Jewels of Tuscany, Part I

Detail of Etruscan Tomb Carving

Just got back from a week in Italy and boy am I jetlagged. We ate a lot of delicious food, saw a lot of amazing architecture and art and experienced incredible sights pretty much every time we opened our eyes (read all about it in my up-coming, best-selling memoir based on the trip called Eat, Sweat, Eat Sweats). But today I wanted to share some vintage jewellery-related discoveries we made on the way.

We were mostly in Tuscany, home of the ancient Etruscan people. Look at the lady above (from the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale in Chiusi). She’s wearing three big necklaces! And boy did they love their statement jewellery. They could also be subtle: The Etruscans were among the most accomplished metalworkers of the ancient world. When a lot of old tombs were excavated in the 1850s (sparking an Etruscan revival craze) goldsmiths of the Victorian era were at first unable to replicate the fine filigree and granulation work. They were also took a page from their shapely designs and pendant heavy pieces like my 19th century hollow ware dangling girandole earrings.

Gold Victorian Girandole Earrings

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual examples of Etruscan jewellery, but take my word for it, there was one chain in particular that looked like a contemporary of my Tiffany & Co. bracelet (without the lobster closure and dangles but including the one large, stamped link).

Tiffany & Co. Trueste bracelet

The most impressive jewellery hoard we saw was in the Siena Duomo. At the back of the Baroque Chigi Chapel in the cathedral is the the Madonna del Voto. People give thanks to the Madonna with tributes (ex votos) in the form of fabulous jewellery (a small sampling is pictured below). Not pictured, a Cartier Tank Francaise — I wanted to chew through the iron grill that separated me from the jewels, which is not the appropriate response to have in a cathedral.

Tributes at the Cappella della Madonna del Voto, Siena

More on the vacay later this week.