Antonia Miletto (917.322.9672, www.antoniamiletto.com) recognized the creative possibilities inherent in the rugged, sculptural properties of wood 20 years ago, when she was traveling in Brazil. She began collecting native specimens and, being a jewelry designer, eventually incorporated these rich materials into a collection. "I like the crude nature of wood juxtaposed with the precision of refined goldwork," rel="nofollow" she says.
An Italian native, Miletto now works exclusively out of her boutique in Venice, though she also meets with clients by appointment in New York. She still uses Brazilian woods, such as a warm, violet-colored variety called purpleheart, as well as other exotic species, including striped macassar ebony. And she trusts only one master carver to execute her intricate designs. The Milanese carver, who is in his mid-70s, takes about three days to complete a single piece, which is then set with gold and precious stones. The lightness of wood enables Miletto to realize large-scale concepts that would be too heavy to wear if rendered entirely in gold. "I like classic jewelry, but it is boring," she says. "Using wood, I found a way to create jewelry that is more like art."