Antonia Miletto isn’t afraid of a challenge. For the last 30 years, the Italian jewelry designer has been crafting complex one-of-a-kind jewels that fuse the precious with the non-precious—think dramatically striated wood paired with glimmering cognac diamonds or striped Macassar ebony set with gold and precious stones. “From my early beginning, I liked to incorporate unusual gemstones, exotic woods, horn, resin, and other unexpected components in my pieces,” says Miletto, who sets all of her creations in 18-karat gold or sterling silver. Every piece of wood and resin is hand-carved in small ateliers around Italy.
In her latest pieces, Miletto once again experimented with unusual materials to create jewelry she calls “classic in its forms with a sense of contemporaneity.” For a truly unique bracelet, Miletto chose amaranth, a purple wood from Brazil. In the center, claires de lune cabochon stones add a tridimensional touch, while blackened white gold with a contour of cognac diamonds further distinguish the piece. “The hardest species of wood, like ebony, Macassar, amaranth, and other exotic woods are extremely hard; thus they can be perfectly shaped and carved,” Miletto says.
After falling in love with an unconventionally large brooch from Natascha Demner’s estate jewelry collection (a statement piece with elaborate honeycomb work), Miletto had it set in ebony wood. “The idea to turn it into a necklace centerpiece was a very successful one,” she says.
She also breathed new life into a series of miniature plaques acquired from an antique dealer. Dating back to 1850, the plaques from Rajasthan depict the story of Matsya, the fish avatar of Lord Vishnu. “The thewa technique (the art of fusing pure gold with glass) here is of highest quality. I think that setting them in the ebony wood with a contour of cognac diamonds gave them a new life.”
As far as what’s next, Miletto wants to experiment with glass in the future. “Being part Venetian will probably help me,” she says.