The Key

As a part of the 1001 jeweled fantasy series, I started in the late 1980s creating a series of jeweled Keys, constructed mostly out of 18 karat gold but two were made of platinum. Each key is unique. Each explores a design tradition that works with a particular theme and represents a culture, time place or event. They are set with precious stones, diamonds and pearls. The keys are in the series are primarily pendants but a few of them were made as broaches.


Monogrammed Key

Beardsley Keynotes


As a request, I created a key amulet or talisman for a client that combines all of the members of her family into one monogram key.

This Key is based on the “Keynote” monogram designs of Aubrey Beardsley and is a departure from all of the rest of the keys in the 1001 jeweled fantasy series. It is made of blackened sterling silver and black pearls. This key was a lost wax casting whereas most of the other keys were hand forged and fabricated.

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872 –1898) was an English illustrator, considered an artistic and musical prodigy and author who at the age of seven contracted tuberculosis. The disease confined him to his bed, his life expectancy was brief and he succumbed to the disease when he was 26. It would seem that Beardsley’s health issues were linked with his fascination with the macabre and the grotesque. His drawings in black ink, influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, the Art Nouveau, aesthetic art movements emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the aesthetic movement He had a close friendship with Oscar Wilde, a fellow accomplice in an artistic battle against Victorian morality. Wilde’s Salome was illustrated by Beardsley. Beardsley was completely debauched. He was caught in up in a relentless series of scandals and was condemned as a pornographer. His career was ruined by infamous rumors and his sordid reputation.

Beardsleys keynotes

Beardsleys keynotes

However; His is popularity underwent a revival starting in the 1970s and his work now brings insight to new generations.

 In his lifetime Beardsley produced beautiful Illustrations of monogram Keys that combined powerful elements of Symbolism and are executed in his recognizable style, a mixture of the Art Nouveau. Pre-Raphaelite Japanese art for “ Keynotes” a series of 34 novels and short story collections published by John Lane starting in 1893. Lane had Aubrey Beardsley produce cover designs and embellishments for 22 of the titles in 1895. For the project, Beardsley created a series of key-shaped monograms which were used on the spines and the backs of the books.

I took direct inspiration from his designs and this Key is intended to give the impression that one of his illustrations has come to life. These Key designs absolutely fascinated and I have always been a fan of Beardsley… so how could one refuse such an interesting diversion?

monogram key drawing

Wax of monogram key

The Design is Done in Graphite on Paper,

actual size...

The key was hand carved in wax. Cast in sterling silver.

The finished piece was treated with Liver of Sulphur to create a deep black patina with a luster to look like the India ink used by Beardsley in the original monogram drawings.

This key, along with all of the others in the series is out there somewhere living a life of its own.

See the complete gallery of this key being made below