Gems 187 illustrates a pair of cherry red rubies, the far ruby a rectangular shape, the close a princess cut, the traditional shape of many wedding rings. The rubies have a cartoonish appearance; with only two tones of red, this simplicity is offset by intricately drawn sketch marks woven into the gems. The sketches create the dimensionality of layers in the stones without use of other colors. A pale yellow in the background creates a light contrast, as do the white wing-like shadows around the stones.
Gems 187 is the most simple work in Gems; it is also the least realistic. While a contrasting piece like Gems 188, which depicts a radiant emerald stone, uses geometric black shadows to show a gemstone’s translucent depth and white sparkling highlights to imitate reality, Gems 187 banks on hand drawn elements to allude to its crystalline form. The animation of Gems 187 also harkens to Warhols’ pop art background with its simple, bold color scheme, plus the depiction of items renowned by pop culture as expensive and elegant.
Warhol’s interference with the drawing process acknowledges his appreciation of the gem. Using his own hand to create the intricacies of layered stone, Warhol goes through the process of cutting and forming the stone to his idea of perfection, giving unique speculation about how the stone should look through his eyes.
He also pays homage to gemstones by separating the stone from it’s parent piece of jewelry. Since gems are tactile objects that engage sight, touch, and most often movement through dynamic refracting light and shadows, Warhol includes fun stylization like the winged shadows to exaggerate this feeling of movement and the freedom gems have on their own.
Though Warhol did flaunt his jewelry, he did collect jewelry, including pieces from new celebrity jewelers like Cartier, along with vintage ones. He enjoyed putting the expensive pieces from his collection on display at home, or wearing them to lavish parties.
Warhol was such an avid lover of gemstones and jewelry that he once declared, “It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Elizabeth Taylor’s finger.” Her ruby ring is rumored to have been the inspiration behind Gems 186.
Gems 187 is a playfully expressive screenprint. Warhol’s articulate hand-drawn elements create volume to otherwise simple shapes, and he venerates the raw beauty of precious stones. The adornments of wings create a work that enlivens the otherwise inanimate objects, but personalizes these precious stones in a way we can bear witness to how Warhol saw them.