Jack the Ripper made sovereign

Award winning jeweller Nicholas James has immortalised Jack the Ripper in gold… and the public (a collective exaggeration perhaps) is having a royal bitch fest.

The Savage Sovereigns collection includes three rings called Ripper, Tom and Slag, inspired by the story of Jack of Ripper (retailing from £16,795 to £24,995 – yikes!).

Forged from yellow gold and black rhodium, the Ripper ring consecrates the legend of Victorian London’s most prolific murderer with carved slashes that represent the injuries inflicted on the Ripper victims. The Tom ring, made in 18ct white gold, is set with rubies to represent blood and embellished with floral engraving that starts around the outside and flows inside the ring. The Slag ring is made from a special brown gold and is set with brown, white and grey diamonds – some of which are placed upside-down to make the ring, in Fitch’s own words, a form of weapon.

The rings are an ode to jewellery as an art form. Magnificent.

But…

… people are offended.

An article, in Professional Jeweller, describing the rings has elicited a myriad of interesting responses. In precise form, the rings offend because they glamorise violence and celebrate the murder of women thus promoting an attitude of disrespect and callousness toward the Ripper’s victims. They are thought to be distasteful, inconsiderate and demeaning.

Enveloped in the tone of such a response is a severe lack of imagination and an inability to appreciate the philosophy entailed in the notions of art and expression.

As part of London’s dark and diabolically attractive history, the story of Jack the Ripper has sold hundreds of books and films… all of which have unintentionally assisted in the propagation of a myth that transcends its historical context. Jack the Ripper has become a pop culture icon; an icon that belongs to ‘the people’, an icon that escapes the perimeters of reality, an icon that lives in imagination as well as textbooks. Jack the Ripper is thus open to interpretation.

Like the Ripper, Art does not conform to public sensibilities, it is not concerned with appeasing the mores and values of societal constructs and it certainly is not required to provoke comfort. Art challenges. Art imagines. Art affronts.

It thus makes sense that the Savage Sovereigns have incited such extreme reaction but the insipid nature of the complaints is utterly disappointing – never mind boring, un-insightful and conventional. There is no appreciation, no understanding. The complaints stink of double standard. Death as a subject or theme runs rampant through art – it manifests in symbols and images that are as confrontational, if not more so, than Jack the Ripper. And it seems obviously ridiculous to remind complainers that Jack the Ripper is a mechanism in the great tourist machine that drives the city’s economy; he has become a ‘Freddy Krueger’ figure who populates tourist merchandise and is the subject of money-making attractions. But an exquisitely designed, cleverly forged ring is tasteless?

A very real part of London’s sordid, but factual, history has been captured by the imagination of an artist. The rings are a beautiful metaphor of violence, pain, hurt and anguish. The Savage Sovereigns do not patronise: rather than undermining the barbaric nature of the Ripper murders, the rings are tragic reminders of the grotesque brutality inflicted by one man (or two – depending on the theory to which one subscribes). The fact that jewellery, which is made to adorn and compliment, is the artistic medium chosen to render so horrific a travesty is a poignant irony that makes the collection all the more splendid.

Nick Finch, the rings’ designer, has taken the idea of a classic sovereign and revamped it with great artistry and attitude. The Savage Sovereigns are a tribute to history but also a modern realisation of the context of said History. in the year 2011, Jack the Ripper is a symbol of fantasy, fabrication and fancy… he belongs to whoever lays claim to the spirit of his enigma. History has no hold over Jack and conscience has no hold over the Ripper.

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