These tiny skulls may look like hard proof that fairies exist, but they’re actually carved pearls. Japanese artist Shinji Nakaba has been painstakingly mapping and carving oyster pearls into human and animal skulls since 1974, making what he calls “wearable sculptures.” Not only does the artist make the cutest spooky jewelry for purchase, his work has also been displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and New York’s Museum of Arts & Design.
Though the artist carves other organic shapes from the gemstones, his skull series is by far the most stunning. Nakaba signs the back of most of his pearls with his name, date, and the word “Vanitas,” which is Latin for “vanity” and typically stands for the fleeting (and potentially meaningless) nature of human life. Mankind has long been obsessed with the human skull, attaching deep symbolic meaning to the image with the most obvious being mortality. It creeped up as a popular fashion statement when Alexander McQueen started putting them all over his accessories, making it a common staple by the 2010s.
Much of the skulls on his website have already been sold, but he assures that if you email, he will get back to you as soon as he can. You can ask for something similar to what he has already done, or request something new just for you.