Designers / Gold / Industry

These Ancient Gold Jewels Are the Ultimate Examples of Upcycling


Last fall, London-based jeweler Pippa Small introduced a capsule collection of gold jewels called Old Is New, a collaboration with Joseph Coplin, the co-owner of Antiquarium Ltd. Fine Ancient Arts Gallery, an antiquities dealer on New York’s Madison Avenue.

The capsule included rings, pendants, necklaces, and bangles made with Antiquarium artifacts from as far back as 1 B.C., all mounted in Small’s elegant 18k and 22k gold settings, such as a ring set with a solid gold amulet of an oryx, a symbol of power and virility.

Pippa Small amulet ring
Old Is New amulet ring in 22k gold, $26,160; Pippa Small

Although she was hardly the first jeweler to find inspiration in the ancient past (Bulgari, for one, has been doing it since the 1960s, in pieces such as this rose gold Monete necklace set with a 2,000-year-old coin), Small was on to something. The combination of genuine antiquities—be they Roman coins, Phoenician beads, or antique amulets—with karat gold sends a powerful message about jewelry’s ability to protect, inspire, communicate and, above all, endure.

Victoria Strigini, another London-based jeweler, is equally enamored with ancient treasures. The minimalist 18k gold jewels that make up her Modern Antiquities range are the perfect platforms to showcase Roman intaglios, like the orange carnelian disc depicting a female’s bust in profile seen in her Floating Cab ring. Dating from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D., the piece is handcrafted at Strigini’s studio in Mayfair.

Victoria Strigini Floating cab ring
Floating Cab ring in 18k yellow gold with Roman carnelian intaglio, £6,250 (about $8,700); Victoria Strigini

For Anna Porcu, an Italian art jeweler based in Pienza, a town in Tuscany, antique cameos have been a staple of her work since she debuted her first collection in 2011.

In Porcu’s latest collection, she pairs antique cameos in black paste from the late 1800s with 14k gold, such as in the handmade Ceres ring (below and at top), which features yellow enamel and two artfully set diamonds.

Anna Porcu Ceres ring
Ceres ring in 14k gold with antique cameo in black paste, yellow enamel, and diamonds, $4,775; Anna Porcu

The charm of the unique piece, which represents the goddess Demeter, lies in the serendipitous journey it has taken through history, only to be placed into a contemporary gold jewel, poised for another go-around with humanity. If jewels could talk indeed!

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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