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Living in Italy was a dream come true for Jessica Ricci, even if the dream she ended up with was different than the one she planned.
It was while living there to pursue her goal of becoming an international correspondent that the former journalist instead found what she says is her true calling as a jewelry designer.
“All I know is I love going to work every day,” Ricci said. “I realized I don’t really believe I’ll ever be as good at anything as I will be at this.”
Jessica Ricci Jewelry was launched in 2006.
It’s a line of earrings, bracelets, pendants, cufflinks, rings, belts and buckles ranging from $80 into the thousands of dollars, depending on the metal. The line is inspired by her travels and the items she finds along the way, originating with prayer cards discovered during visits to Italian flea markets.
How she got to those markets is another story entirely and it started with a passion for writing.
After graduating from Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., with a degree in English literature, the Providence native then, at age 21, moved to Montana to spend a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, an organization of lay volunteers.
She came back to Providence after that and began work as a reporter for the Narragansett Times. Then it was off to New York City, where she worked as an “editorial-assistant type” for George magazine.
While there she earned a master’s degree in journalism from New York University and worked for a while at various publications as a reporter covering a wide range of subjects, including courts and geriatrics.
But by late 2001, then in her late 20s, she was ready for a change.
She got certified to teach English, then packed up and moved to Rome. She found work quickly and spent the next four years teaching English and “trying to write.”
She had been collecting those prayer cards found on her flea market visits, having knowledge of the saints depicted on them from her upbringing.
“Italians pray on them, basically for miracles. They’re like little pieces of art and history and I thought they were so beautiful,” Ricci said.
Inspired, she took a metal-casting class, where she learned how to create a piece of jewelry in wax and then cast it into gold, silver or brass.
She started to create a couple of pieces and realized something else – her Italian was still bad. Launching a fledgling business in Italy was not an option.
She came home to Providence and went about trying to learn the jewelry business and how to be an entrepreneur.
She took a three-month intensive workshop in New York City to acquire some bench jewelry skills and navigating the world of manufacturers.
Three years ago she put some effort into developing her website and working with a public relations company in New York.
A year later she moved her business to a studio within the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, where she also has a retail space and is able to have her dog, Aggie.
She has had interns from the Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson & Wales University and keeps in touch with them.
“I feel so lucky that we have these schools to draw from,” she said. •