(Nytimes)-A pendant by Otto Jakob with a pair of jeweled yarrow blossoms protected by rock crystal planes inside a gold frame.
On a spring night in 1980, Otto Jakob woke from a vivid dream filled with wild images and jewels. In a haze, he reached for a notebook and began to describe it: “Head. Eye. Hand holds something. Blossom.”
The page became what he now calls his manifesto.
Nearly four decades later, that manifesto and the jewelry it inspired are the subject of “Ripe Fruit,” a monograph published in October by the German publisher Hatje Cantz. With 309 photographs and a text by the jewelry historian Vivienne Becker, the book is a comprehensive archive of the self-taught German goldsmith’s artistry.
Until that night, Mr. Jakob, now 67, had pursued a career as a painter. But the dream changed all that: He told his girlfriend, now his wife, “I’ve found my target.”
The pieces he has created since then, reflecting the influences of Renaissance, medieval and Northern Mannerist gold- and silversmiths, are baroque in their complexity and rich ornamentation. “I am not interested in making a minimalistic piece of jewelry,” Mr. Jakob said in a phone interview from his studio in Karlsruhe, Germany.
ImageEarrings by Mr. Jakob featuring ivory blossoms, diamond-set pistils, matte-orange anthers and enameled white-gold stems.
Earrings by Mr. Jakob featuring ivory blossoms, diamond-set pistils, matte-orange anthers and enameled white-gold stems.
This is clearly illustrated in “Ripe Fruit”: A white enamel hand, adorned with sapphire rings and bracelet, clasps a fire salamander dressed in black enamel and detailed with a coral tongue. The entire pendant is just two inches long.
Most of his creations are inspired by nature, Mr. Jakob said, like earrings of white lilies of the valley cast in gold and embellished with swirls. Many are also fantastical, incorporating serpents, dragons, griffins and other mythical beasts. “Amulets,” Ms. Becker calls the work in the monograph.
ImageA dragon bracelet by Mr. Jakob. Many of his works are fantastical, incorporating mythical beasts.
A dragon bracelet by Mr. Jakob. Many of his works are fantastical, incorporating mythical beasts.
The designer agrees. “I want my pieces to be carriers of meaning, not just empty decorations,” Mr. Jakob said.
The page that Mr. Jakob refers to as his manifesto had been lost years ago and was rediscovered during the process of preparing the monograph. Only then, he said, did he realize how closely he had followed it over the years.
Still, he added in an email, his designs and technique have evolved over the decades, as have his skills. He describes his recent work as freer, “in that one idea can simultaneously develop into a reductive and an opulent piece, both of which are part of the same narrative” — the result of a dream that is still becoming true.