Poetry in Gold - Sicilian Jewelry
The word jewellery
embraces so much that it can defy simple definition.
In Sicily it usually implies gold, but the island boasts some talented silversmiths.
As elsewhere, white metal has been in vogue for some time. But a few years
ago when a certain person - this writer - wanted to give his wife something
different, or at least against the current trend, he turned to craftsmen
to create something that couldn't be found in any shop in Sicily. And it
ended up costing less than what would have been charged by any other shop
in a large city.
How can this be?
As in so many things Sicilian, Palermo, Sicily's largest and most chaotic
city, is key. Catania and Messina, having fallen prey to natural disasters
over the centuries, offer us little in the way of the kind of historical
districts which have been producing particular products since the Middle
Ages. In Palermo, however, you the district where goldsmiths have plied
their trade for a very long time is readily identified today. You'll find
it around Piazza San Domenico and the streets branching off from it.
The problem - for those of us seeking something truly Sicilian - is that
most of what is sold here comes from other parts of Italy and, to be very
blunt, much of what is sold is of mediocre design. As I implied earlier,
white metal is king. Now that may be a global trend of the moment but it
is none the less frustrating if your taste runs in a different direction.
Leaving aside, for the moment, the matter of timepieces, the question
of gemstones must be considered. In Italy good gemologists are a precious
commodity, worth their weight in gold, so if you're looking for quality
caution is the order of the day. Compared to the Americans, Japanese and
northern Europeans, Italians seem less obsessed with the quality of gemstones.
However, they prefer a high purity of gold. The fascination with diamonds is a recent obsession in Italy. Until just
a few decades ago, engagement rings bearing stones were the province of
In watches (which in the event are not made in Sicily), the costliest
quartz movements sell at wholesale for far less than a hundred euros or
dollars, so what you're really paying for is metal and style. What to make
of this knowledge is difficult to say, but it behoves us to recognize that,
except for those amazing mechanical timepieces produced in Switzerland,
most watches owe their value to their virtues as jewellery, and most are
As to jewellers being master craftsmen who sell their own work rather
than somebody else's, our Sicilian list is small:
Dispenza: Located at Corso Vittorio
Emanuele 144 in central Palermo, this is one of western Sicily's most traditional
jewellers and gemologists.
Silvana Sansone: Creative, artistic
works. Via Torrearsa 9 in Palermo's Via Libertà district.
Roberto Intorre: The artist's personal
gallery, mostly pieces in silver and bronze in his distinctive style. At
Via Bara all' Olivella 115 near Palermo's Teatro Massimo and Piazza Olivella.