Pearls are a timeless classic, because they look good with just about anything. Their subtle luster and variety of soft colors make them versatile, and they always lend a polished touch to any outfit.

And then there’s Shinji Nakaba’s take on these dainty jewels. The Japanese artist creates what he calls “wearble sculptures” from a variety of materials, often drawing on anatomical figures for inspiration. So what about pearls? Well, they’re round, white, and organic…just like skulls. So that’s exactly what he turns them into.

The pearls are tiny, but they’re insanely detailed.

He creates these skulls in different sizes, shapes, and colors.

While a pearl is certainly pretty on its own, Nakaba’s carvings bring out another aspect of its beauty by allowing us to look deeply inside. The macabre subject also adds a layer of meaning to the pearl.

These jewels are created by mollusks to serve as defense mechanisms against irritation from sand or debris. The skull shape nods to the pearl’s organic (and somewhat frightening) origins.

He mounts the carvings on rings and bracelets.

Carving the skulls takes an extremely steady hand, and a really tiny drill.

Nakaba also likes to play with other organic forms, like this metal and enamel lavender stalk topped with a skull.

He even carves craniums of the animal variety.

And this cute little guy isn’t a skull at all!

You can see more of Nakaba’s tiny, detailed, and delicate work on his website, and if these pieces tickle your fancy, you can even buy some at his online shop. Aside from being functional pieces of jewelry, Nakaba’s work is also considered fine art, and has been showcased in several exhibits around the world.

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