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San Antonio artist incorporates art into jewelry

Artist incorporates priceless antiquities into collectable jewelry

SAN ANTONIO – Some people hang their precious art on walls, while others donate it to museums like the Smithsonian Institution; there are a growing number of women these days who are taking priceless pieces of silver, bone, jade and gems and incorporating them into a one of a kind piece of custom jewelry.

The adornments are the work of Barbara Natoli Witt, who has created her works of art for some of the most wealthy and best dressed women in the world. It’s a form of macramé, but it tells history, complete with a piece of antiquity that was unearthed in the far reaches of the world. As a result, pricing for the pieces of jewelry can run to ten of thousand dollars.

Nancy Fullerton brought some of the pieces to the San Antonio Museum of Art as part of a Latin American exhibit because it contained artifacts from the pre-Colombian era. The former assistant curator for Latin American Art said, "You look at the pieces and Barbara studies the culture and history, so well, it becomes so exact."

She is not just a fan. She is now a customer and has her own Peruvian masterpiece draped around her neck.  She says it means more to her than anything she wears because of the thought and care from which it was created.

"Poor Cleopatra, who didn't live in the time of Barbara Natoli Witt,” she laughed, noting that the former Egyptian queen would have likely been Witt’s best client in her day.

Harriot Christian is also a big fan, saying the story behind her necklace is far more than just pretty stones.  “Then you start to look a little more deeply and you see yes, this is an artifact. It's Pre-Colombian. It's Roman Empire. It’s so special,” she said.

The pieces are woven by hand, usually with a special stone in the center of an intricate medallion of color.  Some are exceptionally beautiful, with antique diamonds and rubies.  But others are just plain interesting.

Christian said, "She showed me a piece today that had plastic forks that New Mexican Indians used to put into their pieces, so it could be very precious or it could be something that becomes precious because of the way she's worked with it."

If anyone would like to check out the works in San Antonio, other than period exhibits in the area, some pieces will be on loan to Aquarius Boutique beginning March 1.