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Jewelry and Personal Accessories
Crafts and Trades
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Hrvatski | Italiano (different article)

The Moretto

Video - Making the Moretto (RM file)

Today it is one of the most recognizable symbols of Rijeka, but in the past it was the jewelry that our grandmothers wore. Not only does the Moretto serve its purpose as beautiful and decorative jewelry, it also symbolizes our belonging to Rijeka and the maritime region and, like an invisible bond, it links the Rijeka of today to Rijeka at the turn of the century. 

When the name "Moretto" is mentioned, it generally brings to mind the Moretto earrings, which are the most common of this anthropomorphically shaped jewelry - a black head with a white turban - but the name also conjures up the image itself - the bust of a black man wearing a turban crafted - crafted into other pieces of jewelry such as brooches, decorative pins and rings. The creation of the Moretto was greatly influenced by Venice which was obsessed by the Orient in the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition to oriental spices, perfumes, fabrics, clothes and jewelry, this fad introduced black pages and servants in oriental dress into the salons of the rich Venetian aristocracy. This prompted many Venetian goldsmiths into making decorative pins in the form of a black man called "Moretto" with a turban and a golden bust, richly decorated with gems. At the same time, the Moretto of Rijeka appeared, as a modest version of the Venetian Moretto. Due to its specific appearance, fine workmanship and reasonable price, the Moretto soon became a traditional piece of women's jewelry mostly in Rijeka. 

In addition to the women of Rijeka, it is also worn by the women of the Istria, Grobnik and the Kastav region, of Vinodol and Gorski Kotar. It is worn by women on the islands of Pag, Rab, Krk and Cres. In Rijeka, it is called "Mori", in Istria "moretti", in the Vinodol region "Morci", in Kastav "Morci earrings" and in Gorski Kotar "Morceki". A single Moretto earring was also worn by only sons, by sailors (on the right ear) and by fishermen as a talisman. The Moretto earrings also signified social status and economic power and a belonging to the maritime region. Due to the fact that it was favoured in all social classes, the Moretto was accepted as the souvenir of Rijeka.

Two legends exist concerning the origin of this unusual piece of jewelry - the head of a black man wearing a white turban - in our region. The first legend goes back to the 16th century and tells this story of the origin of the Moretto: 

"The Turks have reached the Grobnik Field. Fear spreads through the town, for no good can be expected from the Turks - only plunder and flames. Reports on the attacks by the Turks in neighboring regions, reports on bloody battles around Senj and in Peru{i} have been going on for a long time. All the men are gathered in the tower. They full-heartedly resist the attacks, but their strength begins to fail - help is nowhere in sight. The women and children have taken shelter within the tower and are praying for salvation, for God's help - May stones falling from the heavens bury this evil and may our lives be spared! The siege continues... days go by and finally an arrow shot from the bow of the nobleman Zrinski and guided by the hand of God strikes the Turkish Pasha in the temple. On seeing their leader dead, the Turks scatter over the Grobnik Field. The heavens open to answer the prayers of the women of Rijeka and showers of stone bury the Turks. In memory of this victory, the men of Rijeka had Moretto earrings made for their wives." 
The other legend from Peljesac relates this story: 
"An Italian baroness had a black servant girl for whom she cared deeply. She granted the girl her freedom and in her memory had earrings with the girl's image made." 

In the second half of the 19th century, Rijeka with its well-known Moretto goldsmiths and fine craftsmanship became the largest center for the manufacture of such jewelry, and so the word "Rijeka" began to precede the word "Moro" (yet another name for Moretto) in order to signify the indigenous character of the jewelry. The image of the black man and the turban spread from earrings to other pieces of jewelry such as rings, brooches, necklaces, pins, etc. As trading developed, the Moretto found its way through Senj into Lika and even into Bosnia. Sea routes brought it to Split, Zadar and the northern Dalmatian islands.

At that time, Pavle Scarpa and Augustin Gigante founded the company "Gigante & Co.", which was the largest goldsmith's workshop engaged in perfecting and designing Moretto jewelry and they achieved remarkable success at the Paris exhibition in 1879. It was this workshop that schooled many of the famous Moretto jewelers such as Tominich, Rollandi and Karlo Venazi.

Following a period of searching for the true identity of Rijeka, it is no wonder that the people of Rijeka, prompted by the performance of the play "An Exercise of Life" written by Nedeljko Fabrijo in 1990, have embraced the Moretto as the symbol of Rijeka or should we say, have "revived" the Moretto and restored the significance it once had in the course of history.

After World War II, the production of the Moretto stagnated as many Moretto jewelers emigrated from Rijeka, the buying power of the people declined and the newcomers to Rijeka showed little interest in this jewelry. In 1991, the town of Rijeka officially embraced the Moretto as its mascot and town symbol. Since then, the Moretto can once again be seen decorating the display windows in many jewelry shops. It is worn by young and old alike and it has taken its inevitable place at the head of the parade of the ever more popular Carnival of Rijeka.

One of the pair of moretti earrings purchased by Marisa Ciceran in Opatija / Abbazia in 1998 - as substitutes for the traditional "hand- me-down" version she did not get from her antecedents. Following in the tradition of the family that goes back generations, she wears these earrings around the clock.


  • Grad Rijeka Online, "Morcic" (edited) -

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Created Saturday, May 11, 2002; Last updated: Thursday, October 16, 2014
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