Antonia Miletto Gives Diamonds Her Venetian Charm

If you don’t get to Venice this summer, her newest collection is available in New York.

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Photography by Andrew Werner

Jewelry designer Antonia Miletto takes a gondola across Venice’s Grand Canal every morning with her dachshund named Teo, and walks the city’s winding, narrow streets to her boutique on Calle Delle Botteghe. It’s an enviable commute.

It’s summer and Venice is teeming with visitors. It’s also the time of year when many of Miletto’s clients return to her store to add a new piece to their jewelry collections. She offers a modern Grand Tour souvenir, recalling the city’s artistry and history in distinctly contemporary jewelry designs. She does not set 19th-century micro mosaics in the typical ornate designs; instead, they are reborn in wood and natural diamond pendants and hung from gold torque necklaces. And a pair of chandelier earrings, in the shape of the quatrefoil ironworks that can be found on Gothic buildings throughout Venice are cast in darkened matte titanium and set with sparkling diamonds.

Photography by Andrew Werner

After spending decades living in the floating city, she still marvels at its architectural details, the cinematic light at dusk, and, in spring and summer, the sweet scent of blooming flowers.

The spirit of Venice permeates her designs in subtle and poetic ways. “Venice appears fragile, but it’s very strong and resilient, like a diamond,” she says.

There’s an inherent boldness and contrast in Miletto’s jewelry designs; they are often large in scale, but restrained, and never too precious or fussy.

Moval-shaped diamond set in hand-carved ebony
Photography by Andrew Werner

Miletto’s personal style signifier is a round cognac-colored diamond that she set on a chunky burnished gold chain ring, and it appears like it could it be ancient. “After so many years I still love this ring,” says the designer. “The ring is both classic and sporty, and it’s just as easily worn on a man.”

Diamonds are important in Venice’s history, she points out. It’s believed that Venice was the first place where a diamond was cut, after the rough stones were shipped to the city from India. “Venice was the original Antwerp of the world,” said Miletto, referring to Antwerp’s standing as the world’s leading diamond-cutting center.

She reimagines diamonds in contemporary styles that have a timeless quality. That’s what attracted Fred Leighton, the New York retailer owned by the Kwiat family, to partner with Miletto on a collection of diamond jewelry that is sold exclusively in its Madison Avenue store. Fred Leighton supplied important diamonds, such as a 9-carat pear-shaped stone, which Miletto set in a bold wood ring. “There is an effortless glamour with diamonds and wood designs that is very appealing to our clients,” says Rebecca Selva, Fred Leighton’s chief creative officer.

Photography by Andrew Werner

“I like the duality between the preciousness of diamonds and the simplicity of wood,” said Miletto. “The spirit of my jewelry is putting together two different materials with different values. And what is more precious than a diamond?”

She’s drawn to the diamond’s sparkle and the way it refracts light, saying: “If a jewel has the ability to make us more beautiful, then nothing is better than diamonds.”

Photography by Andrew Werner

Her designs are made with antiquities that she collects in and around Venice. She also sources a range of exotic woods from around the world, including purple wood, ebony, Macassar, and amaranth, which she has carved into smooth, organic forms or textured shapes by Italian artisans. Ateliers in and around Venice set diamonds and gemstones in her pieces, and then carefully finish them.

Clients often come to Miletto with a classic diamond ring, either their own or a family heirloom, that they want her to redesign in her signature wood settings. “They want something that is fun, easy to wear every day, and has a little personality,” she said.

Shield cut diamond earrings set in hand-carved ebony made in collaboration with Fred Leighton
Photography by Andrew Werner

While quiet luxury is having a big fashion moment, it’s always been Miletto’s style. A petite blonde, she was born in Rome and has lived between Venice and New York City for nearly 30 years. Since she started her business in 1997, she has been using unconventional materials – wood, resin and antiquities – in modern designs. Her studies in gemology, jewelry design and architecture inform her pieces, but Venice remains her greatest muse.