The “Pearl Royale” is the superlative of vibrators. It was fifteen years in the making, and seeing that it is made from materials such as diamonds and gold, the finished product comes with a price tag of more than one million dollars. In our EAN interview, Colin Burn explains how and why he created this piece of art and why luxury is always a big draw, also when it comes to sex.
Who buys (and uses) a vibrator for one million dollars, like the “Pearl Royale” you created? Colin Burn: Serious art collectors are my target audience for the Pearl Royale. As a vibrator it’s certainly functional; however, I really created this luxury art piece more as a bold statement to the world that we should be placing a much higher value on our sex. I often think people really devalue their sex and believe the idea of having luxury sex toys is not important because it’s only for sex? We drive luxury cars because we like the driving experience so why not have genuine luxury sex toys? My art is working to change this thinking and the Pearl Royale is certainly creating a lot of attention because of its luxurious opulence which is the desired effect I had hoped for.
Before we talk more about your work, could you tell us a bit about your background? Why did you decide to use eroticism as the basis for your creations?
I started my career as an apprentice electroplater working in silverware factories where I honed my skills working with precious metals and learning the trade of a silversmith. I founded my first jewellery company in my early 20’s after inventing a unique forming process to coat natural objects with real gold. Over the past 35 years I have ventured into a variety of jewellery projects always looking for the unique, I hate following main stream trends within jewellery it’s always been my nature to be different. My interest in creating unique erotic jewellery stemmed from a dinner conversation with friends in 2003 where a friend of mine claimed she had a gold vibrator, which was really just plastic gold finished. It was a fun and jovial conversation but after the discussion I looked seriously into a market that seemed devoid of real luxury and opulence and thought I could bring something special to the table.
What’s the appeal of owning a sex toy made of gold and diamonds?
Of course, we all enjoy sex its natural and we don’t really need anything of value to enjoy great sex however adding elements of gold and diamonds raises the senses. We all know great sex is more about mind than body and to elevate the mood is vital. I would equate the experience to driving a luxury car or a plain car both get you where you want to go, but the feeling you get from being surrounded by real luxury and opulence works the mind to elevate this experience!
Are the erotic products you create meant to be actually used or are they art to be appreciated in a display cabinet?
All of my works are functional; however, I think they’re more appealing to art collectors who treasure having something truly unique to display and to create conversation. My works are not made to be stored in the underwear draw; they’re to be displayed proudly as most of my pieces come in luxury display cases to be hung like any fine piece of art.
How long does it take you to create something like the Pearl Royale, from the first idea to the finished work?
I first conceived the idea to create the Pearl Royale back in 2008 and started designing it with hand drawings at the time. In 2009 I transferred my hand drawings to my CAD system where I drew the piece in its intricate detail. This process was painstaking as the detail had to be perfect to my idea while still ensuring it can be physically made and also become a functional art piece. In 2010, I released my detailed images to the world as a concept piece and it certainly created a lot of buzz (excuse the pun) on the internet. After its release I was interviewed by many leading publications including Forbes.
As an art piece it was having the desired effect I had imagined, opening the conversation about luxury and sex and questioning why sex should be devoid of genuine luxury. At that time my erotic jewellery was not my main line of business, so it was more of a sideline interest that I knew I would explore further at the right time. In 2107, I decided to take the step and make it my main focus and further my strong passion for creating fine jewellery art for the serious art collectors. I started the process of making the real piece in November 2017. It took me a full 3 months to complete from the detailed casting to the intricate stone setting and fine finishing that was required to ensure the piece would sit proudly in any high-end art gallery alongside the world’s finest jewellery. The Pearl Royale is a very serious piece of jewellery art and limited to only 10 so each piece I create is a real commitment in time and resources to ensure the finest quality is achieved.
Could you tell us a bit more about the steps involved in creating a luxury sex toy, made of gold and diamonds?
I start with an art concept as each piece has a story to tell. From that point I will hand draw each piece creating the desired look and feel before the CAD design process and the model making. For the jewellery making process it’s similar to making other fine jewellery; however, the main difference is you have to consider what the piece is used for and adjust your methods. For the stone settings have to be sealed so no fluids will become trapped as well as ensuring all settings are flush with the surface so they become smooth to touch. If the settings are raised like cabochon stones, these needs to be sealed and finished with intricate detail to ensure they have no sharp edges. The main point of difference with my work is my unique gold forming which is a secret process I have developed, allowing me to create lighter, stronger pieces than traditional casting methods will allow. To make a luxury sex toy you can’t have a piece that’s too heavy or cumbersome, it has to not only look great but feel great as well.
Besides the Pearl Royale, you have already created some erotic items in the past. Could you tell us about the creations you are especially proud of?
I have made several pieces over the years each with a unique story but my first design is still one of my favourites it’s called the Casanova. Designed in celebration of the great Venetian lover it’s full of colourful cabochon gems and made with rich yellow gold giving it a real Italian look and feel.
But from all my design’s including the Pearl Royale, the one that I love the most I have called “Hokusai Dreaming”. It’s an octopus dildo made from pure yellow gold and set with sensual white pearls. This piece has special meaning to me as I have spent a great deal of my life in Japan and proudly call it my second home. Influences from Japan on me are immense as they cultivate an obsession for perfection in both detail and finish. I was deeply inspired by the famous Japanese artist Hokusai who has created so many of Japan’s iconic art images. One of his works “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” depicts two octopus making love to a Japanese Ama diver. This unique work from 1814 has inspired an underground culture called tentacle love which many Japanese hold as a unique sexual fantasy. I wanted to create a special piece to celebrate Hokusai and I will proudly display my Hokusai Dreaming piece to the public for the first time this year.
You are looking for a gallery to show your creations in the US later this year. What will you present to the visitors and interested buyers besides the Pearl Royale?
I have created an exhibition of my works titled Olisbos – “the art of the dildo”. Dildos have been with mankind for over 28,000 years and so many unique and creative dildos have been artfully crafted by a variety of cultures across all continents. Olisbos is my contemporary view into an ancient art that has been with us for centuries. When most people think of a dildo they automatically think of a typical rubber object, so the exhibition is my way of reclaiming the dildo as a functional object of art! We’re currently in negotiations with a leading contemporary art gallery in Miami to stage the exhibition in September this year. We will make an announcement soon with all the details.
“When most people think of a dildo they automatically think of a typical rubber object, so the exhibition is my way of reclaiming the dildo as a functional object of art!”
Can interested customers also contact you for commissioned work?
Yes, you can make contact through my website www.burnjewellery.com.
Many manufacturers of sex toys label their products as luxurious. There can’t be any argument that your creations actually are. What makes a product luxurious in your opinion?
The word luxury in my opinion is often over used and not often positioned appropriately. The simple dictionary meaning is “a condition or situation of great comfort, ease and wealth. Something that is expensive and not necessary”. I am not in the business of criticising others but I feel within the sex toy industry the word luxury is used on products that have no real value in terms of genuine luxury. Again, it comes back to the thinking that sex is not something that we should appoint real value as if it was would we call a vibrator worth $300 luxury? We wouldn’t call a nice $10,000 car luxury it’s the same kind of thinking. I like the fact that over the last decade sex toys have really advanced and we now see so many beautiful designs that are of real high quality but to call them luxury may be an overreach. In my opinion a genuine luxury item should be something of great workmanship having high value in both in its artistic merit and its monetary worth.