“Fairy Skull” Jewelry—Pure Magic!

Japanese artist, Shinji Nakaba, creates “wearable sculptures.” Since 1974, Nakaba has sculpted one-of-a-kind, made-to-order jewelry made from common items, such as clothing pins, to precious gems, stones, and metals. His smallest creations are called “Fairy Skulls.”


Nakaba practiced on a lot of other materials before settling on pearls. He found that pearls were easy to carve his miniature skulls called “Vanitas,” Latin for “vanity,” resembling 16th and 17th century funerary art.

“Mourning” rings were popular from the 16th century until the early 1900s. Although poor people were unable to afford such jewelry, the middle-class families would begin saving for these sentimental tokens. Wealthy families handed out engraved rings to funeral service attendees. The rings served as a reminder of the deceased. The practice ended with the commencement of the First World War; there were just too many dead soldiers returning home to sustain the tradition. For some, the reminder was too much to bear.

These “Fairy Skulls” are gentle reminders of our dead ancestors, as well as, the imaginary creatures who may exist. Nakaba titles and signs each skull; therefore, beware of fakes sold on Etsy, as he does not sell his skulls there.

The Tokyo-based artist ships internationally. His website provides instructions on the piece you seek. For more information and to peruse his collections, see http://s-nakaba.shop-pro.jp/.