Crowds of tourists have left Venice and the locals, perhaps with joy, stroll through the deserted and from this even more majestic squares of the great city, now belonging only to them. However, shops and restaurants have also been empty, including jewelry boutiques, which, waiting for their customers, will now tell us about what we may have overlooked when we visited it hastily taking photos against the backdrop of numerous palaces. Some say that now is the time for true connoisseurs.
The history of Venice is closely intertwined with the art of jewelry. It was in an alley near Rialto that Vincenzo Peruzzi, in the late 17th century, invented one of the first diamond-cutting techniques to enhance their brilliance. Ten centuries earlier, the Venetians brought from Constantinople the technique of making a chain of “intrigue”, when a 22 carat gold thread turned into several rings.
A symbol of wealth, this so-called Manin chain (named after an ancient Venetian noble family) could reach 60 meters in length and was also used as a dowry for young girls. The technology of its production disappeared in the 1950s, like most of the Venetian master jewelers: in the 18th century there were more than 400 of them, today they can be counted on the fingers.
Venetian jewelers. Alberto Nardi
Founded in 1926, Nardi is one of Venice’s best-known independent jewelry brands, occupying five arches in the same corner of the historic Piazza San Marco where Giulio Nardi, Alberto’s grandfather, first opened his shop.
It was Giulio’s love for the Venetian exotic that led him to rethink one of the most emblematic Venetian jewels, the Moretto, made famous by Shakespeare’s Moor of Venice, Otello.
With their intricate jeweled turbans and suits of gold, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, these brooches soon found their way into the lapels of European and Hollywood royalty, including Paola, Queen of the Belgians, Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman, and catapulted the jeweler to worldwide fame.
Today, Nardi jewelry is still produced in the workshop adjacent to the boutique, under the artistic direction of Alberto, whose designs are still inspired by the spirit of Venice – architecture, motifs, mosaics, art and culture. And, just as the ancient Venetian merchants did before him, he travels the world, buying jewelry and visiting clients.
This Venetian first worked in the hotel business. And only in the mid-1970s Coin decided to go into jewelry.
“This world of creativity and beauty around jewelry has fascinated me. But I only knew two things: that gold is yellow and diamonds are white…”. As a shrewd businessman, he visited several Italian factories before buying his own in Verona.
Venice proved to be a fruitful source of inspiration for Roberto, who fed it to the imagination of American clients seeking to embrace the magic of the place. “Princess of Venice”, “Palazzo Ducale”, “Princess Flower”… his collections, aptly named, show design striking in that they permeate the elements of his city’s architecture.
A distinctive feature of his works are these four-leaf patterns, stylized as the windows of the “palazzo” of the Grand Canal, these diamond-shaped cuffs, the idea of which came to him when he looked at the stone railing of the 14th century stairs of the palace in which he lives. “I have visited 100 countries of the world. My company employs more than 300 people, I create 600 models a year. But first and foremost I am a Venetian. I was one even before being Italian.
From pop art to the art of ancient Venice, all this is intertwined in the jewelry masterpieces of Attilio Codognato. At 82, he is one of the most famous Venetian jewelers. His jewelry store in Piazza San Marco, opened by his grandfather Simeon Codognato in 1866, continues to offer glimpses of sixteenth and seventeenth century Venetian art, but in miniature.
Perhaps two of the most famous images in his jewelry that have already become icons of style are the “moretto”, the traditional figure of the Moor, which is repeated in the paintings of the Venetian Renaissance, and the skull “memento mori”, which in the past was a warning: remember that about of death. The combination of gold, history and passion for art are the ingredients of the success of one of the oldest Italian jewelers.