In My Jewellery Box: Francesca Villa
Italian jeweller Francesca Villa studied literature at university but always knew that jewellery design was her calling. After university she enrolled in courses in gemmology and jewellery design, and eventually became creative director a renowned Italian goldsmith, creating jewellery for international brands and fashion houses.
In 2007, she came out from behind-the-scenes and launched her own brand, making jewellery quite unlike anything she’d developed before. Each piece is unique, designed around an object she has picked up on her travels around the world: it could be an antique toy soldier, a vintage casino chip or an ancient Indian stamp.
These objets trouvés are combined with precious metal and gemstones in her atelier in Piedmont, the result being unexpected, whimsical jewellery with a fascinating backstory. Here, Villa shares the stories behind some of her most treasured jewels.
As a matter of fact, this isn’t my watch, it belongs to my husband. I bought it for him as an engagement present 20 years ago. I really love men’s watches and I wear this all the time – my husband and I quarrel about it a lot! I’ve tried to convince him to give it to me and I wear it so much that, after 20 years, it is pretty much mine.
I love it because it’s not too big, it’s light, it’s classic and elegant and it goes with any outfit. I don’t like to wear huge watches, I prefer to have this on my wrist.
My husband proposed with a diamond ring and I saved for a long time to buy him this watch. I knew he loved Breguet and eventually, after a lot of searching, I found one that wasn’t too expensive for me to buy by myself.
That’s another reason I love it – as well as being a symbol of our engagement, it was an important gift for me to buy him. In a way it’s more important to me than to him!
Francesca Villa agate ring
This ring contains an agate seal that I bought in Istanbul four years ago. I was with my family on a summer holiday and we went to the Museum of Innocence, which is a museum full of objects collected by the main character in a novel I love.
Close to the museum was a shop full of antique treasures; some of them expensive, others of little or no value. Amongst everything I found this seal. I’m always collecting things from all over the world – like the character in the book – and my jewellery is based around these objets trouvés. Sometimes when I find something I really love I’ll make something for myself, like this ring.
It’s very big but quite simple: the diamonds around the seal are not too expensive, but I like the style. It’s big but not showy. And of course, it reminds me of that wonderful day in Istanbul with my family.
Vintage pinkie ring
My grandmother gave this ring to my mother for her 18th birthday, and in turn she gave it to me when I turned 18. When I was young my mother wore it every day, so I decided to do the same. It’s my lucky charm.
My mother’s family are from Italy and my grandmother used to design and commission jewellery from the local artisans. I think this is probably one of the pieces she designed. It’s comfortable, even though it’s a pinkie ring, and very cute – it reminds me of a little cake. Most of all though I love it because it’s so related to my mother’s family.
My mother really loved this ring too so it was quite a surprise when she gave it to me! I have two daughters and a son, and my eldest daughter will be 18 next June, so I’m thinking about what to do. I’m torn. Perhaps the fact that I have two girls means I can keep it for myself for a little while longer…
Marina B earrings
These were one of the first ‘serious’ presents my husband bought me, over 20 years ago. We met when we were very young and one summer I was exhausted at home, studying for an exam. My doorbell rang and it was my husband standing there with a gift box in his hands. He said “you need a break” and suggested we go to the seaside, which is where he gave me this wonderful pair of earrings.
They are very playful: you can change the boule at the top and mix and match different colours. I love Marina B jewellery in general, I think her work is special.
These earrings are elegant and easy to wear even though they are fairly big. They’re very comfortable and feminine, and even though they are quite old now they still look modern. I wear them a lot for dinners and parties – they’re not an everyday piece.