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Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 01/31/2011

VICENZA, Italy — Gold and jewelry fair Vicenzaoro First 2011, which ended a six-day run Jan. 20, produced some positive signs for the sector.

This story first appeared in the January 31, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

With 1,500 high-end brands exhibiting in this northeastern Italian city, companies rallied to supersede the challenges of the economic crisis of the past few years — skyrocketing costs of precious metals and depressed demand — but as consumer confidence grows, the outlook is brightening.

For Rosato, the U.S. market is rebounding in a big way. Formerly under the ownership of the now-bankrupt Mariella Burani Fashion Group, Rosato is now controlled by American fine jewelry manufacturer and marketer Richline Group, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway. The change in ownership will allow founder Simona Rosato to focus on brand innovation.

“We can restart and expand in the American market with Richline’s financial support, while they can use us as a base for the European market,” a spokeswoman said.

Rosato’s latest contribution to the American market is its My Dog collection, featuring enamel and Swarovski crystal dog charms worn on silver-bead necklaces.

Also hopeful for a comeback of the American market is Australia-based Autore. While the firm won’t rule out a boutique in the U.S., as the brand is now only available at Neiman Marcus and independent stores, it remains cautious.

“That could be in the cards, although we just opened up our second store in Australia, so the future for us is one day at a time,” said Justin Schwarz, international director of jewelry sales.

Autore’s newest line is Venezia, featuring majestic pieces in South Sea pearls and white diamonds, and inspired by Venetian architecture.

Although most vendors were enthusiastic about U.S. expansion, some were looking elsewhere for growth.

“We haven’t felt like the American market has been what it seems for quite some time, and, to be honest, we feel it’s our responsibility to make our brand known in other countries, especially the Arab world,” said Massimiliano Staurino, managing director of Staurino Fratelli, whose Skyline Collection boasts silver silhouettes of New York City’s twinkling skyscrapers wrapped around enamel cuffs.

Other brands are coping with the slump by drawing on innovative design paired with money-saving strategies. Family-run brand Staurino Fratelli was inspired by its best-selling collections from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

“In order to look forward, we’re looking into their past,” explained marketing manager Christina Knappitsch.

Strategizing was important for Marco Bicego, owner and designer of the Vicenza-based Bicego brand. Created in 1958 by his father, Bicego’s exclusive line for the U.S. market is the Africa Collection, made up of tactile, artisanal pieces in hand-engraved gold, diamonds and pearls.

“It was a good year [in 2010] because of a combination of things,” Bicego said. “After the crisis, everybody had to do their jobs better — everyone from advertisers to marketing, we had to strategize, and I think this was the way to success.”

This year’s trends called on nature, animal forms and sophistication. Brands adapted textures from nature in organic, opulent patterns in matte and pink gold.

Franco Pianegonda, creator and owner of Pianegonda, showed a gold ring fractured with veins, suggestive of wood. Staurino Fratelli’s Zen Collection imitated bamboo and leaf forms, while the gold matte beads of Bicego’s Africa Collection were reminiscent of pebbles.

Vicenza-based Roberto Coin’s take on the animal trend was seen in gold and sapphire octopuses shaped as bracelets and rings, or rings in thick swaths of gold ribbon and jewels, reminiscent of vipers.

Coin added, “There is a saying: ‘The future belongs to the person who believes in the beauty of their own dreams,’ and I keep on dreaming.”

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