20 Mar Twenty years
Florence, 1993. In a lovely and forgotten street of the Oltrarno a workshop was opened, devoted to the study of glass and crystal beads. Nobody was expecting it, and the jewellery in the window was captivating and irresistible. The beads were of bewitching colours: the idyllic pallor of pastels, the deep gleams of purple, peacock and petrol blue, the serene luminosity of green and wisteria, dramatic red and black. Garlands of flowers, little fruits, hearts, grasshoppers ready to jump onto revers, dragonflies, love knots, fluttering butterflies, long tasselled necklaces of a decadent charm. This was the surprise: a whole new way of wearing jewellery, a different way of thinking.
Ornella Aprosio, the founder of the glittering workshop in Via dello Sprone, was only a girl when she began her pursuit of beauty. Her passion for beads dates back to the time when she used to adjust the tailored garments of the 1920s, 30s and 40s – with their appliqués, their inserts and their jet embroideries – making them dazzling and fashionable again.
Florence, 2004. Aprosio leaves Via dello Sprone. Nobody was expecting it: the bead shop had become an institution. Irreplaceable. But the premises in Palazzo Frescobaldi, in Via Santo Spirito, put the admirers’ minds to rest. It is a splendid space; it even has a little courtyard with a wrought-iron table and a few chairs, the fronds of the habitual and luxuriant asparagus plants dangle from a shelf, and there’s an olive tree that gets frequent visits from a handsome blackbird and its dowdy mate.
A stately doorway, two little windows that set off the cascades of chilli peppers, the Botticelli-like tendrils, the multi-coloured balls.
It’s a place worthy of Proust. So much so as to evoke poignant nostalgia.
Florence, 2011. Aprosio says goodbye to Via Santo Spirito and crosses the Arno. Nobody was expecting it: the bead shop in the garden of the blackbirds was aristocratic and romantic. Irreplaceable. Nostalgia was the muse, in league with the new atmosphere. The atelier in Via della Spada is opposite the Rucellai Chapel designed by Leon Battista Alberti. It’s chic and mysterious, and even has a secret passage in the basement. At the entrance are pots overflowing with multi-coloured dahlias that Ornella buys at the flower market; the place is irreplaceable after just one glance. Perfect for a birthday party.
Florence, 2013. Aprosio has turned twenty, has lived in three different homes and is still sparkling with inventive flair.
Its future is something nobody is expecting.