Lots of people ask me if I am a chef, if I used to be a chef, or if I want to be a chef, lol. The answer is no, no, and no. I am a jeweller, who specialises in diamonds and just happens to love food. Not just in the sense that I like eating yummy things (although, of course, I do), but it’s more about the textures, the colours, where, when, and how it grows, the smells that greet your nose when chopping, or that very first mouthful.
Most of all I love how food brings people together. In some ways, it’s a lot like jewellery; everyone has a favourite piece (/dish), or likes it in a certain way (gold/silver); it’s very personal, no palette is the same, just like no cook/chef are the same.
One of the fondest memories from my childhood is sitting on the kitchen worktop helping my dad chop, season, and stir huge pots of stew and curries. The sizzle of the onions, the smell of the fresh garlic, ah I still remember it now - it’s the scent of home.
I always thought it was just my family who cooked in large portions, as if they were expecting 50 people for dinner, but then I met my best friend. Aged 11, I had fallen in love, firstly with pasta, secondly with risotto and thirdly - with the Italian way.
My best friend is the eldest of eight children and her Nonno and Nonna lived at their house – or so it seemed. After-school supper was therefore a *big* deal; it felt like eating with a whole Sicilian community rather than just going to a friends’ house after school. Her mum seemed to have an endless supply of red sauce, seemingly like the freezer produced it! Her Nonno (who is an ex chef) would make it in batches and freeze it for them. However, when her mum did make it from scratch, I was there – and if I wasn’t, I'd run over from my house to experience the sensory bliss.
20 years later and I am still in love with the Italian way. Food is the heart of the home, it brings people together, it’s there to celebrates happiness, birthdays, love, and the best thing is there's always leftovers! This is what inspired me to create the Mangiare collection (‘Mangiare’ was actually the first word I learnt in Italian too!)
Just like food, I believe jewellery also brings people closer, whether it’s a gift from one lover to another or a mother to daughter. It holds sentiment and means someone has thought about what you might like – much in the same way standing over the stove for hours cooking for your family and friends does.
Historically, Italy is one of many fascinating places in Europe. Just imagine if Hernán Cortez hadn't conquered South America; Italian cuisine would be totally different. Spanish Conquistadors brought tomatoes from South America (Peru, specifically) in the early to mid-sixteenth century. Whenever I think of that I always think of the Spanish steps, which were built in 1723-1725 by architect Francesco de Sanctis and financed by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed. It’s a true European collaboration of horizontal beauty, and always reminds me of a bunch of spaghetti falling.
There’s something very enchanting about holding a bunch of uncooked dry spaghetti in your hand, all perfectly stacked, the same size and colour – it’s like an optical illusion. In designing some of the pieces for this collection, I decided to take these very simple shapes, break them apart and see how they would sit as earrings, rings and necklaces.
After arranging them on my chopping board for a few hours, I realised that Spaghetti isn't actually that exciting all alone, it needs something… something very simple. Liquid gold, the Italians call it. Ahh the smell, the glisten and depth of a good olive oil, there’s nothing else like it! From here I worked on turning those two ingredients into jewellery, creating the movement and simplicity that we all adore from Italian cooking.
Every week I will be sharing what inspired me to create each piece in the Mangiare collection, the design process, how we make it and how to wear it. Stayed tuned for next week, where we will be sharing the design process of the Spaghetti con olio di olive earrings.