'Nardi Venezia' is a new Assouline coffee table book by Nicholas Foulkes that covers three generations of this Venetian jeweller's fortunes, intertwined with the city's rich history. Leafing through the pages, which are filled with beautiful images of Nardi jewels as well as the art and architecture of Venice, it is clear that the smallest objects can evoke the strongest emotions. A ring in the form of the Rialto bridge, which easily slips onto a pinkie finger, is capable of conjuring up all the luxury, glamour and opulence of Venice. Which is why those in the know who want to cherish the spirit of Venice head to one small shop on St Mark's Square with the golden words 'Gioielleria Nardi' on the door.
Spanning five of the arches on the square, to enter Nardi is to step back into old-style luxe. The Nardi family's business concentrates on making a very particular kind of jewellery infused with the richness of Venice's history. The style is instantly recognisable, from blackamoor or 'Moretto' brooches depicting bejewelled black Africans to brightly coloured rings with a sense of bacchanalian fun and the more sober golden St Mark's lions cufflinks. So artisanal are the production methods, that it is estimated that, since the 1940s when Nardi first opened its doors in Venice, no more than 7,000 jewels have been handcrafted in the ateliers above the shop floor by a total of 10 craftsmen.
A brooch in the form of a gondola or a Moretto is perhaps one of the most chic souvenirs you could bring home from any Grand European Tour. So much so that, in the 1960s and early 70s, a Blackamoor brooch, as seen on the lapels of Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, was a way to show your style credentials. Visitors to the Venice Festival, including Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood, made the obligatory pilgrimage to Nardi, and royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Wallis Simpson all slipped away from the lido to the darkened solemnity of the Nardi boutique.
The story of the fortunes of the Nardi family and their creations, along with a good dose of Venetian history tempered with society gossip, are elegantly narrated by Mr Foulkes. This book is a must for lovers of jewellery who want to immerse themselves in the exotic world of Nardi. Published by Assouline in New York, the book it is available from the publisher's website for US$165 by clicking here.