Among the many luxury brands that are found in the narrow streets that radiate off Piazza San Marco in Venice – and from Audemars Piguet to Zegna, they are all available here – there exists one address that offers beautiful products unique to the city. From bracelets that drip with gondola charms to the Rialto ring shaped like the famous bridge that straddles the Grand Canal, the legendary jeweler Nardi creates astonishing gems inspired by its Venetian surroundings. Indeed, when the cult status boutique was founded in the 1930s by Giulio Nardi, he conceived a destination to buy what he described as “luxury souvenirs of Venice”.

Three generations later and Nardi remains almost exactly the same. Now expanded from occupying one arch to five on the south side of Piazza San Marco, Giulio’s grandson Alberto Nardi continues to draw on the canals, lagoons, art and architecture of Venice to create unusual jewels. The windows of the Ca dl’oro Palace recently informed an entire collection of earrings titled ‘Venetian Windows’. And those Rialto rings have quickly reached must-have status, with people like Russell Crowe bringing them back home as a gift for his wife.

As well as looking forward with new collections, Alberto Nardi understands that the Nardi archives are a treasure trove of one-off designs. About ten years ago he started buying back Nardi’s most iconic pieces – their Moretti, the moor-headed brooches in onyx with gem encrusted turbans that were so beloved of royalty and Hollywood stars. ““The oldest one that I have discovered so far is from the 1930s,” says Alberto Nardi. “It is made of ebony, pink gold, diamonds and rubies with small gold bubbles in the eye sockets, something that we stopped doing in the 1940s. Almost all the jewellery made by Nardi is rooted in some way or another in the culture and traditions of Venice: the Moretto is no exception.”

Because of the disastrous Venetian flood of 1966, records do not exist to detail precisely the story of the Nardi Moretti. Yet over the years, distinctive collections of Moretti can be identified. “Even though no two Moretti are ever the same, they began to fall into different ‘families’ named in honour of the person who commissioned the first one,” says Alberto Nardi. “The most famous is the Paola, this is named after Paola Queen of Belgium. She first came to the shop in the 1950s and I recently welcomed her back.” Other important Moretti include The Princess Grace, which shares the same shape as the Paola, but is set only with diamonds, and the Elizabeth Taylor, which is made with sapphires and yellow gold.

Even though the brooch is no longer the height of fashion as it once was, Nardi continue to create new Moretti, which are made alongside the Rialto rings, gondola charms and more in the same atelier behind San Marco using the same artisan techniques inspired by the work of 18th century Venetian goldsmiths. Unique yet traditional, they remain the ultimate “luxury souvenirs of Venice” for connoisseurs.

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