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.

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‘Doves on Flowers’ brooch, handmade in nineteen karat gold with seven millimeter cushion and six millimeter round moonstones.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Romulus and Remus’ brooch/pendant, handmade in nineteen karat gold with white pearls and rubies on godron bezel.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Leaping Spaniel’ brooch/pendant, handmade in nineteen karat gold with onyx spokes and black spinel tips around bezel.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Cat’ brooch, handmade in nineteen karat gold with cabochon blue sapphire triads.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Architectural with Goldstone Surround’ on ‘Smooth Link’ chain, handmade in nineteen karat gold with cognac diamond-studded connectors and gold toggle and ring.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Maiden with Blue Veil’ Pendant, handmade in nineteen karat gold with puffy godron and banded bale.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Horse’ pendant, handmade in nineteen karat gold with diamonds on bezel and thin-hinged bale.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Dog Head’ pendant, handmade in nineteen karat gold set in octagonal bezel with eight gold dots.

photo: Travis Fullerton © Viriginia Museum of Fine Arts