Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter Diana Widmaier Picasso is seated inside Café de l’Esplanade in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. It’s a rainy day, and she’s dressed in black attire, sipping an espresso on a green velvet sofa overlooking the tomb site of Napoleon Bonaparte. Everything is typically Parisian, except for one thing: her jewelry. Widmaier Picasso lifts up her sweater cuffs to reveal two gold and platinum bracelets on each arm. One bracelet is filled with charms like crowns, dice, and hearts. The other spells out “Luna,” her daughter’s name. They’re no trinkets. Rather, they’re high design from Menē, the jewelry company Widmaier Picasso cofounded and spearheads as the artistic director. “I grew up in Paris with a family where my mother loved gold,” Widmaier Picasso says of her inherent inspiration to create, along with Menē chief creative officer Sunjoo Moon, their collection of illustrious rings, chains, medallions, bracelets and, yes, charms. “She always gave me gold jewelry, gold coins—maybe she got that from her grandfather. Picasso himself loved gold, so it’s always spoken to me.”
So much so that Menē’s “investment jewelry,” which will expand with 30 new design items every month in the new year and soon unveil a series of monthly artist collaborations beginning in March, includes 24-karat pieces of pure gold untarnished by chemical alloys or dilution with other materials. Sold by the gold’s pure weight and only through its online store, Menē, since its launch in January, has sold 11,000 pieces for roughly $10 million. “It’s not just the brand but a concept that is disruptive,” says Widmaier Picasso. “It’s not a gold bar in a safe, it’s jewelry, a very intimate way of investing in gold.”
Beyond material, though, Widmaier Picasso and Moon, who previously worked at Missoni and Kenzo, were also sure to be entirely mindful of another reason we endear to jewelry: meaning. “Charms are like talismans that go back to antiquity, when objects had powers beyond the materials,” Widmaier Picasso says. “As an art historian, I am attached to meanings.” Thus, while there are charms with more obvious intentions—letters, zodiac signs, hearts, etc.—the pair were also sure to include more symbolic imagery, like the lucky fish charm, which is said to be a symbol of abundance and attract good luck and prosperity.
And, of course, they still wanted to have a little fun: Their more recent collections feature millennial-friendly charms that look like emojis. “Young people find it playful, but older people like to have them for children, grandchildren,” says Widmaier Picasso, an admitted emoji addict. “They’ve become part of our visual experience to use and communicate,” Widmaier Picasso continues with her laugh like a bubbly teenager. “Some Parisians don’t like using these visual characters, but I think I do like it. It’s immediate.”
Though Widmaier Picasso’s grandfather died before she was born, this very line of jewelry could be an extension of Picasso’s own devotions—where personal symbolism meets passion. “He was such a complex character, I get to know him step by step,” she says. “I am proud of having this lineage with a powerful person who changed the course of art history. Picasso speaks to the heart of people. I hope people embrace that, and see that, despite him being one of the most successful artists.”