Even in an “app” era, memories are still engraved
Rialto Bridge (Venice) – Each day of our lives is saturated with photographs. We click away, taking photos to fix memories, moments, smiles, emotions that may never recur. I often ask myself how many digital images I’ve printed and put into an album, or a scrapbook, a book, or into someone’s hands.
Very few – because of laziness and a lack of time.
When Marco and Alessio Jovon showed me the pictures they receive from clients all over the world who wish to see a loved one’s image carved into the surface of a shell, I realized that the value of the memento still exists. Thus, I admired those who, from the United States, or Japan, or Australia, select a good photograph, print it, and then send it to Venice to see a memento created that will last forever. It is something that others will see worn around a neck or pinned to a dress, something to then be handed down to one’s children and grandchildren.
Marco and Alessio are the “Eredi Jovon” (“Jovon Hiers”), the owners of one of the few historic shops on Venice’s Ponte di Rialto that has remained active. It is known for its cameos and jewelry, made from rare orange coral of Sciacca, which, discovered in 1875, is now scarce.
It is in this small Venetian jewelry shop, opened in 1960 by their father, Bruno Jovon, that images of girls, women, couples, babies, and even cats and dogs, are sent by people who want to see them engraved onto a cameo – a “retro” object that has never and will never lose its charm and that is a guarantee that it will endure the test of time.
Clients of Eredi Jovon have included rich princes and famous actors. A shell from the Bahamas, transformed into a sophisticated table lamp, ended up in a boat owned by the English royals. Moreover, Marco and Alessio told me that the American writer, Ernest Hemingway, often entrusted Bruno Jovon to satisfy an obsession: “He came into the jewelry store nearly every day to have his watch set. He wanted the hands to strike noon exactly when the bells of San Marco sounded, but they were always a few maddening seconds behind.”
The Eredi Jovon’s shop is also a small museum. Inside, one will find necklaces, bracelets, rings, and broaches made of Mediterranean red coral, smooth and engraved in the shape of a rose, and cameos of all sorts. Some are modern, engraved on shells or stone, and some vintage and more than 80 years old. Beneath the glass of the display counter, the eye settles on the Three Graces by Botticelli, on the Birth of Venus, and on the female faces that remind us of the jewelry worn by the women of the nineteenth century.
All of the coral and cameos made by the Jovon Heirs are created in an artisanal laboratory in Torre del Greco, and are inspired by the Renaissance tradition. It is a family of cousins of the Eredi Jovon who are in charge of the production, in a place where the art of working with coral and shells has been handed down from generation to generation.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY Silvia Zanardi