Lapidary and Metalsmith
In 1972, 25-year-old Lee Angelo Marraccini accompanied his wife Pam to the art studio in Washington, DC, where she was taking pottery classes. On a whim, he enrolled in a jewelry-making workshop. Within a year, he and Pam had left their jobs as high school teachers, outfitted their GMC van with a bed and camp stove, and set out on a road trip through the United States and Mexico, during which Lee met jewelers around the country and refined his technique.
Gold & Gemstone Pendants
Clockwise left to right:
18k textured round pendant with flush set .03ct TW diamond
18k round pendant with natural Lapis and .03ct TW diamond
18k textured round pendant
18k round pendant with natural Maw Sit-Sit – a beautiful gemstone
18k dome pendant with .11 ct TW flush set diamonds
18k round pendant with natural garnet and .03ct TW diamond
Necklace: thin black, blue, or green silicon 16 in. necklace with 18k clasp
In the summer of 1973, Lee and Pam landed at the Belles Artes San Miguel de Allende School of Art, where for $32 a month, they enrolled in a bohemian course of study that included drawing, ballet, guitar, and jewelry design. What artistic little vagabonds they were!
By 1974, they were back on the East coast. In the Allegheny Mountains in Paw Paw, West Virginia, they eked out a living farming organic vegetables, while Lee put all his energy into making jewelry. He started Moondance Silver that year, and peddled rings and bracelets at craft shows around the country.
From the Gemstone Collection:
Diamond Surprise Rings
Left to right:
14k ring with squared off back and 10x8mm emerald cut Amethyst, and .015 ct flush set diamond on back side of shank
14k ring with squared off back and 10x8mm emerald cut Citrine and .015 ct flush set diamond on back side of shank
Commercial success proved elusive, but Lee honed his inlay technique, and became exceedingly skilled at shaping stones on the wheel. He sought out and studied under some of the country's top jewelers, including Heiki Seepe, Robert Ebendorf, Ivy Ross, James Meyer, and Ronald Hayes Pearson. His pieces became warmer, cleaner, and more linear – the foundation of a style that would eventually become synonymous with the Marraccini name. He was designing jewelry he loved, and that he believed people would buy.
Armed with new creations, Lee hit the craft shows more frequently over the next several years. Business grew. So did his relationships with other jewelers. Gabriel Ofiesh and a group from Charlottesville, Virginia, were especially encouraging. At the same time, Wild, Wonderful West Virginia was becoming a little too wild. When floods, isolation, and harsh weather sent Lee and Pam searching for a new place to settle, Pam suggested Charlottesville. They moved in 1984.
Lee continued to develop new designs. He studied intermediate and advanced stone setting at the Revere Academy in 1986. His pieces became stronger, yet retained a sense of playfulness. They reflected his theory that jewelry should be "serious fun" for the wearer.
In 1998, Lee opened Angelo, a jewelry store in the Old Michie Building off Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Angelo is a show house for Lee's strong, geometric designs – like his signature series of stacking rings – as well as new pieces and jewelry from other top artists.
Lee's jewelry is meticulously handcrafted at his studio several blocks from the store. They incorporate platinum, yellow and white gold, colored stones, and diamonds in warm playful designs. Lee prides himself in working with customers to create unique pieces that reflect his clients' individual tastes.
This man knows how to make some jewelry!