Marilyn Monroe in Bling

A team of artists have created ‘gemstone portraits’ of Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama and the Queen.

The British mosaic artists and jewel cutters spend weeks carefully recreating photos using a selection of diamonds and precious gemstones.

Each 0.25 carat diamond and stone has a “round brilliant cut” finish and is hand-set into silver, gold or platinum of the customer’s choice.

Portraits start from around 8ins x 8ins and contain at least 2,600 stones such as sapphire, amethyst and peridot.

The biggest image Gemstone Creative has made so far measures around 24ins x 24ins and contains an extraordinary 22,500 stones.

They are now in discussions with a client to create one that measures 48ins x 48ins and are planning three-dimensional models.

The company has turned pictures a tiger and peacock into gemstone portraits, as well as a series of high-profile figures. The cost of each portrait varies depending on its size and the type of diamonds, stones and base metal chosen. Prices start at £25,000 for a small portrait made of semi-precious stones but company co-founder Mark Hirschel says it is easy to break the £1m mark. Less wealthy customers can buy a portrait made from flat-backed Swarovski Crystals for a more modest £2,700.

The crystal models are usually made as drafts before work begins on the more expensive portraits. Diamonds are available in black, white, pink and blue. Sapphires come in black, white, green, orange, yellow, blue and pink.

The company, which advertises the portraits as the “ultimate luxury possession”, says it only uses ethically traded gemstones and precious metals.

Mr Hirschel, from London, said: “Our prices start from £2,700 for a crystal portrait but the sky is the limit. It would be very easy to exceed one million pounds by creating a large portrait made entirely of diamonds and set in gold or platinum.

“The intrinsic value of such a piece would be huge – and that is before you consider the amount of time and skill taken to make it. Our prices are so upmarket business has not been affected by the recession.

“Customers may have lost a lot of money through investments but the sort of people who usually commission our work still have vast sums. We offer the finest workmanship and give the customers 100 per cent control.”

Gemstone Creative draws on a centuries-old tradition of using precious stones in art.

Its website says: “The concept of using precious stones in mosaic artwork has been around for centuries. The Moors, the Byzantines and the Great Mughal Emperors all used precious stones and gold leaf to create intricate mosaics that adorned the walls and floors of their palaces and cathedrals.

“Gemstone Creative is a new and exciting company that takes the lead from these classical examples of fine craftsmanship and gives the concept a contemporary twist.

“We are dedicated to reintroducing this highly specialised artistic genre, which is by nature symbolic of wealth and a physical manifestation of beauty.”

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