When it comes to buying souvenirs during my travels, I usually opt for a piece of jewelry. A necklace, ring, or bracelet is not just a beautiful reminder of the places I’ve visited. It’s a small work of art that tells a story of the past — and the present. Discover our favorite Italian jewelry brands that weave ancient history into contemporary designs.
Psst. If you’re not in Italy right now, that’s alright. They have online stores and ship abroad!
I have always held a deep-seated love for the ancient world, from the beautiful wall paintings of Pompeii to the sumptuous flesh-turned-marble sculptures of powerful gods and extraordinary heroes. Ancient jewelry in particular has never failed to stop me in my tracks, mesmerizing me with its beauty and elegance. If you’re like me, you often wish to own one of these ancient designs. So you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered ROMAE!
Founded by mother-daughter duo Cris and Elena, ROMAE is a jewelry brand that creates wearable designs modeled after jewelry from ancient Rome. Cris, a professor and classical archaeologist, has worked with Roman artifacts for over 20 years and has been a long-time lover of ancient jewelry making. “The designs of the ancient Romans would be as popular today as they were back then,” she says. And I think she’s right! Together with her daughter Elena, a designer and artist, they’ve launched a luxury jewelry collection with a modern twist.
Each piece recalls the ancient world with the name of notable historical and mythological figures (Calliope, Livia, Faustina), or a famous ancient work of art. These wearable treasures also arrive with a card providing details about the original piece of ancient jewelry, so you can learn more about the rich history behind the creation you chose. ROMAE proves that jewelry is not just adornment, but tells a story. It’s also a worthwhile investment. These collections are made with high-quality heavy gold plating/vermeil and precious stones. After an almost 3,000-year hiatus, Roman jewelry is fashionable once again.
Giulia Barela Jewelry
Another jewelry collection inspired by art and history, Giulia Barela Jewelry represents the beautiful marriage of contemporary design with ancient goldsmithing techniques. After studying Law and working in International Relations, designer Giulia Barela decided to fulfill her dream of becoming a jewelry designer in 2012. Her atelier is in Prati, just a short walk from Piazza Cavour and the Vatican.
Giulia Barela’s designs are called “wearable sculptures” and it’s no surprise why. The result of a textural, three-dimensional feel is achieved only through handmade craftsmanship. “I prefer to use my hands because each irregularity brings you closer to where you need to be,” explains the artist. The collections take their inspiration from the textures of local African outfits, the organic lines of coral from the deep sea, and the magical symbolism of ouroboros and enchanted snakes. The bronze and silver pieces are created with the lost-wax casting technique and finished with 24-carat gold or rhodium black.
Founded on the historic Via dei Coronari in 1947, GrandTour Collection was born as a goldsmith and watch repair shop before turning into an Italian jewelry workshop. Now in its third generation, the family-run business was inspired by the “Grand Tour” of the 18th century. This traditional finishing trip was undertaken by young European aristocrats with the purpose of completing their formal education in Italy. This flourishing era of travel saw the rise of “souvenirs” with artisans across all mediums creating miniature copies of famous sites, monuments, and works of art to sell to tourists.
GrandTour Jewelry Collection pays homage to this important period of Italian history by drawing inspiration from the past and adding a touch of modernity. Utilizing Neoclassical motifs and designs, the GrandTour gives its wearable art a contemporary spin by painting them in bright, bold colors. These eclectic and chic designs are a mix of Italy’s immense cultural heritage and contemporary materials, such as plexiglass, rubber, and resins. You can also go wild and have fun customizing your own ring: a red pegasus with a pink band? A purple Medusa with a blue band? The sky is the limit.
Founded by two business-savvy best friends, Costanza De Cecco and Giulia Giannini, Co.Ro. Jewels represent the beautiful intersection between architecture, art, and jewelry design. I discovered the brand while searching for Christmas gifts in Rome, and I became mesmerized by the creations. As an art historian, anything inspired by art and architecture is sure to capture my attention. These elegant and contemporary pieces take inspiration from famous sites in the city: Borromini’s Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome’s abandoned gasometro, and the Spanish Steps (my personal favorite!).
These monuments are tastefully recreated in a variety of jewels, including rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and hair accessories. These wearable works of art allow you to carry a piece of Italy with you wherever you go. And, the best part: they match every outfit.
When it comes to handmade traditional Italian jewelry, you can’t do better than Eredi Jovon. Located on the famous Rialto Bridge in Venice, this family-owned business has specialized in hand-carved cameos and coral since 1934. Murano glass may be a household name, but I believe it’s Eredi Jovon’s cameo jewelry that truly deserves praise.
Luciano Jovon, founder and artisan, built the business on his expertise and skill in creating cameos. A cameo is a relief carving, traditionally of a figure in profile on semi-precious gemstones, glass, or mollusk shells. These beautiful miniature works of art have been in production since 3100 BC! They were popular throughout the Ancient Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Neoclassical period of the 18th century. Today, cameos continue to be beloved by jewelry aficionados and collectors alike.
Eredi Jovon has a beautiful selection of relief carvings set in 18K gold or sterling silver. They depict the traditional female profile, mythological scenes, and even copies of real Italian paintings. The prices are determined by the size (millimeters), the complexity of the design, and the setting materials. But don’t worry, you can get away with a moderately large piece (4-6mm) of a traditional profile for under a €100.
When it comes to quality assurance for my cameo jewelry, I trust Eredi Jovon implicitly! Not only are they transparent about their hand-carving process, but they write weekly blogs to teach their customers all about cameo jewelry, and how to identify fakes. They have also published several books on the art of making, and buying, traditional Italian jewelry.
Lucia Odescalchi is one of Rome’s best-kept secrets. Originally an architecture student from Genova, Lucia began her career in the Italian jewelry world by reproducing antique and Roman jewelry for museum shops. Before becoming her namesake, the brand was originally called “Oro dei Musei” (Gold of Museums). She married Roman prince Carlo Odescalchi in the 1980s and has since made Palazzo Odescalchi her home. The palazzo also houses her boutique on the ground floor. Located just steps from Piazza Venezia, it’s tucked away from the bustle of the city and decorated with beautiful frescoes.
Odescalchi’s design inspirations are rooted in the past but emerge as contemporary objects of timeless beauty. Free of “homages” to other creators, the designs are completely her own. “I think that jewelry should not change as quickly as fashion, it must somehow be linked to outfits. So, allowing icons of the past to survive — inspired by the Victorian epoque, the Viennese secession — and combining things together, I make from old and new pieces, an object of timeless value,” explains Lucia.
Her pieces remind me of abstract sculpture, each a beautiful blend of materials and styles. Bold and brilliant, these statement pieces are sure to turn heads with their refined quality and reflective surfaces. They are certainly not for traditionalists, nor the faint of heart. She pairs historic techniques with precious and industrial materials: steel-set diamonds, black wood disc earrings, and painted chainmail. Her CODICE collection is my particular favorite. These woven canvases are created with hundreds of hematite scales and remind me of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. Whatever you choose, this brand is certainly fit for the modern woman.