Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… a compelling Venetian jeweller

In thrall to a costly compulsion

Swellboy on… a compelling Venetian jeweller

Image: Brijesh Patel

September 19 2010
Nick Foulkes

I know that fashions operate on a rotating cycle, describing an elliptical orbit around us, some recurring rapidly, others like a rare comet appearing once in a generation, or perhaps only just once. I wonder into what category those marvellous agate-walled bathrooms of the 1970s fall? I am only idly speculating because I have just spent a very pleasant afternoon perusing a selection of hardstone boxes at the Venice shop of Alberto Nardi.

You probably know that I am a huge fan of this Venetian jeweller and purveyor of bibelots de luxe. I have already succumbed to two pairs of his cuff links: one an essay in abstraction in yellow gold and rusticated turquoise, the second comprising miniature Moretti. Given that I have in the past become addicted to all manner of things, I can say that my Nardi habit is among my more costly excursions into compulsion. Still, whenever I am in the city of the flooded streets, I am drawn ineluctably to his shop, where I find myself powerless in the face of the exquisite items he strews in my path, among them beautiful boxes of such obscure minerals as Labradorite and fossilised wood, as well as more conventional constructions in onyx and malachite.

I like these stones because I have a weakness for the 1970s; as do many people for the era in which they grew up. Onyx and agate were an indispensable part of any decorative scheme of 35 years ago and, speaking for myself, one does not see nearly enough of them covering the walls of modern bathrooms. In fact I am thinking of threatening my wife with the prospect of a bathroom in banded agate or tiger’s eye, accessorised with that ne plus ultra of period bathroom fittings: gold taps.

There is of course an ulterior motive to my sudden lurch towards the Harold Robbins school of plumbing; my thinking is that Mrs Foulkes will be so appalled by the prospect of this period piece that she will be relieved and delighted to learn that I have dissipated the school fees on a small collection of Mr Nardi’s exquisite hardstone boxes. Of course she will understand that I now need to purchase a few more sets of his cuff links to have something to put in them.