What To Collect Now - Prints & Editions Report


Andy Warhol’s 1978 Gems portfolio consists of four screen prints, depicting rubies, diamonds, and emeralds. Each complete portfolio, produced as a Unique Edition, contains a different combination of colour variants of the gems, offering a taste of the glamourous exclusivity associated with the subject itself.

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Meaning & Analysis

The Gems series was produced in 1978, toward the end of his career, and consists of four screen prints depicting rubies, diamonds, and emeralds. Despite this, the extent of his love for precious gems was not fully appreciated until after his death, when his cherished hidden jewellery collection was discovered in his former home. Warhol’s Gems series therefore also adopts an autobiographical interpretation: the scale of his wealth and celebrity never truly revealed until after his lifetime.

The Gems series was produced in 1978, toward the end of his career, and consists of four screen prints depicting rubies, diamonds, and emeralds. The series is characteristic of the style of Warhol’s later work, exploring a more expressive technique with the use of hand-drawn lines to emphasise the form and features of the subject he depicts.

Warhol was one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, notorious for his fascination with popular culture, consumerism, and celebrity. Through his obsession with fame and the representation of icons such Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Warhol also developed a fascination with their worlds of wealth and glamour. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the artist chose to dedicate an entire print series to the representation of rare and precious gemstones.

Through this experimental use of lines and colour, Warhol’s Gems series demonstrates his playful approach to traditional still life drawing and contrasts distinctly to the more mechanical aesthetic of his earlier work. This can be seen in other later portfolios such as his Skulland Mick Jagger series. Still, it is particularly evident in Gem 189, in which Warhol portrays a round cut emerald gem, emphasised with colours of greens and blues. Again, the artist subverts the traditional still life with his Pop Art interpretation, contrasting the stone against pink and orange blocks of colour that emphasise the emerald’s green hue.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Gems

Gems (F. & S. II.88) by Andy Warhol

Gems (F. & S. II.88) © Andy Warhol 1978

1. The series depicts three precious stones.

This small print series is formed of four screen prints, each capturing a still life arrangement of precious stones. Across the four prints in the series, Warhol depicted rubies, diamonds, and emeralds. Through the many layers of ink applied during the printing process, Warhol reveals the depth of these luxe stones with an uncharacteristic sense of realism.

The Shadow (unique) © Andy Warhol 1981

The Shadow (unique) © Andy Warhol 1981

2. Warhol had a secret jewellery collection.

Though Warhol was barely ever seen sporting jewellery, he had an extensive collection which was only fully discovered after his death. Among his selection of sparkles were hoards of Cartier, Tiffany, almost 100 watches from the likes of Patek Philippe and Rolex, and countless loose gems. It was perhaps his extensive collection of loose stones - with varying sizes of diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds - which inspired this print series. Warhol might not have worn his gems, but he certainly depicted them with the sensitivity of an avid collector.

Gems (F. & S. II.87) by Andy Warhol

Gems (F. & S. II.87) © Andy Warhol 1978

3. The series pronounces the indelible ties between wealth and beauty.

In Warhol's world, wealth and beauty were practically synonymous. Warhol only surrounded himself with ’beautiful’ people who all came from a league of celebrities and icons. Though the Gems series only depicts the material objects, we can infer the class of their wearers. Indeed, money might not buy you happiness, but it could buy you beauty in Warhol's eyes.

Cantaloupes I (F. & S. II.201) by Andy Warhol

Cantaloupes I (F. & S. II.201) © Andy Warhol 1979