with technology. It is called phygital (a portmanteau of physical and digital). The entire concept bridges the gap between digital and physical experiences, mixing them, bringing them together.

The pandemic has all but destroyed the traditional ways of connecting with people. Technology has helped us piece it all back together, creating new ways of reaching out. “It is a play on the fact that NFTs and the blockchain (in the context of crypto) inherently are linked to currencies and gold, whilst also literally representing the technology behind it all via a physical chain of gold blocks. Just like blockchains are immutable, a fine gold jewelry piece is timeless and unchangeable,” explained Faurschou.

Simone Faurschou — один из ярких примеров диджитал-искусства. Сегодня это направление все больше становится популярным. Так, в сентябре 2022 года Sotheby’s провел первые торги ювелирных изделий, созданных художниками. Среди лотов было фиджитал-кольцо, созданное Франсин Баллард из Metagolden (платформа, которая продает произведения искусства, ювелирные и фэшн-изделия в сотрудничестве с брендами, художниками и цифровыми создателями). Счастливчик, которому досталось кольцо Франсин Баллард получал сразу и физическое украшение, и его диджитал-версию, которую можно «носить» в метавселенной.

Shall jewelry brands compare NFTs to rough diamonds? They are both unique and open to countless possibilities. NFTs are getting stronger and more sophisticated with each passing day, project, and collaboration. No wonder we keep finding new ways to apply it in business and art, with new technology taking over the world and focusing on digital reality.