La Contessa by Mary DeMarco
Since establishing La Contessa in 1986, artisan Mary DeMarco has stayed true to her passion of creating aesthetically imaginative jewelry and gifts. Mary’s love of antique jewelry, vintage furnishings, and decorative objects is reflected in the artfully, handcrafted pieces she designs for her La Contessa line. Charming, unique, and whimsical are just a few characteristics that describe the bracelets, earrings, necklaces as well as the ornamental gifts that comprise the collections. Mary has always been fascinated by nature and finds inspiration from many sources: from traveling abroad, to visiting museums, to gardening, to cooking, to taking hikes, to walking along the seashore. The brilliant and lush colors identified with nature’s creatures and their habitats are embraced in her creations. “In nature, the colors are bold and striking, yet delicate. “My artistic voice and my work are truly enlivened by my surroundings,” says Mary.
Mary believes her artistic calling comes to her honestly from her grandfather, who was a jeweler and watchmaker in East Baltimore during the city’s booming commercial and industrial eras of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. The names of La Contessa’s collections, such as Floribunda, Primavera, Fiori di Bosco, and Il Mare, pay homage to her Italian-American heritage. Each La Contessa object is completely handcrafted in the studio. First, a model is sculpted and then casted in lead-free pewter. Individual components are then soldered and finished to create a multilayered, antique or vintage appearance. For the decorative touch, semiprecious stones are mixed with Austrian crystals to create a vibrant design. Much attention is paid to detail—turn a piece over and you’ll find a bee, a bird, or a flower; or perhaps a pair of hands or a bird in a nest are set as a closure on a necklace. These original features distinguish La Contessa in the marketplace, and many customers consider the jewelry timeless collectibles.
Mary founded La Contessa with her husband, Buddy Wolfe, who she met in Ocean City, Maryland, in the summer of 1977. A few years after graduating from Towson State University in Baltimore, Maryland, with a degree in fine arts, and then studying in Florence, Italy, she opened her business in the Hampden section of Baltimore. In 2012, Mary moved her design studio, manufacturing operations and boutique, La Terra, to the revitalized area of Clipper Mill, the site of a foundry in the city that was built in the late 1800s. Her preference to use American pewter—a traditional, malleable metal that was used in early colonial times—is simply another way of honoring the legacy of jewelry making and the artistic and skillful people who worked at the historic foundry. “The community has an old-world appeal with its stone walls and archways,” Mary says. “At La Contessa, we pride ourselves on American made and being a locally owned business. And we love to give back to the community. With so many jobs lost to overseas companies, we can say we are still doing it here, thriving in America, with pride.”