The jewels witness of the most touching love story in the Renaissance: Margherita Luti

According to the legend, Raffaello Sanzio, known as Raphael, fell in love with Margherita Luti while she was washing her feet under the Tiber river. The love he felt was so appasionate that he couldn’t concéntrate while he finished an order from the reach banker Agostino Chigi. The client was so desperate that finally he moved Margherita into a house close to Raphael, in order to let him finish his work.

And then he painted Margherita… And in both paintings appear the Historic Jewels I want to talk you about today: In the impressive “La Veleta” and “La Fornarina”

“La Veleta” was made in 1516 and Margherita poses wearing rich clothes and a veil in silk (apparently) and over her hair she wears an appealing ornament with a pearl and a ruby. It’s almost stuck to her careless hair (a proof of her adulterous life). This piece is very similar to the one whe also wears in “La Fornarina”, under a turban this time (a common accesory by the time). I’d say both jewels are the same.


And here I bring them both to you: One over a thin chiffon and the other one over a rich silk brocade.

But let’s digg deeper into the amazing life Margherita had and the touching love story between she and Raphael…

In 1514 Raphael got engaged with Maria Bibbiena, Cardinal Medici Bibbiena’s niece. But this marriage never was consummated. His mind and heart were with his true love: Margherita Luti, “La Fornarina”. Margherita was Francesco Luti’s daughter, the owner of the bakery Fornaio de Siena. Her humble condition stopped the family from marrying Margherita to Raphael, a very recognized artist in the time. So she had to resign herlself with being his lover.

It’s possible the most reliable proof of this romance was the painting “La Fornarina”, where Margherita poses half naked only covered by a soft and thin silk, holding a breast with her right hand. According to the history, this painting was hidden in his studio and only a few knew about its existance.


Like in the good love stories, this one between Raphael and La Fornarina had a sad engind. After a night together, he fell ill and died 15 days after. The artist left enough money to Margherita to finish her days without any trouble. However her plans were different. The pain was such that she joined the Convent Santa Apolonia in Santa Dorotea where she lived the rest on her life. She never touched the fortune Raphael had left her.

This is one of the most beautiful love stories in Rome during the Renaissance, linked to a jewel that already is in our Historic Jewels Collection.



@María Vintage Photography



With “I” for “Inca”

Inca: Ancient’s inca jewelry, from the pre-Columbian era.

Indian tribes used to make this sort of jewelry with different techniques, depending of the region. The most common material they used was gold or tumbaga (name given by Spaniards to a non specific alloy of gold and copper)

They loved making pendant necklaces, accessories for the nose, ears, masks and so on.

Most of the pieces left are in the Gold Museum of Bogota. The pieces were found in archaeological excavations. Sadly, a huge amount of them were melted by the Spaniards conquerors and taken to Spain as a gift to the Royal Family.


Inca Jewelry comes from some regions in Bolivia, Ecuador and the north of Chile. Historians think it lasted from 1200 until the Spanish conquest by Francisco de Pizarro and the fall of Cuzco in 1533.

When the Inca emperor Atahualpa went in 1532 to Cajamarca to converse with Pizarro, was put in jail. Then Pizarro didn’t have enough and hid a huge amount of gold gathered by the Incas to rescue their emperor. That gold also was melted and sent to Spain in ingots.

Fortunately, a few pieces eluded the catastrophe.

This jewelry was manufactured only to be given away to gods and the emperor.

Have a look at the images to know better this pre-Columbian art.

With “F”: for “Filigree”

The word filigree comes from the latin filum, which means “thread”, and “, so a filigree is literally a granulated thread. However it is in fact two twisted threads, and not just one.

The art of filigree is very ancient. We have archaeological remains of this kind of jewelry from over 3,000 years ago: this technique was actually practiced by Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek cultures, who brought it into Spain.

The procedure is made with two threads of a different thickness: The thicker one is used to carve the outline of the piece and the thinner to create the details that are so distintive of this art. The metalsmith has to use a kind of tweezerds in order to make the filler and cover all the holes among threads and it’s in this part of the artwork when you can see how good he is with his hands. His skills are spectacular. The solder must be very light to avoid leaving a mark.

Once the piece has been totally filled it’s placed over a platform of vegetal coal. Then it’s sprinkled with solder powder and welded using an alcohol blowlamp. Now that the solder has been finished, the metalsmith will wait until it gets cold to polish and shine the piece.

The result is a delicate and light piece of jewel that reminds us of a soft and fine lace. An unique and unrepeatable piece.

Still today there are artisans who use ancient techniques and a huge dose of patience to create pieces that will have you in awe.

Filigree is with no doubt one of the most beautiful techniques on jewelry.





With A: Aderezo (Jewelry Suite)

“My Vintage Dictionary”

Aderezo: a harmonious set made up of various pieces, normally containing a necklace, ring, bracelets and earrings.

In France, two types of jewelry suites can be distinguished: “Grande Parure”, consisting of a tiara, brooch or jewel for the breast area, earrings, necklace and two identical bracelets; and the “Petit Parure”, consisting of a necklace, earrings and brooch.

We call any matching jewelry combination a suite, which would usually be made up of a necklace, earrings, a bracelet and a ring.

They are sets on which more work is invested than usual, seeing as gems must be found that coordinate in both color and texture.

It is more common to talk of jewelry suites for the female gender, however, we can also find masculine ones consisting of cufflinks, a tie clip, and key ring or pendant.

The last reproduction we did of a Baroque style suite consists of a necklace, bracelet and earrings. This suite is made from brass and semi-precious stones, and entirely handmade by our expert goldsmiths.


pulsera-flickrImages: @María Vintage Photography


Types of earring fastenings

With this simple blog entry we are going to review the different types of earring fastenings.


This is the most commonly used fastening due to its convenient comfort and because it is a kind of clasp that nearly everybody feels good with. The back part can be closed simply by pressing it together with the front part, either with a butterfly or screw design. The most secure is the screw, however, it is usually only found in children’s earrings. The butterfly fastening is the most common; it has a small hole that fits perfectly onto the post of the earring to ensure it does not slip.

In our shop we recommend placing small transparent silicone discs for those with slightly torn or misshaped orifices, these silicone discs are usually referred to as “magic discs”. They prevent the earring from drooping downwards and manage to keep the earring straight and tight to the ear. They really are marvelous.


This fastening is known for its comfort and security. It is a kind of fastening more often used in heavier or larger sized earrings as it ensures a better hold. Its name comes from a similarity to its form; a letter in the Greek alphabet.


The hook fastening can be open or closed, it is very comfortable and easy to wear, and perhaps because of this it is so popular with our clients.

The only drawback is that with the passing of the years our earlobes lose definition, this could result in the earring drooping a little, hence allowing too much of the earlobe to be seen.

The other possible drawback of this kind of fastening, especially if it is an “open hook”, is that the earring could slip out in a rapid movement or become caught in the hair resulting in the loss of an earring. For this reason, I always recommend the use of the silicone caps so that the earring is securely fastened, and we avoid any possible disappointments.

This problem disappears completely in the case of the closed hook. This fastening ensures that the earring will not slip out in a moment of carelessness.

It is true that this fastening doesn’t favor everyone; however, it is very popular throughout the younger generations.


The Catalan fastenings are halfway between the hook and push on clip closures. I will display a photograph depicting this kind of fastening below; it is like the push on clip fastenings but with a small lever behind.


This type of fastening is used by women that do not have pierced ears or that have worn or deteriorated earlobes.

Within this type of fastening we can find the normal clip on and the screw clip. The latter is rather difficult to come across, it was used quite a lot in the Sixties and I can also tell you that it is one of the most comfortable fastenings I have ever tried. It is a loose soft clip in which you can adjust the pressure on your earlobe to the strength you want.

Which one is your favorite?



Andrea of Verrocchio, born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Ciono, known simply as Verrocchio, was born in Florence in 1435 and died in Venice in 1488. His father was a roof tile and tile manufacturer although he would later become a tax collector.

Andrea started working as a goldsmith in Giulio Verrocchi’s workshop, from whom it appears he took his nickname, soon becoming one of the most important sculptors of his time.

He had a famous and active workshop in Florence from which as many sculptures as paintings and goldsmith works came; however, nowadays the only well-documented facet of Verrocchio’s work is his sculptures.

Modeller and carver, his conserved works are made from marble, terracotta, silver and bronze. Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Miguel Ángel were amongst his students.

Between the years of 1474-1475 the Baptism of Christ was produced, currently conserved in the Uffizi. Leonardo da Vinci, who was very young at the time, helped in this masterpiece. Leonardo had been Verrocchio’s student since 1467. Leonardo finished off the landscape and painted the angel on the left hand side, exceeding the quality in the rest of the painting. According to Vasari, Verrocchio couldn’t overcome this criticism and didn’t wish to ever touch paint brushes again, he was in indignation because a young boy knew more than him.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s angel in detail

Christ’s Baptism in Google Art Proyect

In 1478 Verrocchio started what was to be his most famous work, an equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, who had died three years earlier. The masterpiece was commissioned by the Venetian Republic. It was the first intent to produce a group in which the horse appeared to have its legs in the air. The statue is featured for Colloeoni’s facial expression and the magnificent representation of movement.

Verrocchio created a wax model in 1480, and in 1488 he finally moved to Venice to attend the group’s foundry. Nevertheless he died that same year before finishing the masterpiece, which was finished by his disciple Alessandro Leopardi.

However from all his pieces of work my preferred one would be a sculpture that he completed around 1478, a winged cherub with a dolphin, currently found in the Palazzo Vecchio and which was originally meant to be a fountain in Villa Médicis in Careggi. It appears to have been commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici.

The child’s movement is graceful, happy and playful; it measures a height of 68cm.

The statue was used as a centrepiece of the primary patio of Vecchio Palace between 1550 and 1568, where it crowned the fountain designed by Vasari.

We have permitted ourselves to reproduce the piece as a necklace and earrings, an original way of preserving the everlasting charm of this small angel and being able to enjoy it up close.

Necklace and earrings inspired by Verrocchio’s masterpiece.

A Tiara designed by Miriam Haskell from 1930

When we choose a piece of jewellery for our shop, it is because it transmits something special and magical to one of the three of us. It seems incredible, yet we usually coincide in our choices. It is curious that being so different we always coincide at the hour of choosing the pieces that are to enter in our space.

Although there are some pieces that we fall in love with more than others, each one has its fetish piece that will never be sold and that captivates us at first sight.

Today I want to talk to you about one of my favourite pieces. It is a bride’s tiara by Miriam Haskell. It inspired me as soon as I saw it; it appeared to be of such a sublime delicacy and exquisiteness. When I held it for the first time, the first thing I thought was, why would somebody want to rid themselves of such a proud and delicate piece? It was surely a special commission for some youth in the Thirties. I am sure that she would have fallen in love with the jewel at first sight, just as I did.

For those of you that do not know Miriam Haskell, I will tell you that this design and business visionary was born in 1899 under the wing of a family of Jewish immigrants fromRussia. Her family managed to reach a rather well-off position for the time. Miriam studied at theChicagoUniversityfor 3 years before moving toNew Yorkwith 500 dollars in her pocket, most probably lent to her by her family.

Soon after arriving she managed to establish herself at the Mc Alplin Hotel, which in these times was the biggest hotel in the world, holding a capacity for 2500 people. The hotel was situated right in the heart ofNew   York City. There she opened a small shop where she sold jewellery from the famous designers of the period.


Miriam immediately decided to launch her own firm and contracted the services of Frank Hess, a young window dresser with an unusual aesthetic sense and taste for the time. Frank would rapidly become the brand’s Creative Director. He had a rather complex personality and his shyness made him feel more comfortable working in the workshop between sketches and stones, than attending the uncountable clients that visited his shop desiring to be attended by him personally. He was a very peculiar character, known for his tall top hats and his silver handled cane. He was very demanding with his employees.

On the other hand, Miriam was a vey attractive, elegant and intelligent woman and when she was in the role of the brand’s public relations, she was in her element. In this way they complemented each other perfectly.

They managed to become a great success in a very short time. In 1930 they were already rubbing shoulders with the most select and influential people in the artistic and social circles, so much in Europe as in Hollywood and New York. Women of the scale and influence of Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball or the Duchess of Windsor wore Miriam Haskell’s designs at these great parties.

In the Fifties Miriam fell into a deep depression, her state meant that the company fell into her brother’s hands. She never went back to work and retired soon after the end of the war, it is said that she was influenced by the horrors of the war itself and didn’t manage to overcome the disasters that she had lived. Frank continued to work in the company until he retired in 1960.

Currently, it is rather difficult to find pieces from the brand’s first period and the prices tend to be rather high.

Although the company continues making marvellous pieces of jewellery, many of them inspired by Miriam and Franks great collections, for me, they do not match up to the delicacy and sensitivity of the pieces made by them in those golden years. They made a magnificent “tandem” and knew how to transmit their enthusiasm and illusion to all the women of the time.

I will leave you a link to the brand’s current page so that you can judge for yourselves:

The following photographs that I have attached for you are hand coloured prints by the artist Larry Austin. They are illustrations made between 1930 and 1940 and were used to promote the brand in shops and jewellers from all over the world. In them we are able to appreciate the beauty of some of the most sophisticated pieces.

Had you ever heard anyone speak of Miriam Haskell before?


Girl with a Pearl Earring (J. Vermeer 1632-1675)

After seeing a certain painting in different publications or art catalogues so many times, when the moment finally arrives to find myself face to face with it for the first time, I am flooded by a sense of disquietude and nervousness. The image is so familiar to me that I don’t think I will be capable of contributing new feelings to those that I have already experienced. Will it be bigger or smaller than I imagined? Will the colours be lighter or darker that I imagined?

The colour, the light, the size of the canvas including its frame, these are the details that you cannot appreciate in their full splendour until you behold the painting with your own eyes. I think that seeing the painting itself, however many times you may have seen it in publications; will always surprise you more than you think. At least this is what always happens to me.

Finding myself face to face with “Girl with a Pearl Earring” produced a much greater feeling inside me than I had expected from this particular piece of art. It is a rather small oil painting, it measures 45×39 cm. This magnificent portrait by Vermeer has a beauty so surprising that it captures you instantly. Many consider this painting to be the Mona Lisa of the North, comparing it with Leonardo Da Vinci’s emblematic masterpiece.

Would it be the eyes; the youngster’s gaze; the light that Vermeer always painted so masterfully, or the reflection of the pearl that captivated me from the very beginning? All of this is of a surprising beauty.

On one hand the youth transmits a feeling of innocence and sensitivity to me. Her gaze seems so sweet and juvenile… Yet on the other hand, her humid and full lips convey an exciting sensuality to me. Altogether I think that she directs a gaze loaded with cheek and insinuation at the spectator.

I must admit that my eyes went directly to the earring, a simple pearl of substantial size. Plinio said that women had the custom of hanging pearls from their ears for the pleasure that it caused them when the pearls stroked their skin whilst moving.

I fell in love with this pearl, the simplicity of its montage and its size. For me, the pearl was the focal point of this painting. It is because of this that I didn’t rest until I found the most similar jewel to these earrings. This happened in a goldsmith inFlorence, specializing in reproductions of Baroque pieces, where I found these that I bring to our Vintage space today.

If you have the opportunity to see this magnificent masterpiece, don’t miss out on it. I would love to know your opinions about her. She is currently in the Royal Picture Gallery inThe Hague.

I hope you like it as much as I do.



The ‘Garçon’ Look (1920-1930)

The Twenties gave way to the beginning of our emancipation. The fact that we achieved the free vote for the first time in this decade, after a great struggle meant that we would free ourselves from numerous restrictions to which we had always been subjected.

The freedom to vote came hand in hand with the freedom in many other areas. We managed to liberate ourselves from the corseted dresses, the awkward hairstyles, the dense black stockings, the nineteenth century’s ankle-length skirts and give the loose reign to a new woman. We passed from being submissive housewives to indisputable protagonists of social events. We started to fill universities and we were made intoQueensof the nightlife scene. The great parties, the jazz concerts, the theatres and the casinos were the places where we gave loose reign to this new lifestyle.

The great designers of this period soon understood what the changes were that we demanded, and they adjusted their designs to our new taste: short sleeves, wide necklines, knee-length skirts, loose dresses… A style that was much freer, sportier and casual than we could ever have dreamed of wearing.

All these changes gave way to a totally new look: “The Garçon Look”.

This look, much more masculine that ever imagined, needed to lend itself to long earrings, silk stockings, infinite pearl necklaces and sophisticated accessories, in order to give a more feminine touch to a look that perhaps resulted too masculine for its time.

Which were the indispensable objects for the ‘garçon look’? : short hair, natural silk, leopard, sophisticated turbans, fringes, feathers, long mouthpieces, cigarette cases, red lipstick, and of course, ostentatious pieces of costume jewellery. These would be the signs that distinguished the authentic “garçon woman” from her predecessors.

Smoking, driving fast cars, practising sports such as golf or tennis, dancing a Charleston or a Tango were the activities that we could never have dreamt of doing, and from this moment on they would turn into something indispensable for any woman that valued being update with the latest trends.

The Decorative Arts exhibition in 1925 inParis, and fashion magazines such as Vogue (New York, 1982) and Gazette du Bon Ton (Paris 1912), were the authentic trampolines that allowed the garçon style to rapidly jump up to the European and United States´ salons.

The greatest revolutionist in the fashion and costume jewellery world was Coco Chanel. Chanel was a visionary, a genius in haut couture and design. She was the authentic ‘garçon woman’.

It was thanks to Chanel and designers such as Trifari, Napier, Marcel Borcher and Eisenberg (I will go on to speak about all of these in future posts), that the great pieces of jewellery were able to reach all women around the world. They were the women that demanded pieces with style and glamour, yet at a more accessible price than the pieces made by the great jewellers of the time. Chanel never considered costume jewellery to be the younger sister of jewellery. On the contrary, she always thought of it as an authentic type of jewellery.

The garçon style went out with a bang when theNew Yorkstock exchange crashed in 1929 and the Second World War started inEurope. The luxury industry disappeared and the great jewellery and costume jewellery designers had to reduce their prices, resorting to materials such as Bakelite, plastic or silver. In this way they were able to continue creating pieces of great design and quality but at much lower prices.

Can you identify with the garçon look?

What do you think of the infinite pearl necklaces and the great costume jewellery pieces?

Illustration kindly provided by Pippisstrella


Bia di Medici

These earrings arrived to our space by pure coincidence; however I fell in love with them as soon as I saw them.

The elegant tone of their quartzes and the small hanging pearl inspired me from the first moment.

I immediately started to look for information about the first owner of this delicate piece, it didn’t take me long to find her: Bia Di Medici, also known as Bianca.

When I saw Bronzino’s portrait of her for the first time, I wouldn’t quite know how to explain the sensation that it caused me to feel. My first surprise was when I found out that the painting was of a little girl. A girl, little more than 5 years of age, who displayed an unquestionable beauty and sweetness, also transmitted something to me that was slightly disconcerting. I found her gaze to be so cold and distant…

It is very curious because the day that I started to write this entry, a great friend came to my house for coffee and I showed her the portrait so that she could give me her opinion. As she happened to be a painter herself, her opinion seemed all the more specific. And it was to my surprise when I found out that the portrait stirred disquietude in her as it had done in me.

As long as I didn’t know Bia’s story, I wasn’t capable of understanding why this portrait, being of such incomparable beauty, disconcerted me so when looking at it.

I wanted to ask you a favour. Stop for a moment at this work of art. Feel for a few moments what it is that Bia transmits to you… and then, continue reading.

The story of Bia, although sad, was developed in one of the most luxurious and refined homes of sixteenth centuryItaly.

Illegitimate daughter of Cosme I of Medici, she was born when her father had scarcely reached 18 years of age and had not yet married. Bia never lived with her mother and we don’t even know who she was.

Soon after her birth she was taken toFlorenceto live with her father, knowing that Cosme I always felt a special predilection towards her, spoiling her and giving her all the whims that she fancied.

The happiness of both lasted very little. Cosme I contracted marriage with Leonor of Toledo – those of you who follow my blog will remember her: “One broach and two Leonors” – Leonor demanded that the girl be moved immediately to “Villa Di Castello” where she would live with her paternal grandmother.

Bia shared these years in the palace with Giuliana, illegitimate daughter of Alexander of Medici and who was scarcely two years older than her. The girls shared games and antics and they were the joy of their grandmother, until in 1542 both of them became sick with fevers. Cosme I demanded that he be informed daily about the status of the young girls, unfortunately however, after only a few days Bia passed away. She was only 6 years old.

Cosme I immediately ordered a portrait from Bronzino, who was a renowned artist at this time.

What impressed me was when I found out that Bronzino painted this beautiful panel from the funeral mask that they had obtained from Bia after her death. Bia never posed for the great artist. In this moment I understood why the portrait had disturbed me so, and why Bia’s gaze had seemed so cold and distant.

Cosme I never managed to get over the loss of his first daughter. It is because of this that the portrait remained in Cosme’s private gallery for so many years, for his personal contemplation and in order to keep her alive in his memory.

Despite the sad story of little Bia, the earrings still seem beautiful to me. I think that Bronzino chose this piece of jewellery for its delicacy and simplicity. When I see them I can at least imagine Bia scampering around the porticoes of the lodges at ‘Villa Di Castello’, under the complacent gaze of her august grandmother.

The Experts say that Bronzino’s portrait is one of his greatest masterpieces.

What was your first impression when contemplating this portrait?