Arts & Culture

Miniature Masterpieces

Preview the exhibit of jeweler Elizabeth Locke’s antique micromosaic brooches, pendants, and more at Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Parting with exquisite pieces of jewelry is the designer Elizabeth Locke’s bread and butter. But not the antique Italian micromosaics—tiny one- to two-and-a-half-inch works of art composed of as many as 1,400 minuscule tiles set in brooches, pendants, necklaces, and rings—from her personal collection. “I got very attached to them and found that there were certain micromosaics that I didn’t want to sell, so I put them in a safe,” Locke says. “First I had one, then five, then ten, and the next thing you know, I had a hundred.” For the first time, her stunning assortment will be on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond for Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Private Collection of Elizabeth Locke (April 27–September 2). “There was a huge interest at the end of the eighteenth century in anything classical, and artisans around the Vatican wanted to make these and sell them to tourists,” Locke says. Depictions include historic sites and jolly Italian peasant scenes, plus dogs, colorful butterflies, and an intricately textured parrot. Locke hunts down the baubles, often finding them at estate sales or from dealers worldwide. In most instances, she works with goldsmiths she employs to reset each treasure in nineteen-karat gold. “Sometimes I go six months without finding one, and then I’ll find three in a day,” she says. “I just have to keep looking.” Scroll through for a sneak peek at the exhibit.

Start Slideshow View as list