GEM Montebello was founded by the husband and wife team of Gian Carlo Montebello and Teresa Pomodoro in 1967 for the purpose of producing limited edition jewelry designed by the prominent artists of the day. From 1967 to 1978 Montebello and Pomodoro worked with over 50 artists, including César, Sonia Delaunay, Claude Lalanne, Lucio Fontana, Man Ray, Hans Richter, Larry Rivers, Niki de Saint Phalle, Raphael Jesus Soto, Ettore Sottsass and Alex Katz, and quickly established a reputation for turning out some of the most fascinating and imaginative artist-made jewelry of the time.
In 1968 Montebello and Pomodoro met the Italian photographer Ugo Mulas. Mulas, best known for his extraordinary body of images documenting the New York Pop art scene in the mid to late 1960s, was extremely impressed with GEM's designs and generously offered to photograph the jewelry at no charge and even found the models who wore them. Montebello describes GEM's first catalogue as, "really like a deck of cards. The box was fire-red on the outside, with the GEM logo while the inside was a splendid series of black-and-white photos by Ugo Mulas." Shortly after the release of the catalogue, the Mulas' stunning photographs were published in American Vogue.
In order to produce their progressive designs the Milan based GEM worked with a great variety of materials and relied upon a wide variety of the local craftsman; not only skilled goldsmiths and silversmiths but also more industrial trades such as those who worked with acrylic resin and galvanized steel.
GEM's artist made jewelry is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Examples have also been on view in numerous exhibitions including the Italian Metamorphosis, curated by Germano Celant for the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1993-1994). Images of various pieces have also been widely reproduced, seen in, among other publications, Fifty Years of Italian Artists, Jewels edited by Luisa Somaini and Claudio Cerritelli and published in 1996.
The present collection of 19 jewels - with the exception of lot 293 - were purchased by the present collector direclty from GEM.
Many of Lucio Fontana's jewelry designs for GEM clearly draw upon his concetto spaziale series, begun in 1949, where he punctured and slashed his canvasses (or in the early 1960s flat pieces of metal), thus creating voids.