Vicenza Review - Italian Lessons

March 2008

Vicenza’s still the place to spot the trends, dollar troubles and gold prices be damned

Although less than 40 miles west of Venice, Vicenza is nothing like its well-known neighbor. Home to just 120,000 people, the small town sees hardly any foreign vacationers during the winter months. In place of charming canals it offers bland stretches of highway. Luckily, creativity of the highest order depends neither on gondola rides nor tourist attractions.

The January edition of the Vicenzaoro fair, newly renamed “First,” is important for its calendar date (it’s the first major show of the year) as well as its 1,600 international exhibitors. But the real substance lies in its style. As with previous editions of the fair, the 2008 show offered a first look at the year’s new trends. For the international high-end brands, showstopping pieces were the priority. According to Isaac Levy, president and designer of Yvel, high demand for one-of-a-kind jewels had buyers searching for “distinctive, dramatic pieces.” “Bread and butter isn’t cutting it,” he said. “This time they came for the caviar, not the dry bread.”

Which isn’t to say that concerns about the weak dollar and the high price of gold weren’t factors in how exhibitors appealed to passersby. Brands like Blu hung signs reading “Extra Light” in their gold jewelry cases to entice buyers with tight purse strings, while jewelers like Piero Lombardi, president of New Italian Art, lamented the state of the U.S. economy. “The dollar is a huge problem,” Lombardi said. “It has not only made our product more expensive, but it has given a big bump to Asia, and makes them much more competitive.”

Still, design trumps all in Italy. So without further ado, Couture International Jeweler presents the top five spring trends from Vicenza.

The Cut: cabochons and sugarloafs

Gemstones played it smooth at this year’s fair as oversized and sugarloaf cabochons dominated in cocktail rings and necklaces. As the price of gold climbs, many brands are turning to gemstones to reduce their metal costs, and bold semiprecious cabs are the perfect way to achieve maximum impact with minimum expense.

Tourmaline cabochon and South Sea pearl bracelet by Utopia

Staurino Fratelli opted for transparent gems like moonstone and quartz, while Öro Trend transformed sprinklings of tiny cabs into bunches of grapes. Utopia mimicked the look of its signature South Sea pearls with tourmaline cabochons set in dramatic bracelets

The Palette: pastels Lightly saturated stones made for a very pretty selection of jewels on the show floor. Pale pinks and greens earned best supporting honors alongside purple’s star turn. The regal hue was everywhere, from Picchiotti’s elaborate gem-set creations to Bonato Oliviero Gioielli’s large cuffs and classic Italian chain link set with stones. Superoro, like many companies, created a pastel rainbow, with color gradients that progressed from purple to pink to white. In metal, pink gold rose to the top of the pack, either alone or paired with white and yellow.

Rose gold and diamond ring by Annamaria Cammilli

The Motifs: stars and roses With the whole world now focusing on environmental issues, it’s no wonder that Mother Nature remains a surefire muse.

Sapphire and diamond ring by Alfieri & St. John

Stars were less of the simple five- or six-point variety and more starburst in shape. Valente Milano added new pink gold, rubellite and white diamond star-shaped pendants to its Nashira collection, while Yvel fashioned spectacular starburst brooches from nearly flat pearl slices. At Alfieri & St. John, the Mosaico collection featured tiered starbursts created from diamonds and colored sapphires. The rose was front and center in one collection after another. From dainty rosebuds to large blooms, roses made up many a ring, earring and brooch. Although the ancient Roman term sub rosa (literally “under the rose”) means done in secret, there is no hiding this flower’s importance in the coming jewelry year. (For a more detailed look at the best new floral-inspired jewelry from Italy, see Italian Style.)

The Shape: twists Some years, geometric lines prevail. Other years, sinuous Art Nouveau curves are everywhere. This year’s Vicenza fair was all about the twist.

Gold ring and pendant by Graziella

Favero showed bracelets and rings with metal twisted like ribbons. Marco Bicego created twisted chain links with a handmade appeal, and added to his Confetti collection with diamond-encrusted gold nuggets holding hand-finished twisted yellow gold strands together. At Graziella, twists nearly became knots in necklaces, earrings and bracelets dotted with diamonds and colored stones. Other companies twisted their gemstones. Superoro created large briolette drops with a curved shape, and Silvex presented twisted, flat gems in its collections

And for dessert…chocolate! Who could resist a sweet treat at the end of a long day of jewelry viewing? Vicenza’s most high-profile designers weren’t shy about indulging. Brown diamonds (whether you call them chocolate, cognac or champagne) dusted collections at Roberto Coin, Damiani and Stefan Hafner, while pearls of similar shades showed up at Yvel and Femini.

Hoop earrings with brown diamonds by Valente

Although brown diamonds were once considered undesirable, even low-class, their current popularity is a boon to both designers plagued by high prices and retailers looking for fashion-forward designs. While brown diamond prices are not as low as they once were, the ability to market browns as a fancy color gives retailers a fantastic opportunity to build a profitable niche.