Artist Profile: Thomas Laraia

Thomas Laraia’s passion for everything antique and vintage drives his creation of one-of-a-kind bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings.

“I’ve always been passionate about everything antique or vintage,” says jewelry designer and silversmith Tom Laraia. His passion drives his creation of one-of-a-kind bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces made from a rainbow of polished sea glass and repurposed materials set in elegantly rendered sterling silver. His Tommy Conch brand has become synonymous with uncompromising quality and craftsmanship.

 

An example of Laraia’s one-of-a-kind wire cuff bracelets. PHOTO CREDIT: RALPH GABRINER
An example of Laraia’s one-of-a-kind wire cuff bracelets. PHOTO CREDIT: RALPH GABRINER

“My process begins with the materials I find,” he continues. “Half of my time is spent treasure hunting in flea markets and antique stores locally and in Europe. On a recent trip to Paris I came across an incredible trove of 18th– and 19th-century hand-carved buttons that are now the centerpieces of new designs.”

Hours can pass effortlessly as he rummages through shops and stalls to unearth the forgotten beauty of a single extraordinary item. Working painstakingly, he combines materials, textures, colors, sizes and shapes to give each design its own character.

 

Vintage Parisian Button Bracelets are part of this Tommy Conch Designs assortment. PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN SHYLOSKI PHOTOGRAPHY
Vintage Parisian Button Bracelets are part of this Tommy Conch Designs assortment. PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN SHYLOSKI PHOTOGRAPHY

Laraia’s eye for vintage items to incorporate with his handcrafted silverwork developed early. His mother was a designer for Henri Bendel in the 1940s and his father studied art history, worked for the Metropolitan Opera and was an avid painter. The family loved art, music and collecting antiques, and outings frequently involved appreciation of New York City’s museums and architecture.

 

These cuff bracelets are .950 oxidized heavy gauge sheet sterling with bezel-set stones and fossils, including ammonite, drusy, turquoise, larimar and mother of pearl.
These cuff bracelets are .950 oxidized heavy gauge sheet sterling with bezel-set stones and fossils, including ammonite, drusy, turquoise, larimar and mother of pearl.

Buyers are drawn to the alluring sense of history and memory that Laraia’s work evokes, the stories of family and discovery that lie behind each vintage component. “Much of what was produced in past centuries gets discarded, unused, or stored away out of sight,” he says. “Finding these things and giving them new life is what I enjoy.” Laraia’s repertoire also includes designing unique commissioned pieces from family treasures.

Over the past decade, Tom Laraia’s designs have become increasingly sought after. They can be seen at retail art and craft shows in the Northeast and at the January 2015 American Made Show in Washington DC.

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