‘For the Love of God’ consists of a skull cast in platinum. In total, there are 32 plates cast in platinum, which have been assembled to create the skull, adorned with 8,601 diamonds of the best quality. The total carat weight comes to 1,106.18 carats. The original skull was purchased by Hirst from a taxidermist in London and was radiocarbon-dated. The subsequent analysis demonstrated that it dated between 1720 and 1810, probably from a 32 year-old man of European descent from the Mediterranean region. The teeth are real and belonged to the original skull.
It was the Bond Street jewelers Bentley & Skinner who undertook the actual artisanship, the technical task of covering the skull with the diamonds. Bentley & Skinner are Queen of the United Kingdom’s royal jewelers, and this was the largest ever commission since the British Crown Jewels. All the diamonds were inserted using the pavé-technique, the best method for the placement of gemstones. This technique ensures that the diamonds are placed as close to each other as possible, with a gap of only 1 mm, so that the diamonds cover the surface entirely. In the middle of the forehead, there is a pear-shaped diamond that Hirst describes as a ‘mind stone’ – inspired by the comic book series 2000 AD that he read at a young age, where one of the characters, Tharg the Mighty, had a similar bright stone on his forehead – a sort of third eye. The diamond has also been given its own name, Skull Star Diamond. The work’s title comes from what Hirst’s mother used to say when she heard his ideas for new artworks: “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?”
Science, religion and art are the main themes in Hirst’s work. The common thread linking these big themes is that they circle around a shared idea: namely the idea of immortalization. “What can you pit against death?” Hirst asked himself and the answer was diamonds. In this work, Hirst combines the skull as a classic memento mori symbol with inspiration from the Mexican tradition of celebrating the dead. The inspiration behind embellishing the skull with diamonds came from the Aztec Tezcatlipoca mask in the British Museum, which is covered with turquoise stones. The embellishment of the skull transforms its dark nature into something Hirst himself calls the “celebration of life”.