CHICAGO — Looking to increase brand awareness and expand its presence to 85 doors from 60 by the end of 2003, the executive team from fine jewelry brand Di Modolo came to town as part ofthe "Vogue Takes Chicago" promotional tour.

The pairing proved effective as an in-store appearance Oct. 26 by Italian designer and creative director Dino Modolo, formerly a fine watch designer, attracted about 100 customers to Saks Fifth Avenue on Michigan Avenue. Saks sold about 20 pieces during the two-hour visit, according to Marvin Scherzer, Di Modolo’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Nena Ivon, manager of special events for Saks here, said the company believes Di Modolo speaks to a younger market.

"It’s modern and youthful," she said of the jewelry. "It gives another dimension to our assortment."

Ivon said the line, which features diamonds and gemstones set in 18-karat white or yellow gold, appeals to women in their early 20s and 30s buying their first diamond jewelry as well as older women who "understand their diamonds."

In particular, Ivon cited a Di Modolo signature circular white gold diamond pendant, less than an inch in diameter, presented on a black rubber necklace retailing for $1,175.

Modolo said he’s inspired by duality, the yin-yang-type relationship of two levels or two entities that never quite reach each other.

Retail prices range from about $1,200 to $3,500, with an average of $2,000, said Scherzer. Retail clients include Saks, Mayor’s Jewelers and Neiman Marcus, which features a $49,500 22-carat Di Modolo white gold diamond pavé necklace in its catalog, "The Book."

So far, Di Modolo, which comprises three collections of about 400 pieces, has built strong customer bases in New York, Chicago and Florida, with plans to expand further along the West Coast and in Europe, Scherzer said.

Besides its flagship on New York’s Madison Avenue, designed by Modolo himself, the company operates a showroom in Milan to facilitate partnerships with European retailers.

"We’re just starting in that market," Scherzer explained.

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