Carnival season is almost over in Venice. The splendor of the palaces along the Grand Canal, the majesty of St. Mark's Square and its gilded basilica, the bustling traffic on the waters of the lagoon are all major players, not just backdrops, which add to the unique flavor of the Venetian carnival. Magnificent costumes are paraded slowly, silently and regally through the streets and squares of Venice, pausing to allow tourists to snap numerous photographs that will help them to bring back to their places of origin memories and magic of Venice.
All is glittering and shining: from the rhinestones and silks of the costumes, to the masks, to the gilded interiors of palaces that can be admired from boats along the Grand Canal. The artisans in their laboratories are intent at applying gold leaf to frames or other precious objects and stores are filled with shining or damask materials, glass tableware of all types, candelabra, lamps and sparkling chandeliers.
But above all, is the plethora of glass jewelry, glittering in shops throughout Venice, around St. Mark's Square at the Rialto Bridge, and even in less frequented back alleys.
When I mentioned my interest in writing about the fine glass jewelry made in Venice, a friend of mine said "Yes, that's fine as long as you are talking about Venice, Italy and not Venice, China".
The truth is that much of the mass-produced glass jewelry on sale in Venice does not come from the near-by island of Murano where the master glass makers originated. This is not to say that the jewelry is ugly (although some of it is very ugly), or that it is too expensive. Actually, there is some good value for money out there, as long as one is clearly aware of the fact that the objects do not come from Murano but rather from very much farther.
Despite the well-founded suspicion about the oriental origin of much of the beads and jewelry on sale in Venice, it must be stressed that there are still many Venetian artisans who continue to follow centuries-old traditions, and who pride themselves on the authenticity of the materials used in their creations. And one must really speak of artistic creations because the modern-day artisans go far beyond just producing a string of colorful beads. Instead, they go to great lengths to interpret the materials with which they work to bring about a harmonious blend between authentic Venetian materials, contemporary creativity and style-setting magic.
Among the artists who merit mention and admiration are the Attombri brothers, Daniele and Stefano. I wandered into their elegant shop nestled in a corner of Campo San Maurizio, near Campo Santo Stefano. The quiet elegance of their shop was a welcome and restful contrast to the flashy stores that sport mass-produced items. The brothers use only beads from Murano, and in fact many of them are antique beads as indicated by the guarantees which are provided.
Many years ago, the brothers were very forward-looking and purchased large quantities of beautiful antique Murano beads for their future creations. They have never been tempted by the more economical product from oriental sources. In fact, Stefano almost shuddered when he recounted his experience in visiting a 7-story shopping center in China where glass beads were the only merchandise being traded.
Daniele and Stefano have been creating contemporary jewelry using traditional Venetian techniques for 20 years. Each art piece is unique, made completely by hand. The brothers Attombri themselves even make the delicate steels armatures to support their use of exclusively Murano glass.
Their designs have been used by famous Italian stylists such as Dolce & Gabbana, and published in well-known style magazines such as Vogue. The brothers have also exhibited their works nationally and internationally. In 2007 they had an exhibit in Bethesda, Maryland which was very successful, and it is planned to repeat the experience in 2008.
The brothers are pleasant, helpful and patient and willing to spend the time necessary to help prospective clients find the item that best suits their needs, whether ranging from a relatively inexpensive creation to pieces of the highest standing. It is a pleasure to visit their shop and a unique experience of authentic Venetian tradition and art.
Their shop is located at Campo San Maurizio, S. Marco 2668/a (tel. +39-041-5210789) and they have a second shop near the Rialto Bridge at Sottoportico di Rialto 74 (tel. +39-041-5212524).
By Paola Fortucci