An undeniable highlight of my summer: getting some built-in bookshelves installed in my home. This happy occasion prompted me to go hunting in my mother’s attic to rescue some books from my childhood in the hopes that my daughter may enjoy them one day (now that she is a reader). One box held these hardcover treasures (Little Women! Heidi! Anne of Green Gables!).
Another mouse-gnawed cardboard box held storybooks, including a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. This edition was first published by Doubleday in 1912, and the images are copyrighted to 1953. I remembered the stories well, including “How the Leopard Got His Spots” and How the Camel Got His Hump.”
Later, I asked my mother to read “The Elephant’s Child” to my daughter as I listened. I must say, I was troubled by the references to the little guy being beaten repeatedly by his family and fellow jungle inhabitants. And of course, throughout the book, there are the ubiquitous undertones of British colonialism (and similarly icky things in regards to Kipling himself) that are just so…well, you know.
But still this book, with its tattered ruby-red cover and enchanting illustrations of leopards and zebras and giraffes, remains a highly evocative artifact from my childhood. The images are imprinted in my mind as vividly as the memory of being read to on the slightly scratchy yellow carpet that decorated my bedroom, and of the coordinating curtains (I’m just remembering the pattern now: jungle animal–themed, in tangerine and those oh-so-1970s shades of harvest gold and mustard).
Was it just a coincidence that the Italian jewelry designer Francesca Villa happen to drop photos of her latest collection in my inbox, most of which incorporate creatures that seem plucked from the pages of Kipling (or Aesop or Jean de la Fontaine)?
Titled Make a Wish, it’s the newest “chapter” of Villa’s Close Encounters collection, in which she’s dreamed up a world of serendipitous meetings between creatures from different environments—and continents—to create new experiences together.
A leopard wishes to make friends and accompanies a seahorse to a party on the beach. A zebra is celebrating its birthday while a little crab and cockatoo appear to help mark the occasion.
The crystals for Make a Wish, as in previous Villa collections, were made in collaboration with two female master jewelers in Germany who specialize in the Old World technique of carving and hand-painting rock crystal. Villa has been sourcing and featuring antique Essex crystals (popular in the Victorian era—and discussed a bit here) in her jewelry, and now she works with versions that bring the images of her own imagination to life.
And if I get to make a wish? It’s for Villa to make more of these little wonders immediately!
Top: Make a Wish ring in 18k yellow gold, with diamonds, rubies, and rock crystal intaglio backed with mother-of-pearl, $7,920
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