MILAN — Treating carats and stones like fine cashmere and sequins has been the modus operandi at Pomellato since Francesco Minoli joined the high-end Italian goldsmith in July 1999 as chief executive.

Minoli has made it a priority to steer the company back to its heritage of colorful semiprecious stones set in 18-karat gold for everyday use. And his efforts seem to be paying off, as the company has achieved double-digit sales growth in recent years.

Minoli expects to seal 2002 with sales of $70 million, up 30 percent against last year, and with profits of $7 million, a 46 percent increase. His goal is to double the volume by the end of 2005.

Growth has come as a result of several new initiatives. The company has tapped into key fashion trends, revamped its creative team and returned to labor-intensive craftmanship. It has also opened new stores, launched a watch and increased its penetration and its marketing in the U.S market. Stress, the new women’s watch with quartz movement that bowed in September, was essentially conceived to raise brand awareness and broaden distribution.

By yearend, Minoli expects to sell 1,600 watches in Pomellato’s 18 freestanding boutiques. Early next year, Stress will roll out to the company’s 330 points of sale around the world.

"[The watch] gets its name from all the headaches we got designing it because, from a visual standpoint, we were eager to offer an innovative and strong product that either you like or you don’t," Minoli noted.

The watch has a square case in stainless steel or rose gold, some of which have diamonds, and an alligator strap. The face only features four odd numbers and there is no logo. "It wasn’t necessary because we’re not Rolex or Cartier," Minoli said.

Retail prices start at $1,700 for the steel version and climb to $4,800 for the rose gold and diamond model.

This holiday season, the spotlight in jewelry is on the newest Capri and Sherazade collections, two evolutions of last year’s highly successful Nudo. Capri and Sherazade feature discreet volumes styled in white, rose and yellow gold, highlighted with colored stones and diamonds. Minoli said all the jewelry lines have exceeded sales projections. Nudo sold 27,000 rings and earrings in the first 10 months of the year, while Capri struck the 10,800 mark.In the U.S., where Pomellato opened a subsidiary last year, Minoli expects to boost the existing 15 sale points, which include Bergdorf Goodman, and develop a distribution network on the West Coast. The company poured $750,000 in ad campaigns this year.

"Between the East and West Coasts, we plan a maximum of 60 clients that really understand our product, plus two flagships, one in New York and one in Los Angeles," Minoli said.

Ultimately, American wholesale revenues are projected to rise from $2 million now to $12 million by 2005, when Minoli expects that market to generate 15 percent of total sales. Among its hopes for 2003 are two new boutiques, one in Italy and one in Germany, but nothing has been finalized.

To test the market, Pomellato opened its first store in Naples in September for DoDo, its younger, lower-priced line. The tiny 270-square-foot store was designed around the young and carefree DoDo world, which revolves around animal-shaped charms in yellow gold and silver. DoDo sales rose 45 percent in the first eight months of the year, accounting for a 32 percent share of Pomellato’s revenues.

Not even the recent report that Damiani has acquired an 18 percent stake in Pomellato is tempering Minoli’s upbeat mood, though he admits that he is perplexed with the operation.

"We still haven’t received a formal request to change the structure of the shareholders’ board," Minoli said. "Also, we were never informed of this operation because had we known, we would have put Damiani off since we see no synergy between the two companies."

With a minority stake that allows Damiani little executive power, Minoli views the deal purely as a financial investment.

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