By Ashley Davis
For decades, Elizabeth Locke has been collecting antique micromosaics and converting many into jewelry. A new museum exhibition delves into the designer’s collection.
Richmond, Va.—Elizabeth Locke is known for reviving antique motifs to create truly timeless modern jewelry; so much so that a new museum exhibition is dedicated entirely to the jewelry’s designer’s work.

“A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke,” on view now at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, focuses on the designer’s continued fascination with antique micromosaics.

Micromosaics, or small-scale glass enamel collages, were most prevalent in the mid-eighteenth to late-nineteenth centuries. They were first created at the Vatican, and then by other Italian artists, and sold to well-to-do British men who collected them as souvenirs on their cultural sojourns to Italian cities like Venice, Rome and Florence—a rite-of-passage called the “Grand Tour.”

Like an antique postcard, the micromosaics depicted scenes of Italy, such as famous buildings, monuments and cityscapes, or portraits of people and animals. They served as reminders of the men’s travels, which typically lasted for several months or even years.
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Locke was first exposed to antique micromosaics while living in Florence, long before she had become a jewelry designer. She began collecting them in the 1980s and eventually re-purposed them into pendants, cuffs, necklaces and earrings.
Set in her signature 19-karat yellow gold jewels inspired by ancient Roman, Greek and Byzantine design motifs, Locke breathes new life into the micromosaics by making them wearable pieces of art.

Of the many micromosaics she has collected and transformed over her career, 92 are currently on display at the VMFA, most converted into her jewelry while a few are in their original forms.

Admission to “A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke” is free, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open 365 days a year.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 2.

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