In 1894 Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio writes a brief description of the handmade traditional jewel: la Presentosa in his book “Il trionfo della morte” (The triumph of the death):
“Portava agli orecchi due grevi cerchi d’oro e sul petto la presentosa: una grande stella di filigrana con in mezzo due cuori.” (“She was wearing two heavy gold circles on her ears and the Presentosa on her chest: a big filigree star with two hearts in the middle”).
Presentosa is a typical traditional jewel from Abruzzo, the first official document that states its existence is from 1802 where it is listed in a dowry.
The name Presentosa means “presente” or “dono” (gift) and, depending on the circumstances, its size was created based on the customer’s means; and everything could be customized: the number of the extremities, the symbol in the centre (heart or hearts, dove for baptism, communion or confirmation, etc.).
With one heart in the centre of the start the Presentosa would let the society know the single status of the woman wearing it. This type of Presentosa was given as a present by the mother or both parents to the young woman old enough to marry.
The style with two hearts, linked by a key or a ribbon, would be given by the in-laws as a “love-token”, a promise of wife to be. The donation would take place when the respective parents met for the first time.
From that moment on in social contests the Presentosa would assume the meaning of being engaged.
The pendant with a ship in the centre would be given by the father of the bride or even by the groom on the wedding day and it symbolized the beginning of the couple sailing towards a new matrimonial life.
Usually the Presentosa was showed off in important occasions represented by country festivals or religious commemorations, pilgrimages. These celebrations represented up until 1950 the only social occasions and therefore dressing up with the Presentosa meant an increased chance of being noticed.
A single style of Presentosa doesn’t exist because it used to be commissioned by costumers in the bottega (workshop) in a million variations.
The Presentosa is considered a traditional jewel. Traditional jewel means a jewel that hasn’t changed with the passing of time in its appearance, but mostly in its meaning and its purpose.
The Presentosa is a unique piece, because it is realized personally by the artisan one by one every time.
Nowadays the Presentosa is still popular in Central and South Italy, and of course my abruzzese nonna has got one, and it’s beautiful! She introduced me to her Presentosa a long time ago and I immediately fell in love with it. From my nonna’s own words: “The Presentosa must have two hearts if you are a married woman, only one if you are engaged. Noboby in my family had one, I received my first Presentosa the day I celebrated 10 years of marriage. The reason why we had no jewellery in our family house is because my mum had to give away all the gold we were hiding as Mussolini commanded ”.
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