Little Jewels

Croatian Botuni Earrings

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, in a city literally paved in gleaming white marble, there is a jewelry store just off the main drag, nearer to the city’s Pile Gate than not. I don’t know its name and I don’t know the name of its bearded, bespectacled owner who opened up his dark wood cases for me with tiny little keys so I could peer closer, but I wish I did.

I visited on a day when it didn’t rain but pour, when the marble paving stones were slick and the tourists crammed the cafes and pizza joints.

Now, there are the splashy jewelry stores nearby that offer enormous knots of beads and flashy cut stones for the cruiseliner crowd that slides in and slides out of the city each day, but this jewelry store is dark and small and crammed with nothing but traditional Croatian pieces, all of them pinned neatly to felt boards and hanging off delicate trees in the single storefront window. My favorites are the necklaces and earrings hung with hollow, detailed little spheres of gold or silver. They’re called botuni, and they’re part of the traditional costume along the Dalmatian coast.

I choose a pair of earrings in antiqued silver, wishing I could have one of everything in the store. As the shop owner meticulously arranges them in a box, I ask how late the shop is open and he explains that he’s closing early because his political party is voting today in a city election. So, then, it’s time to go home. The city of Dubrovnik stops me from returning and spending all my money on trinkets, on a strand of winking little spheres.

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