Italian Jewelry Largesse

So about six months after my entry in the May Crown largesse competition, I entered again into the September Crown one!  As before, the Arts and Sciences competition used the Dirty Dozen Donation Derby format, where you make 12 items, usually themed, and after everyone votes for their favorite, the winner gets one of each contestants entries, and the rest goes to largesse stocks for the kingdom or barony.   Fun stuff!

While I was very pleased with my apron entry, it did take me about two months to make 12 of them.  I decided I wanted something that took a little bit less of a time investment.  I thought of my “what makes a good largesse” list, and decided on jewelry, specifically Italian mid 16th century inspired jewelry.

1.  What can I make 12 of cheaply?

I already have most of the wire, beads, and various tools to do this, and it was not terribly expensive to buy a bit more for the particular style I was going for.   I spent maybe $25 on additional supplies.

2. What can I make 12 of in two one month?

It wasn’t too hard to spend one or two afternoons a week stringing up a new necklace, or making a few earrings.

3. What is something isn’t easy for everyone to do themselves?

While it isn’t exactly difficult to make simple jewelry, I feel that most are not inclined to do so, especially if they just want to make one or two sets of earring+necklaces for themselves.  A lot of jewelry suppliers seem to be oriented toward selling in bulk.

4. What is something I wish more people used/wore?

Period jewelry is awesome!  And while I based my sets off of a specific time and place, a pair of pearl earrings and a short string of pearl necklace is relatively wearable for any location in the whole 16th century.   So hopefully there are a good number of people that the crown could gift these to, and who would wear them.

Yet again, I made a pinterest board to keep all my inspiration pictures in one place.  I attempted to find the best possible quality image for each of these, and crop to the jewelry specifically.

Portrait of a WomanFrancesco Montemezzano (Italian, Venetian, born about 1540, died after 1602) . MET, NYC

Portrait of a Woman by Francesco Montemezzano (Italian, Venetian, born about 1540, died after 1602) on renzodionigi’s flickr gallery.

The portrait above is pretty much a perfect example of the most common elements of Italian 16th century jewelry.

  • A simple pearl necklace (usually without a pendant, though if there is a pendant, it is usually a colored stone set in gold, with one or three pearls hanging from it’s edges)
  • Pearl earrings hanging from a hoop (can be further unadorned, or with silk bows like the lady above, or sometimes a gold ornament hangs from the hoop, with one or three pearls subsequently hanging)
  • If a lady wears bracelets, then they are a matched pair on each wrist
  • Two or more rings, usually gold with a colored stone.

There are a few other common elements not pictured in this painting, such as

  • various gold and pearl jewelry bits decorating the hair (now that I look again, she does have something pearl like peaking out on the side of her head)
  • round red coral beads (especially on children or lower classes)
  • gold beads are sometimes used in the necklaces and bracelets
  • occasionally, necklaces or bracelets are made of chains, with or without further adornment (checkout her bracelets above for an example)

(Quick note: when I say Italian, I mean the various city-states that now make up the modern country of Italy.  Since the most prolific painters worked in Milan, Venice, and Florence, that means that I am mostly referring to the upper middle section of Italy, with a splash or two from Rome, who’s women wore mostly the same style of jewelry, though less of it in their portraiture.)
Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

I was much better about getting pictures this time!  This was my display,  with the happy gnome cup I got as a wedding gift in front.  I was pretty pleased with how my set up looked, although the wind ended up pushing some of the picture lids down.

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

This one based off of a really nifty painting is one of my favorite necklaces of the bunch.  It’s made of coral and tiny pearl beads, and when my husband saw it, he remarked that whoever received it was very lucky. /blush!
Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

Based on Portrait of a Lady by Ottavio Leoni.  She seems to be wearing two necklaces, a short choker length one of pearls all one size, and a much longer one with alternating larger and smaller pearls.  I made the latter, and included the fun little bow.
Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

This was one of my favorite pairs of earrings!  They are based off of Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel by Francesco Montemezzano.  She appears to have a globular gold object hanging below her bows, rather than a flat disk like I used.  I am still on the look out for a textured sphere that looks right!

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

A very close second for my favorite set of earrings!  The lady in the portrait is Veronica Franco, painted by Paolo Caliari.  I spiced up her necklace a bit, but those adorable earrings are totally all hers!

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

And we finally see some coral!  I made some coral jewelry a few years ago, and wear them to nearly every event (I have some serious coral love going on).  Hopefully whoever gets these will love them too!  I had to improvise a bit here on the necklace pendant, but I think it worked out alright.  Based on Giovanni Antonio Fasolo’s  Paola Gualdo and Daughters.

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on


Girl with a Basket of Fruits, by Titian.  This is one of the only examples I saw of a possibly non white pearl.  It may actually be a dark stone, but since I had these two already, I chose to interpret them as dark pearls.  I got very creative with the necklace on this one.
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Apparently a Portrait of a Lady by Jacopo Robusti, but I am having trouble finding a link to it anywhere!  Leave me a comment if you find one, will you?

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The Lady in Red by Giovanni Battista Moroni.  Remember that matching bracelet thing I mentioned earlier?  The bracelet did have a mate, but I used a different type of bead for the gold part, which ended up discoloring later, so I took it out.  Looks like the magnetic clasp also started to discolor.  :(

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I am a big fan of this print by Cesare Vecellio of a Venetian Lady ‘Blonding’ Her Hair.

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on


Fairly simple set, added some smaller pearls for fun, based on Portrait of Bianca Capello by Scipione Pulzone.

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Another sweet and simple set, based on this Portrait of a Lady.

Dirty Dozen Donation Derby: Italian Jewelry Largesse on

The necklace comes from a portrait of A Man and his Wife by an unknown Italian painter.  The earring comes from the Paola and Daughters painting from above.  It’s one of the very few earrings I have found that look to be silver rather than gold.  I made the gold beads on the necklace silver to match the earrings.

7 thought on “Italian Jewelry Largesse”

  1. Marina says:

    I am curious about the hooks to go through the ears – did you make them by hand or purchase them? If you made them by hand, would you please share how you made them or a link/citation for where you found how to make them?
    Your dirty dozen posts have really inspired me! And I <3 your Italian jewelry…though I have a feeling I'd want to keep everything I made for myself ;P
    Marina da Fiore
    Barony of Rivenstar, Midrealm

    1. healormor says:

      I first made this type of earring a few years ago, when I first noticed that most 16th century earrings appeared to be full hoops instead of the hook type that are fairly common today. I knew that hook earrings could be made from wire, so why not hoops too? I made them as I did by intuition, but with a quick google search, it looks like that’s how most people go about making wire hoop earrings.

      All you do to put it on is separate the ends, put it on with the end that only has a slight curve/angle to it, and then put it back into the loop on the opposite end, forming a complete loop.

      And I made the first few pairs myself, but then I found some premade ones at a local bead shop (made by the shop itself) and used those for the rest of the earrings.

  2. Rachel says:

    I was curious about your bead selection. I have been looking to make jewelry to go with my next outfit. The beads I can find locally tend to be the very cheap plastic pearls. The ones in your photos look much better quality. Where do you find yours?

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      I used ‘pearls’ from several different locations, and some had been given to me by friends, so I do not know where they came from. I think I picked up some that I liked (good weight and quality) from Michael’s Crafts. I know that at least one of the sets I had from who-knows-where started flaking off where the beads touched on the string! I’d say to gently use a fingernail on a false pearl to check if the pearlescent paint is going to flake off before using it in a project. I had to redo a few necklaces because of that. I think I used real pearls for the earrings, but cheap, slightly oblong/pear shaped ones.

  3. Marianne says:

    I’ve long been wanting to make some of these to complete my outfit. Thanks for the inspiration and info. :)

    Can you a recommend a good diameter? I’d rather mine be on the small side (closed ruff) but I want them to look right, of course (both HA and pretty).

    1. Morgan Donner says:

      Can you a recommend a good diameter?

      You mean diameter of the beads, right? For the pearls in the necklace, I tend to like 10-14 mm, for the earrings, a tiny bit larger 15mm looks about right. I am guessing based off of proportions in the paintings, not extant jewelry or inventories, so take that for what it’s worth.

  4. Marianne says:

    Thank you!! :)

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