When your father is Pablo Picasso, and your mother is Françoise Gilot, it’s not surprising that your artistic talents are rich and vibrant.
Paloma Picasso has enjoyed a career designing and marketing a wealth of products, from cosmetics to china to fashion accessories. Of particular interest are her fabulous jewelry fashions.
Named for the Spanish word for “dove,” Paloma Picasso, born in Vallauris, France in 1949, was both blessed and cursed to have famous parents. She is linked to her world-renowned artist-father forever. Picasso featured her in many of his works, including Paloma with an Orange and Paloma in Blue. It was never her desire to capitalize on her father’s fame. The younger Picasso wanted to be her own person.
That’s not an easy task, but this Paloma made a name for herself, breaking into several different markets with her original designs.
From childhood, Paloma’s creative spirit showed through in her drawings. But following in her father’s footsteps wasn’t in her plans. Instead, she turned her creativity toward product design.
The Designer Emerges
Following the completion of her studies at the University of Paris, Paloma began designing costume jewelry in 1968. Critics were drawn to her use of flea market rhinestones, crafted into necklaces. Encouraged by this success, Paloma decided to intensify her study of jewelry design.
In 1969, Paloma showed her efforts to her good friend and world-famous couturier Yves Saint Laurent, who hired her to design accessories for one of his collections. Two years later, she was working for Zolotas, a Greek jewelry company. Once again, critics were impressed with her talents and the use of bold geometric shapes in her designs.
Upon her father’s death in 1973, Paloma lost interest in her design work. For a time, she took up acting, appearing in two critically acclaimed French films, and designing movie sets before returning to her work in jewelry design.
Partnership with Tiffany & Company
Approached in 1980 by Tiffany & Company, Paloma was delighted when asked to create a line of styles for the prestigious jeweler. It fulfilled her wish to design for an American store. She liked the relative accessibility of Tiffany shoppers compared to their French counterparts. Jewelry stores in France, she believed, too often encouraged only a wealthy clientele.
Tiffany’s Senior Vice President at the time, John Loring, was quoted as saying, “Paloma has taken the gaudiness out of jewelry but kept the glitter.” Tiffany President Henry B. Platt stated in Newsweek that, “For the first time, people can hold a Picasso in their hands and try it on.”
Paloma’s first signature collection with Tiffany was entitled, “Paloma’s Graffiti.” It drew inspiration from urban street art (which was not considered art at that time). The style was bold and daring, featuring blocks of gold or silver with impressive colored gemstones on simple cords. Gold or silver “hugs and kisses” were part of the theme of this innovative collection. Unique combinations of cultured pearls, semi-precious gems, and contemporary metals were also featured.
Paloma Picasso Style
Paloma rejects the idea of her work as art, emphatically stating her creations are meant to be worn and enjoyed, not placed in a case and admired. But it’s also been her desire that her jewelry endures over time, unlike costume fashions.
The overall style of Paloma designs includes simple fluid themes in gold or sterling silver, although she is also known for her vibrant jewelry styles that carry large pops of color provided by cabochon-cut semi-precious gemstones. Additionally, she often uses the dove as a symbol in her work, as well as the color red. It’s her penchant for red lipstick, which she has worn since the age of six that has become her personal signature. When she goes out and wishes to be inconspicuous, she refrains from wearing her red lipstick.
In 1990, Paloma celebrated her tenth anniversary with Tiffany with a unique collection featuring an organic look, with just-cut stones and just-mined materials. The necklaces feature vibrant colored gemstones suspended from cords of precious gold.
Her thirtieth anniversary with Tiffany, celebrated in 2010, debuted the collection that reflects her abiding love for Morocco, where she lives part of the time. Entitled “Marrakesh,” the collection is primarily crafted of precious metals in designs that evoke the mystique of Morocco.
In the ensuing years, Paloma has continued to partner with Tiffany to create new and exciting collections. Among them, she paid tribute to the city of Venice, its canals, and the city’s motifs, with a collection called “Venezia.”
Her “Olive Leaf” collection showcases styles in sterling silver and 18K gold in intricate patterns and wreath-like shapes that symbolize peace and abundance.
Tributes, Awards, and Accolades
- Two museums have acquired Paloma Picasso’s work. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History has a 396.30-carat kunzite necklace designed by Paloma. Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History owns a 408.63-carat moonstone bracelet decorated with diamonds in a lightning bolt pattern.
- 1983: Paloma Picasso was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
- 1988: Fashion Group International honored Paloma as one of the “Women Who Have Made an Extraordinary Impact on Our Industry.” That same year, Hispanic Designers, Inc. also presented her with the MODA award for design excellence.
- 2011: Paloma Picasso was recognized with an exhibition of her work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.