Around 1172, a good 320 years before America was discovered, the Venetians who helped Byzantium win the war against the Phoenicians, received a reward of three granite columns and a lot of other loot. Each one of the columns weighed over 100 tons. And upon arrival to San Marco, these monsters had to be unloaded.
Needless to say, construction cranes weren’t available to the Venetians. Human hands and cables made of hemp were their tools. The unloading didn’t go as planned and one of the columns sunk right there.
The doge issued a proclamation that an “onesta grazie” (honest thanks) would be granted to whomever could erect the remaining two columns on the Piazza San Marco. Nicolo Barattieri, who also built the first pontoon bridge at the Rialto, took on the challenge. He used heavy ropes he had soaked in water and as they dried, he lifted them in small increments. He understood that when the hemp ropes got wet and then dried they would shorten. Repeating the process, he was able to raise the columns in the Piazza San Marco. His honest thanks? Permission to set up gambling tables between the columns. That’s a whole other story.
It is from the resemblance of these ingenious ropes that the San Marco chain design was born. In ropes, this design is strong enough to hoist a 100 ton column. In precious metal, the fitted links create beautiful sculpted jewelry that glistens and catches the light. This is classic Italian design based in history that celebrates ingenuity.