When searching for souvenirs, tourists often look for pieces that truly reflect the area they are visiting. After all, it helps them to remember the uniqueness of where they were. Inspired by his home city of Venice, Italy, Guilio Nardi created such pieces. What was initially designed to pay homage to this location, captivated travelers, collectors and celebrities alike.
The Early Years
Born in Florence, Italy, Giulio Nardi moved to Venice in the 1920s and opened a workshop in Piazza San Marco. His pieces are produced there to this day. Inspired by the elegance and charm of the city around him, Nardi began his craft by using silver and crystal. Nardi incorporated the feeling of Venice into his new designs.
Nardi was an expert in both precious stones and gems, and he was also talented in working with gold. 18th Century Venetian goldsmiths inspired his techniques, and he paired his love for stones and gold to create stunning Morette (also known as blackamoor) brooches.
The classic style of the Morette pieces featured an African-like head carved from either sardonyx or ebony. They were intended to represent the Moor of Venice – Shakespeare's Othello – or likened unto the warring, yet brave Hannibal. The small, black, carved heads boast a jeweled collar and headdress.
Originally made as souvenirs for tourists in the late 1920s and early 1930s, these pieces started to gain in popularity in the 1940s. Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Hutton, and Marilyn Monroe proudly wore his designs. Other clients included Ernest Hemingway, Elton John, and various royals throughout the years.
Other pieces were designed with the same luxurious touches of the Nardi style, such as cufflinks modeled after the lions at St. Marks. Because each design was handcrafted or custom made, it is estimated that only 7000 pieces are in circulation since the company began almost a century ago.
A Lasting Impression
Today, the shop can still be visited at Piazza San Marco, and it is currently in its third generation with Alberto Nardi at the helm. Their original pieces truly represent the opulence of the city of Venice, and Nardi’s hope of bringing his beloved city to the world through jewelry is still being carried on.