Cover Photo: L’école School of Jewelry Arts

An exhibition paying tribute to the late, great French gallerist, art dealer and men’s jewellery connoisseur Yves Gastou, which offers a glimpse of his vast collection of rings, is now underway at K11 Musea. His son shares how his father influenced his love of men’s jewellery, and how to pick the piece that speaks to you

The late French collector, gallerist and art dealer Yves Gastou, who died at the age of 72 in 2020, was a pioneering figure in the worlds of art and design, revered for having an eye for—and bringing to the forefront—a variety of overlooked design movements over centuries past.

Along with his reputation for shining a light on the people who would later become some of the biggest names in 20th century contemporary design, including Italian architects Ettore Sottsass and Carlo Mollino, Gastou was also known for a sizeable collection of men’s rings he had amassed in his lifetime. While the exact number of rings he owned is unknown, it is estimated to amount to over 1,000. In a time when men were abandoning the idea of adornment—the trend of foregoing ornamentation in favour of functionality had begun during the French Revolution in the 18th century—Gastou celebrated it. He flaunted his rings, which he began collecting in his early years.

At the Men’s Rings: Yves Gastou Collection exhibition at K11 Musea, which is organised by L’école School of Jewelry Arts and runs through January 31, 2023, some 300 of Gastou’s cherished rings are on display. This collection debuted in Paris in 2018, before travelling to Tokyo in early 2022.

In celebration of the exhibition, Gastou’s son Victor, who is also an antiques dealer, dives deep into his father’s ring collection.

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When did your father’s love of rings begin?

My father’s passion for rings began in childhood, around age eight or nine, in Carcassonne, a hilltop town in the south of France. He was fascinated by rings, especially those worn by a bishop [at his church]. He took communion several times [in one go], and his mother caught him and asked him why. He said, “Mum, the man has such a nice ring.” It created a great impact on him, and that’s how it all started.

Did his passion for rings influence your journey?

His passion for collecting rings was more personal at the beginning. He did not share it with us; it was like his secret garden. When he began to wear more rings on his hands, I realised he had been collecting; this was how my fascination with rings began, in my childhood. 

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Are you a collector of men’s rings yourself?

Yes, I also collect men’s rings. It’s a pleasure to find new pieces and discover the stories behind the rings. I’m always surprised that there is no high jewellery for men from any of the great maisons. I hope that in the future, men will have the opportunity to own masterpieces.

What can visitors expect from Men’s Rings: Yves Gastou Collection?

Men’s Rings features exhibits collected over 40 years through his exotic travels, auctions, private sales, and even vintage markets. All rings have a unique history attached to them. This ring collection reflects my father’s baroque side, as he was very expressive and talkative. The Biker’s theme shows his rebellious side, as he disliked authority and barriers. He was such a free spirit. There is also a humanist side to the collection, with both cheap and precious rings, as he loved all beautiful things.

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What was the selection process like?

The selection of rings for the exhibition in Hong Kong is largely like [how we did it for the exhibition in] Tokyo. They are categorised into five unique themes to illustrate their diversity: History, Gothic, Christian Mystique, Vanitas, and Eclecticism. Each ring contains a story that links it to my father.

What’s your advice for jewellery collectors?

There is no right or wrong. It is more about your interests and passion. You want to look for styles you will love and wear and not keep them in a safe—unless that’s what you want.

The journey from an art enthusiast and appreciator to a collector requires research and analysis. The more you know about the fascinating depths of art, the more satisfied you are with the knowledge acquired. It’s a wonderful way to connect with others.

Any final thoughts? 

My father’s collection is an endless book of personal confessions—a reflection of his journeys and fragments of his carnal and intimate life. I hope that the public will enjoy discovering the eclecticism of this collection, and that more collectors will be born.

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