Giulio Nardi (1897 – 1976) was born in Florence but moved to Venice in the early 1920s where he opened his eponymous jewellery boutique at number 69, Piazza San Marco, familiar to us as St Mark’s Square. He began by working in silver and crystal making candelabra, table ware and objet d’art before starting to create jewellery. From the very beginning he focused on fine quality craftsmanship and all the pieces were made in his workshop behind the Piazza.
His designs were inspired by the city he lived in – the architecture, motifs, light, water, festivals, characters, art and culture. His reputation for fine quality jewellery grew steadily and his use of traditional techniques which honoured the work of the 18th century Venetian goldsmiths was admired. He had an artistic flair for design and was careful to use only the most beautiful materials to realise his ideas. Unquestionably his most famous design is that of the Moretto, the Venetian icon made famous by Shakespeare’s Moor of Venice – Othello. These brooches took the form of a Moor’s head carved in ebony or onyx wearing an elaborate jewelled turban and costume, gem-set throughout with an array of coloured stones and diamonds in a wide variety of different styles.
The first of these brooches was made for Giulio’s wife but this personal love token soon caught the attention of others, Venetian high society fell for their charm and consequently the Moretto’s fame spread. During the 1960s Italy was basking in La Dolce Vita and Venice in particular became one of the places for the international jet-set to see and be seen. Nardi became a popular destination for glamourous women looking to add a new jewel or two to their collection and to take a little piece of Venice home with them. Moretto brooches were spotted on the lapels of European and Hollywood royalty including stylish women such as Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor.
Giulio’s son Sergio joined him in the business and in due course Sergio’s son Alberto also followed his father into the family firm. Today Nardi still operates from the same place on that famous square selling memories and keepsakes that epitomise the kaleidoscopic charms of Venice.