If your collection is missing a design that’s truly one-of-a-kind, meet Elizabeth Locke. The Virginia-based designer is best known for cleverly incorporating extraordinary antiques into pieces imbued with a modern sensibility. In Locke’s hands, vintage intaglios, ancient Greek and Roman coins, and antique Japanese porcelain buttons are refashioned into 19-karat gold earrings, rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Here, Locke chats about micromosaics, her most beloved talisman, and more.
What was the first piece of jewelry you were given?
The first significant piece of jewelry I ever received was a beautiful Georgian emerald ring that my father bought for me in Venice. I loved it madly, but a few years later it mysteriously disappeared—and my evil Italian boyfriend suddenly had a lot of new camera equipment . . . a learning experience!
What piece of jewelry should every woman own?
Every woman should own a single piece that is a sort of personal talisman. It doesn’t matter what the piece is; it’s the importance that you give to it. My talisman is a silver South Sea pearl that I purchased and set nearly 30 years ago. It isn’t particularly valuable, but I wouldn’t part with it for anything. I won’t get on a plane or go for any medical test without wearing it. In moments of high anxiety, I clutch that pearl without shame!
What is your favorite piece of jewelry, and why?
My favorite piece of jewelry right now would be a charm bracelet with charms that have special meaning for me. There’s a micromosaic of a cat, a carved coral reclining hound, a turquoise Maltese cross, and a pietra dura of a seashell. The charms clip on and off so I can swap them around according to the mood I’m in.
What was your most recent jewelry purchase?
I purchased a micromosaic brooch last week from a dealer in Vienna. I will take it out of its Victorian setting and remount it when I get to my studio in a few weeks. I bought it sight unseen from a photo but wasn’t disappointed when it arrived yesterday.
What kinds of antique pieces will you be incorporating into upcoming designs?
In addition to the 19th-century micromosaics, I will be using antique Essex crystals of Victorian doggies, 18th-century mother-of-pearl Chinese gaming counters, and I have a wonderful 19th-century double-sided portrait made from feathers showing a parrot and an egret.
Where are you going on your next big trip?
In May, my husband and I will go to Sweden and Denmark on an architectural tour, and in October we will be in Venice to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Tintoretto’s birth, followed by a week of visiting private gardens in Portugal.