Åland jewellery with an Italian glow
From Ferrara to Mariehamn. Jewellery craftsman and designer Roberto Ferrari discovered his passion for silver jewellery in the cheery 1970s in Italy. These days he produces jewellery that is inspired by the soil and granite of Åland.
A midsummer party and a young Åland woman were Fate’s way of attaching the Italian Roberto Ferrari to Åland. About 30 years later he would say that he made Åland his own by depicting it in jewellery. His shop, which he runs together with the midsummer lady, his wife Siv Ferrari, has elegant silver jewellery on display with chiselled round granite stones and pressed Åland flowers.
“We pick and press the flowers ourselves. It’s a lot of work,” he says, pointing at the charm-like pieces of jewellery that hang from thin silver links.
“We have flowers like forget-me-nots, cow parsley, speedwell and a bit of hepatica,” says Siv Ferrari.
The granite also comes from Åland but is worked in Italy by a friend of Roberto Ferrari’s.
“He cuts the stones with a special machine. There’s a culture of working with marble in Italy, so the result is great.”
Granite jewellery is a bestseller, especially in the summer when a lot of tourists make their way to the little jewellery shop.
“They want to take a bit of Åland away with them. They’re always really fascinated by the red roads.”
– De vill ta med sig en bit av Åland. De är alltid så fascinerade av de röda vägarna.
An apprentice in his hometown
Roberto Ferrari has been making jewellery for Ålanders and tourists for several decades, but his career as a silversmith began several thousand kilometres away, in his hometown of Ferrara.
“During the hippie era in Ferrara there were two guys who made jewellery. They used silver threads which they went to Munich to buy. It was a big deal in those days, both making jewellery and going to Munich”, he says with a laugh.
Roberto Ferrari and a group of his student friends began to spend time with the jewellers to learn the craft.
“For instance, we made small flowers that linked together. I was about 17 at the time.” He started to sell jewellery at markets around the town before deciding to move to Sweden when he was 25.
“Sweden was such an exotic destination for Italians then.”
Shop named after his sons
He had been living in Sweden for about ten years before he ended up at that midsummer party in Åland and met his future wife. He settled on the island and started his career as a jeweller in Åland by making name necklaces outside the old Varmans department store. The necklaces were popular and in the summer there were long queues to buy them.
“What’s great is that people still come up to me – a mum, for instance, who was five or six years old at the time she was given a piece of jewellery. And now she wants me to make a name necklace for her daughter,” he says.
Before he opened the jewellery shop Ele & Kele, which is named after his sons Michele and Emanuele, he even managed to run a spaghetteria in the town.
“It was called Peperoni and I had it for a year. But then I went back to making jewellery.”
And that’s what he plans to continue doing. His love for the silver threads hasn’t cooled even after more than forty years and isn’t likely to do so any time soon.
“It’s more fun now than it used to be. I enjoy sitting at my table in the shop and creating things.”
Text: Heidi Hendersson/ Åland Just Nu 6/2014. The whole event magazine and the article are available in Swedish here.