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Custom-Painted Eye Portrait Is Like a Gift from the 1800s

Noor Fares revisits a long-lost trend from before the days of photography.

Noor Fares Personalized Eye pendant Photo: Courtesy of Noor Fares

Long before the rise of photography in the mid-1800s, wealthy Europeans sometimes immortalized their lovers or children with miniature watercolor portraits of their eye. These eye portraits were worn on jewelry such as brooches, bracelets, pendants, and rings. This rather unusual fad fizzled out with the invention and widespread adoption of photography. Now, with the ubiquity of iPhone recordings that can—and often do—capture every intimate moment, there is something charmingly retro about a personalized hand-painted eye worn as an intimate expression of love or remembrance. And that is exactly what London-based jeweler Noor Fares was thinking when she re-created the concept.

“I wanted to create something really unique that the wearer can identify with personally,” says Fares, who attended Tufts University in the U.S. and Central St Martins in London before launching her brand in 2009, and is known for her colorful, imaginative, and often symbolic creations. Unlike in the 19th century, there is no need to sit for a portrait. With today’s technology, clients simply submit a close-up image of the desired eye, which is then hand-painted by an Italian artisan on a mother-of-pearl pendant, covered in rock crystal, and set in 18-karat gold with gemstone accents. Starting at $3,730, it takes about 12 weeks to receive the final eye-catching piece.

Noor Fares

The designer in her workshop.  Photo: Kate Bellm

Fares has also experimented with 3-D sculpture for her designs. A recent collaboration with Fares’s friend and sculptor Flavie Audi (called Superlunary) utilizes synthetic stones that are crafted from scaled-down sculptures fashioned by Audi. The results (similar to the new pendant) are subtly powerful pieces that reimagine something ethereally beautiful—in this case, a thick, cushion-like cloud—with modern technology. While the results of Fares’s creativity are stunning, even more spectacular is her ability to reimagine the ways in which modern, unique pieces of jewelry can be made today.

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