Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-20.06.20Artists have delighted in using the objet trouve or ‘found object’ since the early 1900s. Think Duchamp’s urinal or the beautiful detritus of Pascale Marthine Tayou’s recent exhibition at the Serpentine. It’s hard to beat, giving everyday things the pedestals they deserve, like discovering the intrinsic beauty of a pavement you walk on every day.

Even within this tradition, fine jewellery designer Francesca Villa shines. Former creative director for one of Italy’s most famous goldsmith manufacturers, Villa’s work uses immaculate craftmanship to celebrate pieces she finds from antique shops, flea markets and collectors around the globe.

Old love letters, antique soldiers, vintage American casino chips: each piece is  set with precious stones which add to its emotive and narrative power.

Travel is in the peripetitic Villa’s blood. Her great-grandfather Nino, a captain of commercial vessels, travelled around the world, bringing back the stories of new people and souvenirs while her grandmother would guide her through her ‘magic boxes’ during long summers, describing each beloved jewel as a memory.

Each collection, handmade in Italy, fuses subjects, times and cultures. In AW15,  The Hours, old African weights and vintage bottle tops nestle within gold rings, while rare coins and buttons sit amongst glass boules and sapphires. Vintage stamps and military stars hang on dropdown earrings while antique pearl and ivory sit next to pink sapphires on necklaces.

American daguerreotypes from the 1800s framed in bracelets, a vintage shell necklace lined with diamonds and a Nixon presidential campaign pin ring from 1968: all express the way Villa’s vision of the future blends with her respect for the past.

Leitmotifs flow through her work; the objects she finds are often associated with love, loss, childhood and play, religious and political beliefs and, of course, death. In the full evocative force of these humble fragments, Francesca maps the heartbeat of lives past and present.

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