c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Victoire de Castellane, who since 1998 has overseen haute joaillerie for Dior, arrived in New York this week with a cadre of friends. They were speckled with emeralds, sapphires, diamonds and rubies, and most were no larger than a Coke can or a fist.

They were here for a new exhibition of her independent work, “Precious Objects,” at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, and they are, for those prosaic enough to insist upon it, extravagant pieces of jewelry with their own plinths and stands. But not to de Castellane. “I think the jewelry are people,” she said. “They’re little people. And they’re going to live in houses other than mine.”

De Castellane is known to have a wicked sense of humor. Her first exhibition at Gagosian Paris, in 2011, was called “Fleurs d’excès” and used precious stones to make merry with the idea of drugs. Several of these earlier pieces were on view, their faux-Latinate names hinting at their inspirations. “Quo Caïnus Magic Disco,” for example, is an abstract floral dusted allusively with diamonds; one little blossom, set on a filament slightly higher than the rest, buzzed like a juddering tweaker every time an observer’s footfalls entered its orbit. It seemed primed to disco till dawn.

The newer works, a series called “animalvegetablemineral,” worked this cleverness to more natural ends. A snake necklace, bracelet and ring, coiled around silver rocks, hugged piles of diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. But the snakes themselves, though cast in gold, were coated entirely in iridescent lacquer, “blue as if it was lit by the moon,” de Castellane said.

That speaks to the cavalier quality of her approach, which is haute without being haughty. Louise Neri, one of the gallery’s directors, identified a “punk sensibility” in de Castellane’s daring to conceal solid gold in a lacquer shell. “People usually want to see what they’re buying,” Neri said. (The pieces there range in price from $150,000 to $600,000.)

De Castellane practiced a similar sorcery of concealment on herself. “I can’t create something that I couldn’t wear,” she said, yet her only adornment was a simple gold band around one finger. “I prefer to see them,” she explained.