We had the distinct honor of interviewing Maddalena Bearzi.
Maddalena Bearzi is an Italian jewelry artist, marine biologist, and published author. Born in Verona, Italy into an artistic family, she has traveled extensively studying wild animals and learning new ways to express herself. She began to pursue her passion for jewelry craftsmanship on her own, and later studied metalsmithing at the University of California, Los Angeles. Maddalena has learned techniques from Master silversmith and jeweler Gordon Wainwright and world-recognized jewelry artist Harold O’Connor. Her jewelry draws from her experiences in other artistic media such as paint and textiles. Maddalena’s work has been exhibited in galleries and art shows.
As a scientist, Maddalena holds a Ph.D. in Biology and works as President of the research and environmental non-profit Ocean Conservation Society. She has studied whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals in the field for over 25 years and has published two books: Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins (Harvard University Press) and Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist(University of Chicago Press; with sketches by the author). She is also an official blogger for the National Geographic - Voices: Ideas and Insights from Explorers.The Maddalena Bearzi jewelry studio is based in Los Angeles, California, where the designer lives with her husband and dog.
- What trends in the fashion and jewelry market have you been seeing since getting into space yourself?
I don’t follow trends for what I design and make at my jewelry bench. I never did. At times, I create statements pieces and the making of those specific pieces coincides with some hip and fashionable crazes; but that’s not the rule. I believe that jewelry should be timeless.
- Have you always desired to have your own jewelry brand, or what inspired you to?
No, it was a natural step. In addition to being a jewelry maker, I am a marine biologist and an environmentalist. There has always been a strong connection between my jewelry designs and my work spent studying animals in the wild. All my handmade pieces are inspired by nature and each piece tells its own, unique, and wilderness-inspired story.
- Are there any special personal stories behind any of your unique items?
Yes, there is a very special story that inspired one of my unique collections called “Acqua”. I have narrated this story in my book “Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist” published by University of Chicago Press, and here is a summary for you…
“I have studied dolphins and whales with my research team off Los Angeles for over two decades. One day, we were following a school of bottlenose dolphins near shore as we did regularly. These dolphins usually moved back and forth and within a hundred meters from the beach stopping here and there to feed in a circle. But that day, one of the individuals in the group abruptly left and moved offshore, followed by the others. This change of behavior was unusual, so I decided to follow them with our research boat.
Three miles from shore, the group stopped, forming a sort of ring around a dark object in the water. It was then, I saw the seemingly lifeless body of a girl. She was pallid and appeared to be fully clothed. As our research boat neared, the girl raised her hand as a weak sign for help.
We called the lifeguards and they told us not to do anything until they got there. My feeling was that if we didn’t act immediately, the girl would have died. I decided to ignore the lifeguards’ instructions and we pulled her hypothermic body aboard. We got her wet clothes off and wrapped her in a blanket. Then, we informed the lifeguards that we were heading back to the Marina del Rey harbor. The girl was around eighteen and probably foreign because we couldn’t seem to communicate. I also noticed a plastic bag tied around her neck…
Near the harbor, we met up with the lifeguard boat and we handed her off to them. Later, we were all waiting outside the emergency room at the Marina del Rey hospital. The doctor came out and told us that she will survive and thanked us for acting quickly. He told us the girl was vacationing here and, as the letter found in her plastic bag explained, she was committing suicide.
Busy as we were trying to save the girl, we completely lost track of the dolphins. What might they have done with her if we hadn’t followed them? Would they have tried to save her? There are many accounts of dolphins saving humans, either by fending off sharks or helping them to remain afloat. Many scientists think dolphins do not, in fact, save humans, because there is no hard-scientific evidence to support these stories. But that day, I witnessed coastal bottlenose dolphins suddenly leave their feeding activities and head offshore, and in doing so, they led us to save a dying girl, some three miles offshore. Coincidence?”
Remembering this - and many other experiences out on the water, brought me, many years later, to design an entire handmade jewelry collection inspired by the water. I simply named it “Acqua” (the Italian name for “water”).
- What do you feel sets your pieces apart from others out there?
Besides being a jewelry designer, I am a marine biologist who has studied all sorts of wild animals – from reptiles to whales - for over 25 years. What sets me apart from others is my peculiar background and how jewelry making is, for me, strictly tied to my time spent in nature.
- What do you hope people feel when they wear one of your pieces?
- What’s the inspiration of your upcoming collection?
I am still not sure. I just finished my previous collection that was inspired by constellations, a group of stars that forms an imaginary pattern on the celestial sphere.
- Where can we purchase your jewelry?
My handmade jewelry is available online at maddalenabearzi.com, in selected stores and gallery shops in the United States and worldwide.
Follow Maddalena Bearzi Jewelry on Instagram @maddalenabearzi