Hedy Martinelli knew exactly what to do with the 13th century soldier’s armour she uncovered while browsing the Paris flea markets in the late 1970s. She bought it and promptly repurposed its mesh of interwoven metal rings as jewellery.
Today the 80-year-old jewellery designer, along with her two daughters, brings the appearance of medieval mail armour to modern, highly stylised pieces with diamonds and gemstones that lend just the right amount of sparkle. “I like jewellery that isn’t too shiny and is discreet enough to wear in the day to the market," says the Yugoslavian-born Martinelli, who established her business in Rome and Milan in 1975. Each year, her eponymous company offers about 100 one-of-a-kind creations, all of which are handmade by local artisans with stones that have been cut to her specifications.
Forged in iron, silver or gold, Martinelli’s mesh designs range from feather-shaped earrings with diamonds to bold bracelets featuring everything from vibrant rubies to Italian cameos.
Like armour-clad soldiers, wearers of the jewellery exude a certain strength and confidence. Not everyone, Martinelli says, can carry this off, “My jewellery is for intelligent women with character and style."