There are a lot of great street vendors in Rome. I am not talking about the vendors selling fake designer handbags or sunglasses, although Rome does have more than its fair share of those. I am referring to the artists you can find on any given day selling surprisingly cool art and jewelry, much of it handmade and very unique. These delights are offered up to the passerby on small makeshift tables lining the small streets and bridges. Trastevere is loaded with such vendors but there is a pretty good selection right here around the Campo. A few years ago I cruised right past a table covered with coins. I quickly stopped in my tracks and did an about-face. Looking closer I noticed that the coins had been carved into fantastic pendants. I was completely head over heels! How cool are these?!
Since that first sighting I have become a regular customer, as have many of my friends, and students. The man behind these coin creations is Nestor, an Argentinean transplant living in Rome. In addition to hawking his wares in the piazzas around town, Nestor travels around Italy and the world selling his coins at craft fairs and markets. (Personally I think I have funded more than one of these trips...) What makes the coins so amazing is that they are carved out by hand using a drill and a small vertically aligned hand-saw:
Holes are drilled in the area of the coin Nestor wishes to remove, and then he inserts the saw blade into a hole, and saws from one hole to the next, removing the excess metal that is in between.
The coins are fashioned into bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and even rings and key chains. He has every type of coin, new and old, from just about every country. You simply look through the books and choose one that appeals to you. He even has the US state quarters in there. Don't see what you are looking for? In the past I have even brought him coins I have found in the market for him to carve. He can turn any coin into a beautiful piece of jewelry! Nestor includes a leather cord for the necklaces, or you can put the pendants on your own chain.
I think these carved coins make fantastic gifts from Rome - especially the Italian coins. But it is also fun to find a coin with an intended recipients favorite image ... a bird, horse, fish, flower, boat ... or a coin from a country or state that is significant. Coins are so beautiful to begin with - it is no surprise that they make such stunning (and durable) jewelry! What do you think?