A Piece That Found Me

Puglia Flea Market Keyhole necklace on model

I wish I could say this design was intentional. But, like most of what I do, it was just a mistake that turned out well.

This one started in a flea market in Puglia, Italy, and has travelled around the world until landing home in Providence, RI.

Last summer I spent a month in Italy searching the markets in Puglia, a region perpetually rumored to be the next Tuscany, but due to its “Southerness” hasn’t quite made the leap.

I prefer it that way, especially since the markets haven’t been ravaged and you can still find genuine antique ex-votos, playing cards and silverware and not pay the prices of ABC Home and Carpet in New York City.

I usually collect old keys when I market hunt, but I have become bored by the motif, not by the symbolism.

Instead, this time I started to collect decorative escutcheon, or keyhole covers. I found a few that I liked and had them cast and produced a few necklaces and rings.

I thought it would be very cool if I had a gemstone carved into the shape of the keyhole  (the escutcheon’s negative space) and then had it bezel set into the escutcheon so it would be metal on the outside and a gemstone where a key would normally go.

I sent the escutcheon to my stonecutters and thought I had explained what I wanted (but reading this over I can see how confusing it actually is).

I quickly received back what I thought would be an aquamarine, ruby and smoky quartz in the shape of an actual keyhole.

Instead, I opened up exact duplicates of the escutcheon. Why I hadn’t thought of that in the first place still eludes me. They were simply lovely and delicate and perfect for my collection as they mix with the Raw collection as well as with the travel pieces. Currently I have aquamarine, white agate, red onyx, black onyx and ruby pieces made.

As always, I can’t help but note that this tiny detail in the middle of Italy’s obscure and relatively impenetrable “heel” was probably part of someone’s life in that charmingly mundane way. Now, that little architectural detail has influenced a random American girl’s jewelry collection, of which I am writing now.