By  on February 22, 2010

Ippolita is set to prove art and commerce can go hand in hand.

The New York jewelry firm is braced to double sales this year after growing 32 percent in 2009. Such growth could bolster and bring it to $70 million in sales by yearend, according to industry sources familiar with the brand.

Ippolita has been a quiet category leader in stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. The firm, in which Castanea Partners made an investment in November 2007, has strong sales, said multiple retail executives. The brand is often situated beside the case lines of David Yurman, Judith Ripka and Marco Bicego. It is also sold in about 40 specialty stores across the U.S.

In order to boost sales and increase brand awareness, Ippolita is taking this year to partner with retailers on its 10th anniversary. Neiman’s worked with the brand on a series of 30 trunk shows and seven personal appearances by its namesake founder this month.

Lisa Kazor, senior vice president and general merchandise manger of designer and precious jewelry and gift galleries at Neiman’s, said Ippolita’s collection has a strong “spirit and energy.”

“What sets her apart is that she has kind of a refined handcraftsmanship,” said Kazor of the designer. “She’s developed these signature designs, whether it’s her formulating her own color of gold, or whether rose or silver…that’s the way her artistry comes through. She’s very committed to execution of excellence.”

On April 8, Bergdorf’s will host a brand retrospective and there are plans for an event with Saks Fifth Avenue, but details were not disclosed.

The company is also going into Europe, with its first stop at Harrods in June. There is a strategy to enter top-tier international boutiques throughout Europe and Asia, as well as the first company-owned boutiques within the next two to three years. Outside the U.S., the line is sold in Lane Crawford in Asia.

Founded by the Italian former dancer and artist Ippolita, who goes by just one name, in 1999, the company is known for a feminine-meets-earthy look. Ippolita takes pride that all of the brand’s pieces are hand-hammered, the stones are exclusive cuts and even the metals she uses are a formula of her own alloy, to get just the right patina.

In 2008, the firm expanded its core 18-karat gold, diamond and gemstone line to include a collection of silver and a line called Ippolita Rosé — a combination of rose gold and silver that acts as a bridge line between the silver and gold collections. Both lines expanded the brand’s distribution to Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom in the U.S., exposing it to more than serious fine jewelry shoppers. The line is all about personal styling in stacking multiple bangles in different color combinations, as well as layering necklaces.

“We’re shifting the focus,” said Ippolita. “We’re trying to spread [the word that] the aesthetic comes from a place of art. We took this opportunity to get the message out there and try to bring people’s awareness to the fact that this is an artistic product.”

Jewelry is not Ippolita’s sole medium. She paints, sculpts and has in the past included small sculptures and objets d’art in the line. For Neiman’s, she created oversize bronze sculptures that harks back to her aesthetic and jewelry pieces. Some sculptures, such as a bronze giant statue with obliquely set interlocking links, stand up to 8 feet tall and are part of the makeshift sculpture galleries.

“Artistic canons are better to encapsulate than fashion trends are,” said the designer, who added her firm will introduce a new charm collection, dubbed Ippolitini, exclusively with Neiman’s this spring. “It enhances your appreciation of something when you understand the work that goes into it.”

Chief executive officer Lauren Sharfman said, “Our goal is to maximize the incredible opportunities afforded by our current brand momentum and to continue to develop the Ippolita brand as a design leader in fine jewelry. Our long-term planning was always strategically aligned with the customer. What clicked is that our product is understandable, but artistic. It’s also been driven by fashion.”

Sharfman said the bulk of sales is still from the gold collection, but that the silver and Rosé lines have helped diversify the business. The gold collection retails from $295 to $8,500, silver goes from $125 to $1,800 and Rosé is from $195 to $1,095. The collections are merchandised separately within each store.

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