When Elizabeth Locke was 6 years old, she had a small collection of “gemstones,” most of which were given to her by a distant cousin who lived in Brazil. She was fascinated by the colors and forms of the crystals and expanded the collection with her own findings that she mined in the backyard of her home. She graduated from playing with fool’s gold to crafting elegant pieces of 19k gold and luminescent stones. The Virginia jewelry designer is influenced by the antique jewelry of Etruscans, Greeks and Romans and incorporates a piece of history into each of her designs. Italy became a place of inspiration for Elizabeth, and the place she launched her first business — after receiving a graduate degree in Italian literature from the University of Florence. Elizabeth made her way back to the United States and then embarked on a trip to Bangkok while working as an editor for Town and Country magazine. This trip prompted her to start the journey that became Elizabeth Locke Jewels, which she started in 1988. Her pieces are found in stylish shops across the country, as well as in her flagship stores in Manhattan and Boyce, Virginia, where she currently resides. Today, we are more than honored to introduce the beautiful, gracious, talented Elizabeth Locke as our FACE of the South!
As a designer, what has been most influential in your designs?
I have always been fascinated by antique jewelry and have gone to many, many museums all over the world to see examples. Jewelry is always designed for the era in which it is worn, so I try to take the ideas that I see in antique jewelry but update the scale and colors to work with the clothes that we wear today.
What is it about the antique jewelry of the Etruscans, Greeks and Romans you find so captivating?
I love the warm color of the high carat gold and the fact that the pieces were all crafted by hand rather than by current mass production methods. I love the hammered finish and the granulation that the Etruscans used and the intaglio stones that you see in Greek and Roman jewels.
You fly around the globe to uncover pieces to incorporate into your designs. What are your favorite spots to visit?
I have always had good luck finding antique bits and pieces in London, Venice and Vienna, but today the “globe” is on one’s computer, so I log fewer miles!
What has been your greatest discovery?
I am passionate about 19th-century Italian micromosaics and have been collecting them and using them in my jewelry for almost 30 years. I have many micromosaics that were thrilling discoveries. Perhaps my two favorites are a large green parrot and a fabulous poodle.
What motivated the decision to return to the states after starting your business in Italy?
I was motivated by the fact that my furnishing accessories business took a dramatic nosedive after a particularly bad recession in Italy. I came home out of necessity, not because I was homesick!
What are a few of your favorite pieces from the current collection?
I love the big, chunky gold “Queen Bee” bracelet — nothing shy about that piece! And I very much like the ancient Greek bronze coin portraying a horse.
Do you have a most treasured piece of jewelry in your personal collection?
I have several — my cabochon emerald ring that I wear most days, my lucky pearl and a wonderful antique micromosaic of a hound that I am missing more than I would have guessed because it’s sitting in the vault of a museum waiting to be displayed next spring …
Seemingly, you have the world at your fingertips (or on your fingertips). What makes Boyce, Virginia, the perfect place to call home?
I love the fact that we can live on a farm in a beautiful, bucolic, agricultural community but can still get to a major international airport in under an hour. That seems like the perfect living solution to me — faux isolation if you will …
When you aren’t working, where can we find you?
You will probably find me in the garden deadheading or walking Chauncey the dog around the farm.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
When I decided to go into the jewelry business 30 years ago, I took a well-known estate jewelry dealer out to lunch and excitedly told him that I was going to become a stone dealer. He told me that I would be eaten alive by the competition and begged me to reconsider my choice. Because of this advice, I changed my plans and instead decided to design jewelry. So although my career plan was mercilessly crushed, he did me an enormous favor!
What are three things — excluding faith, family and friends — that you cannot live without?
I would put pets first, but I include them in the “family and friends” category, so that leaves sunshine, plants and flowers, and books.
To learn more about Elizabeth Locke, explore her work and find a dealer near you, visit elizabethlocke.com.
All images provided by Elizabeth Locke Jewels.
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