Venice's Grand Jewelry

Courtesy Codognato

In a city quite literally flooded with bejeweled craftsmen, four masters of their trade.

“Nothing in the story of Venice is ordinary,” writes Jan Morris in her impressionistic chronicle of the city, The World of Venice. “She was born dangerously, lived grandly, and never abandoned her brazen individualism.” This singular, gloriously strange history casts its spell all over Venetian jewelry. Works by Attilio Codognato, Giulio Nardi, Antonia Miletto and Carla Cagnato weave elements of Venice’s past into bold, contemporary designs. In this city where the relics of saints, sinners and mythical dragons are proudly displayed on church altars, skulls, carved from vintage ivory and adorned with gold, fill the window of Codognato’s shop on San Marco. “This metropolis of waterways…this city of waters” breeds Miletto’s cocktail rings, shaped like fish and studded with sapphires. This once great trading state that became, as Morris writes, “half eastern, half western, poised between Rome and Byzantium, between Christianity and Islam” is where Nardi first sculpted his blackamoors, known as moretti. These brooches made of ebony or tortoiseshell depict the faces of African merchant princes. They remain, according to one informed local, “the most important piece of jewelry a Venetian woman can own. Here, a Nardi moretti is more coveted than a diamond.” On the following pages, the imagination of photographer Maurizio Galimberti is let loose on the city and four important jewelers for a portfolio almost as glorious as Venice herself.