If I didn't live in Italy, then I would live in Mexico. I love the Mexican sense of fun, the vibrant colours, the exotic food, its wonderful culture and folkloric traditions.
I have travelled extensively over the country: from The Mayan pyramids of the Yucatan, to the lake at Patzcuaro, near Morelia for Dia de Muertos. From the Sian k'aan Biosphere along the eastern coast to the flight of the flamingoes on the western coast of the Yucatan. From the silver mines in Taxco to the convents in Oaxaca. And there is so much more to see up north beyond the opal mines at Queretaro.
And I would go back every year, forever.
When I design, I always try to get to the heart of a country and if I can, translate it into a jewel. My Tortilla design is Mexico's heart in a golden celebration of double or triple cascading earrings and a long necklace with tortillas tumbling one after another.
We sat outside for lunch while Juanita kneeled kneading the tortilla masa, rolling it out over the black stone. A pile of dry corn husks lay on the ground at her feet and the sunshine lit the colourful embroidery on her huipil shirt. The Cochinita Pibil was almost ready… and Juanita started to bake her tortillas. In Mexico, tortillas have to be made every day, round like the sun, their surfaces like a lunar landscape, golden and with occasional crisp craters. And so it was that I discovered no meal is complete without them - tortillas were as important as anything in Mexico.
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and their on/off love affair is legendary. They filled their life with a dramatic love and exotic colours, painting self portraits and murals that told the story of Mexico. Diego - like any good Mexican - loved his food, so Frida would take him his lunch, beautifully prepared, everyday in a basket and she covered the basket with a napkin embroidered: Mi amor.
I wanted to capture their story in a jewel, so I created a golden basket, with a handle across the top and I placed carefully set jewels inside: blue topaz, citrines, tourmalines. For me, a jeweller, the perfect picnic lunch…
If you close your eyes and think of Mexico - I am sure there would be a cactus in your imagination… and so it was that, one design afternoon, thinking with eyes closed that I thought of cacti. And then wondered how I could portray the prickle without the spike? I remembered the old Victorian technique of setting to add extra sparkle, with deeply engraved sharp lines and tried this out in the workshop. And there it was: a diamond set in the gold with: 'A prickle without the spike'. When you are next passing, drop in and try on the earrings, and while you are instore, wrap the necklace round your neck...
Swimming with tortugas - turtles - off the coast of Mexico, diving deep amongst the corals, in and out of the underwater gardens was magical. Their slow graceful movement is calm and peaceful.
I remember one afternoon coming up out of a dark passage, and round an outcrop of floating anenomes gently swaying with the current and there was Mr Turtle, quietly snacking. I was so close we could have shaken hands, but instead I just watched him, hoping my photographic memory was switched on.
I put all I saw into my gold and silver tortugas, with their undersides engraved like Mr Turtle's. They now seem to land in great gatherings on my desk every time the tide washes them ashore from the workshop!