A Conversation with Alberto Nardi at Nardi Venezia
There are only a handful of jewellery brands whose essential identity and aesthetic DNA is as closely linked to a city as that of Nardi Jewellery and Venice. Located in the heart of the city, Nardi Jewellery occupies five arches at a corner of the Venice’s most important landmark, the historic St. Mark’s Square. This location has not changed since 1926 when this Venetian jewellery Maison was first established by Giulio Nardi, an artist, craftsman, and entrepreneur, who was Florentine by birth but undeniably Venetian at heart.
In a city that traces its goldsmithing and jewellery making traditions back to the 11th century, Giulio’s love for design and jewellery craftsmanship guided him in making jewellery pieces of outstanding beauty. From its very inception, Nardi’s Jewellery pieces have been steeped in the cultural identity of Venice and have been crafted at a workshop located adjacent to their Piazza San Marco jewellery shop.
Loved and cherished by Venetians, over time and especially after the Second World war, Nardi’s inimitable design aesthetic and finely crafted jewellery found lovers and aficionados all over the world. Today, Nardi is a name that is synonymous with glamour and luxury. With an impressive roster of clients that includes royalty, international celebrities, and sports legends, it is impossible not to be enchanted by the unique style and undeniable allure of Nardi’s jewellery.
Over the past century, the brand has remained a family-run jewellery business, and today Giulio’s grandson Alberto Nardi sits at its helm. Eschewing jewellery trends and fashions, the Maison has remained faithful to its artistic and stylistic legacy and continues to create jewellery pieces of uniquely inspired artistry. What’s more, under Alberto Nardi, who represents the third generation of this family of Venetian jewellers, the Maison has also been reinterpreting its heritage designs in many contemporary creations.
Nardi jewellery continues to be crafted at the same workshop, and the pieces continue to fascinate with the originality of their designs and elegance of their craftsmanship. Despite its renown, the jewellery shop is still run in a traditional way, with the Maison purchasing all its precious gemstones and working closely with skilled Venetian jewellery artisans to craft jewels of heartbreaking beauty.
The link between the brand and the city is as strong as ever. The vibrant colours of the mosaics of St. Mark’s Square, the jewelled tones of the glass sculptures of Murano and the distinctive architectural forms of the buildings of Venice can easily be seen in the bejewelled treasures. Still other pieces find their inspiration in the flora and fauna that call the Venetian lagoon their home or in the cultural history of the city, with its links to Africa and the Near East, as seen in their easily recognisable and very skilfully crafted “Moretto” pieces. All in all, the jewellery pieces at Nardi are sublime embodiments of Venetian exoticism which continues to captivate jewellery lovers everywhere.
Recently, the Maison, which is famed for its bespoke pieces, debuted its first ready-to-wear high jewellery collection, Mia. This collection can only be described as the distillation of brilliant colour and exuberant joy, in the form of jewellery. The collection finds its inspiration in Spring, when life reemerges from its wintry slumber and the land is awash with the colours of a thousand blossoms. The floral theme of the collection is enhanced by the crisp enamel and unconventional colour palettes of the pieces. From the beloved contours of the Tulip ring with its moving petals to the serene redolence of the Water Lily earrings, the collection is reminiscent of a walk through a Spring meadow, where dew drops bring alive the fresh hues of newly bloomed flowers.
I recently caught up with Alberto Nardi and in my conversation with him, we discussed Nardi’s unmistakable design aesthetic, what great jewellery craftsmanship means to the Maison, how the Venetian jewellery aesthetic has always stood apart from contemporary trends, and what led the Maison to debut its first high jewellery prêt-à-porter collection.
Nardi’s identity is indelibly linked with to uniquely beautiful Venetian aesthetic. Why is this intimate link between the city and the Maison so important?
I would say that our dream is to bring a little of the beauty of Venice to the world. To make the concept clearer, I would like a piece of Nardi jewellery to be the ambassador of Venetian aesthetics and elegance, testifying our permanent exploration of beauty.
How would you describe the Venetian style of jewellery design as it relates to Nardi today?
Some of our jewels have a strong relationship with the city, I would call them “precious memories of Venice”. I am thinking about the ring that reproduces the Rialto Bridge, or the “Gondola” brooches, or the Basilica della Salute earrings, not to mention other pieces. These jewels are meant to be the special memory of a place or a happy moment.
Some other jewels have a connection with the Venetian style which is less obvious and that has to be discovered such as the Mosaic collection. It is fascinating to give a new interpretation to decorative elements of the past and to discover how often these forms are so modern.
What is the artistic process at Nardi? Does the design come first or does the jewellery journey start with gems?
For our collections, we always start with the design and the story we want to tell: I love the idea that our jewellery have stories to tell
. If the customer wants it, this story will be unveiled and told in all its details.
As far as one-of-a-kind pieces are concerned, we often start with the material: precious stones or unusual materials. Once I have selected the stone and the other precious material, they are skilfully crafted. I have a huge respect of the beauty and uniqueness of nature’s precious gifts.
Nardi jewellery pieces are still handcrafted at your Venetian atelier. What does great jewellery craftsmanship mean to you?
Craftsmanship means knowing how to embrace the beauty of imperfection. In a world that has accustomed us to mass produced collections, where everything has to be “perfect”, we love to create handmade jewels with their unique “imperfections”.
With a paradox I would say that the craftsman’s “mistakes” is not reproducible and makes the object unique, just as the customer who will buy it.
Mia is a ground-breaking collection in that it is the first “prêt-à-porter” collection by Nardi. What led to the decision to have a ready-to-wear high jewellery collection at Nardi?
A tradition must be constantly renewed; we must look beyond, also respectfully seeking to propose alternative paths to those taken so far. I thought the time had also come to give a different image of Nardi, closer to a woman who decides to buy a piece of jewellery to “gift” herself. For this, I have created a ‘joyful’ and ‘fresh’ collection, and this is Mia Nardi.
What was the inspiration for the Mia Nardi collection and how long did it take for the collection to come alive, from design and concept ideas to the finished jewellery pieces?
The concept was to create a secret garden of multi-coloured flowers. We have been working on the collection for about two years.
Was it challenging to combine the traditional ‘Venetian jewellery’ style of the Maison with the more contemporary aesthetic of this collection? If so, how were you able to overcome the challenges?
I love the idea that two extremes meet. In the end it is always a question of aesthetic research and of passion, and in this sense, I don’t perceive a great difference between Nardi traditional collections and Mia Nardi pieces. From commercial point of view, there is no doubt that Mia has opened us up to a new clientele more connected to the concept of jewellery as a luxury accessory.
Could you tell us a little bit about the exquisite and bold choice of colours and the use of enamel alongside coloured gemstones in this collection?
This is a part of the beauty of our work. Spending time with the enameller to select the colour palette brings back the emotions of the “child lost in the candy shop”.
I think that enamel allows unique colours’ options, and it remains a key part of the goldsmith’s art.
Is Mia Nardi an evolving collection and will we see newer pieces in the future?
Of course, the idea is to present a new flower each year. This spring, we will indeed unveil a new one. The secret garden will be enriched with a new blossom.
Many thanks to Raffaella Rossiello and Elena Boerchio at Rossiello Communications for make this interview possible.
Featured Image: Faceted Tahitian Pearl, Emerald and Ruby Ring, Nardi