M ILAGROS --SMALL ornaments in human and animal shapes--were often left in Catholic churches in Latin America for the village priest's blessing. Hopeful petitioners would hang a charm in the shape of the part of the body that needed healing (a silver leg, perhaps, for an arthritis sufferer, or a small cherub to banish infertility) and pray for a miracle ( milagro ). Although the church no longer condones the practice, artisans have discovered that the tiny talismans make interesting additions to hand-crafted jewelry and clothing.
Venice jewelry shop Tantau Smith sells antique silver lockets hung with milagros ($95 to $125), as well as silver frames that swing with the miniature charms and house portraits of Mexican surrealist painter Frida Khalo ($95).
New Yorker Sara Penn integrates the use of milagros with the indigenous fabrics she collects on her world travels. Her latest offerings, by Knobkerry, combine two of fashion's current favorites: velvet and ethnic prints. The patchwork bolero-style vests ($285) are brilliant mosaics of jewel-colored panne velvet and native fabrics such as South African mud cloth, Central American tapestries, mirrored Indian cottons and royal kente cloth from Ghana, many of which are stitched with milagros, tiny mirrors and Native American fetish dolls in turquoise and horn. Penn's envelope-style purses with theme motifs--the sequined-palm-trees representative is embroidered with "Save the Earth"sell for $225 and are heavy with milagros. All are available at Laise Adzer. Tantau Smith, 1353 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (213) 392-9878. For Laise Adzer locations, telephone (213) 274-5018.