Monday, September 16, 2013

Gems of Venice by Angela Cook


(Venice, Italy) Gemstones. Universal elements born on earth, cherished by humanity for millennia.

Some attribute mystical qualities to the dazzling stones. Some desire jewels for ornamentation. Others appreciate their monetary worth. Whatever the reason, the quest for gems has always been a part of mankind's adventures, conjuring up tales of exotic travels and enchanted encounters.

Gems of Venice, a unique boutique located in the heart of Venice, opens another chapter in the story.

The Silk Road stretches back to the beginning of human history. In the third millennium BC, the Jade Road foreshadowed the passage that would link Eastern cultures and Western nations. Jade, prized by the Chinese Emperors, moved westward from China to Mesopotamia. Confucius believed it exemplified the perfect man: righteous and intelligent, benevolent, loyal and humble.

Jade came from the holy mountains and was thought to be crystallized moonlight. The elite drank powered jade to achieve immortality, and used it as an aphrodisiac. Jade could make people invisible and allowed them to fly. Praised in literature, jade gave enlightened emperors the god-like power to control storms and floods.

Jade and trade were the ancient foundations of the Silk Road.

Silk is created from the fiber of the cocoon of the silkworm, and was first developed in China more than 5,500 years ago.

It is believed the first traveler on the Silk Road was King Mu, who reigned the Zhou Dynasty from 976 to 922 BC. Over the centuries, the Silk Road evolved into a massive East to West trade route, allowing an exchange of goods, art, literature, religion, music, dance, technology and knowledge between extremely diverse cultures.

Before the Silk Road, the Romans, who were familiar with cotton, believed that lustrous silk grew on trees, never imagining it was the product of a simple creature's marvelous metamorphosis from worm to wings.

The Venetian Marco Polo was one of the most famous travelers on the Silk Road. Marco Polo, his father, Niccolò and his uncle, Maffeo, arrived back in Venice in the year 1295 after traveling through the Far East for more than two decades, a trip which included a visit to the Great Emperor, Kublai Khan. Returning in rags, no one in Venice believed they were the Polos, nor any of the amazing tales they had to tell. The Polos arranged a banquet, ripped open the linings of their ragged coats, and out tumbled a fortune in radiant gems -- silencing the naysayers.

Centuries later, Gems of Venice continues the tradition by transporting precious gems from the East to Venice.

For more than 30 years, Angela Cook, the British-born founder of the boutique, has traveled to exotic locales on her own quest for treasures to offer her clientele: gems and jewels from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia; antique jewelry, gold, silver and rugs from Pakistan; tribal Turkman jewelry from Afghanistan; Byzantium jewels from Turkey; turquoise from Nepal; amber from the Baltic Coast.

Angela even traveled the Spice Route through Yemen in search of antique coral from the Red Sea -- and learned that Marco Polo had been there, too, whisking the famous Mocha coffee bean back to Venice.

Angela Cook
Angela explains, "I've always been captured by the beauty of gemstones. More than 30 years ago, after apprenticing in a luxury shop in Piazza San Marco, I decided to strike out on my own and open this shop at Rialto. Afghanistan was laid-back and friendly in those days, before the Russian invasion. Back then, I would communicate with the merchants by looking in their eyes if we didn't speak each other's language. I'd sit on the rugs in their shops. They would offer tea, and we would talk by using sign language and visual expressions."

Angela often travels to India to enhance her inventory, again fortuitously following Marco Polo's footsteps.

Up until the early 18th century, for more than two thousand years, India was the only source of diamonds on earth.

Marco Polo passed through India on his return from China to Venice and visited Golconda, the center of the diamond trade. Not surprisingly, Venice soon became the capital of the early gem-trade in Europe, where diamonds were first cut, faceted and polished during the early 1300s. By the end of that century, rough diamonds originating in India arrived in Venice where they were transformed into glittering jewels, then made their way to markets in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Bruges.

Antique amber from the ancient Amber Route
These days, Gems of Venice has its own workshop near the Rialto Bridge in the heart of Venice where gemstones are transformed by local artisans into unique pieces of craftsmanship. As in ancient times, travelers from all over the globe stop inside the shop and return home with their own precious memento of Venice. Wearing jewelry purchased in an exotic locale can conjure up rich memories of the experience.

With stars colliding to create gold on earth and volcanoes spewing up diamonds, the wondrous origins of gems add a divine element to their attraction.

Pala d'Oro
The ancient Venetians cherished gems, and created one of the most exquisite altarpieces on earth, the Pala d'Oro, originally commissioned more than 1000 years ago, back about the time when King Mu first traveled on the Silk Road. Venice was inspired by Byzantium and the East, and hired craftsmen from Constantinople to assemble a wall of gold, a "refined expression of Byzantine genius and the cult of light." Embellished with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, garnets, amethysts and 1,927 pearls, the Pala d'Oro attracts the highest energy from the heavens.


Christ the Pantocrator in the center of the Pala d'Oro holds an open book studded with rubies and sapphires. The Greek word "Pantocrator" is used by the author of the Book of Revelations nine times to describe the Almighty, otherwise there is only one reference by Saint Paul in the entire New Testament.

According to Mons. Antonio Niero, author of La Pala d'Oro e il Tesoro di San Marco, "the use and arrangement of the gems and precious stones suggest that the 13th century restorers followed the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelations, which speaks of 12 precious stones when describing the new Jerusalem; some of the stones used in the pala are identical to those described in that chapter."

There is a school of thought which believes that rubies and sapphires are the most divine since they come from metamorphic rock, and could only have been created during catastrophic times when God judged the Earth.


Gems of Venice also finds inspiration in the ancient secrets of the Pala d'Oro, and follows the long Venetian tradition of seeking out exceptional gemstones from the far corners of the earth.

When you wear jewelery created by Gems of Venice, you are wearing a piece of the heart of Venice itself.

Gems of Venice
San Polo 1044
30125 Venice
Tel: (39) 041.52 25 148
Mon-Sat: 9:00am to 7:30pm
Sunday: 10:30am to 2:00pm
3:30pm to 6:30pm
Email: gemsofvenice@yahoo.com
Vaporetto: Rialto, Rilato Mercato, San
Silvestro