By  on March 20, 2006

MILAN — Bottega Veneta has plenty of reason to shine these days.

Once a second-tier brand at Gucci Group behind Tom Ford's Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta has emerged as a strategic player for its parent and is on track to hit its annual sales goal of $238.7 million six months early.

Now the brand has introduced fine jewelry. It is the latest category for the fashion house, based here, following tableware, furniture and costume jewelry, all of which have been launched since 2002.

Creative director Tomas Maier opted for the fall 2006 runway to show his first pieces, and piled yellow and white chunky gold and diamond pavé chain necklaces and similar bracelets onto wispy silk chiffon dresses, in black and chocolate brown.

Each piece is handmade. It takes an artisan five days to create a necklace in a small workshop in Pforzhein, Germany, Maiers' hometown.

The labor-intensive process is necessary for Bottega Veneta's signature "intreccio" or woven workmanship. It involves hand-spinning wisps of gold fiber around a small wooden rod to create braided components, which are then used to make the links of chain. For an antiqued finish, the pieces are tumbled for 48 hours. They are closed with a clasp, often set with a diamond pavé, that is shaped as an eight, the symbol for eternity.

"This isn't the kind of jewelry you can do in-house," Maier said. "We did look around Italy [for a manufacturer], but didn't find the one-of-a-kind quality we were looking for, and that is what Bottega Veneta is associated with."

He said each piece is unique because each chain link is irregular.

"For me, there is no time limit in the making of jewelry," Maier said. "Whatever it takes is good, and that's what our clients really appreciate."

Though the debut pieces included neckpieces and chain-link bracelets, Maier pointed out the offerings are poised for growth.

"For the show, I wanted to convey a very precise message, but in the future, I will certainly add fancy diamonds and colored stones," he said.

He also plans to introduce earrings, rings and bangles to the assortment in the near future. Retail prices range from $20,000 for a gold bracelet to $108,000 for the long necklaces enriched with pavé diamonds.The jewelry will be carried only in Bottega Veneta's more prominent flagships here and in New York and Tokyo.

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