Federico Jimenez jewelry feature of July 24 event
A chance meeting with Federico Jimenez in 1974 set Marlene Vitanza on a 38-year — and counting — career path collecting and selling vintage jewelry, a milestone she will celebrate July 24 at her unpretentious shop, Peregrine Galleries on Coast Village Road in Montecito.
Featured will be the jewelry of Mr. Jimenez, a renowned authority on Mexican silver, pre-Columbian and Mixtec jewelry. Using turquoise from New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, he creates pieces that range from soft and colorful floral settings to dramatic, free-form stone designs.
Now in his 80s, Mr. Jimenez, who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and now lives in Southern California, will be on hand to sign the recently published book, “Federico: One Man’s Remarkable Journey from Tututepec to L.A.” (University of Arizona Press, $24.95).
“Federico is famous for his jewelry throughout the world. He is still designing necklaces, bracelets, pendants, belts and earrings that are sold from the hundreds to many thousands of dollars. Despite his age, he is always coming up with new ideas, moving with the times,” said Ms. Vitanza.
She and her late husband, Jimmie Vitanza, had owned Peregrine Galleries in Santa Barbara for nine years before relocating to the current location in 1984.
“My beginning in the business began in 1974 when my husband and I went to an ethnographic show in Santa Monica. I decided to wear a silver necklace I had purchased in Taxco, which was unusual because I had never worn jewelry before then,” Ms. Vitanza told the News-Press.
“Federico, whom I had never met, admired the necklace and told me it was a Fred Davis piece, which meant nothing to me. As we talked, he asked me to take it off, and he showed me the squiggly markings that showed it was authentic. He also suggested that I buy a book by Greta Pack, which catalogs collectible pieces. The necklace I was wearing was illustrated in the book. That was the beginning of my love for jewelry,” said Ms. Vitanza.
She specializes in vintage jewelry such as Bakelite (1930s to 1950s), George Jensen (1903 to 1940s) and early Native American jewelry (1910 to 1960s).
“Different categories are popular at different times. They move in and out of favor. Currently, Native American is hot. Anything by Chanel — necklaces, earrings and bracelets — is always popular with all ages, which never ceases to amaze me,” Ms. Vitanza said.
Katy Perry is one of her regular customers.
“Gloria Steinem was in town the other day and stopped by. She bought a concho belt, which she wore that night during a TV guest appearance on a late, late show.”
A portion of the proceeds from sales at the July 24 event will be donated to the Friendship Center, a daycare center for the elderly, especially those with dementia. (The center has campuses in Montecito and Goleta.)
“I’ve always said I love the pieces I buy, and I love selling them to my customers, who are so interesting and lovely,” said Ms. Vitanza. “They often come back over and over telling me that a piece or pieces that they previously bought from me are their very favorites,”