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'Zany enough': Ricco Gallery continues to create unique, quality jewelry
July 5, 2019

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SHEPHERDSTOWN -- Located at 125 West German Street and up a flight of stairs, is the home of Master Jeweler Riccardo Accurso. While Accurso and his wife, Ellen Hoffman, live on the second floor of the building, the first floor is dedicated to showcasing Accurso's artistic work, under the name Ricco Gallery.

Shepherdstown landscapes and still life paintings of fruit line the walls of Ricco Gallery, which is filled with display cases showcasing Accurso's jewelry designs.

"These are all my paintings - a lot of water and trees, it's mostly nature," Accurso said, as he glanced at his oil, acrylic and water color paintings on Friday afternoon. "I paint what moves me. I started painting at five years old, in kindergarten, when they showed me what you could do with paint."

Accurso's paintings were featured in Evolve's first art exhibit, but despite his success as a regionally-known artist, Accurso said he was self-taught in both painting and metal work.

"I started metal work in 1970," Accurso said. "Prior to that I was a professor at Reed College. I was teaching psychology there, and I got involved with the protests over the Vietnam War. That was part of the reason I was fired from my job, so I needed another way of making money. Society was torn apart by the Vietnam War, and so all kinds of things were going on that did not contribute to doing a smooth career path. Especially on the campuses.

"I saw these hippies making stuff, and I thought, I'll give that a try. I found I had a talent for it," Accurso said of his metal work. "In that particular time period, it was important to be as zany as possible. And my jewelry was zany enough, I think, to appeal to people at that time. It was just a lucky break."

While Accurso's jewelry today is primarily made of precious metals and gemstones, his jewelry-making career started with inexpensive materials.

"When I first started, I didn't know what I was doing, so I was using all kinds of strange materials," Accurso said. "I was using taxidermy eyes, glass eyes, instead of stones, because they were less expensive. They're kind of strange, but it fit for the period. Everybody wanted to be a little bit crazy, and so it was a good fit."

According to Accurso, he used brass and copper scraps from a previous artistic attempt to craft his first pieces of jewelry, which he added eyes, feathers and wood to. And while he said he enjoys using finer materials in his work today, part of him misses those unique materials.

"Maybe I should go back to that - that was a very good period," Accurso said. "It was a wonderful period, you know, summer of love and music and laughing and carrying on and getting high. All that stuff was really quite a party.

"I took on the challenge of incrementally getting more technical with my jewelry making, learning to do more advanced operations within the craft over time," Accurso said. "Just by doing it, I got better at it."

Today, visitors to Ricco Gallery can view a number of Accurso's jewelry collections, which continue to reflect Accurso's eye for detail and appreciation for eccentric beauty. And for those who want to buy a personalized piece of jewelry, Accurso said he is happy to work with them, to create a piece that can be worn for years to come.

"When I do a commission, I ask people for their inspiration, for their motivation, for their insights into what's important to them. I try to incorporate them into the piece they get. It's supposed to be an heirloom, and able to be passed on and become part of a family history," Accurso said. "I love doing it."

To visit Ricco Gallery, call 304-870-4175 or email ricco@riccogallery.com. To learn more, visit riccoartjewelry.com

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