MILAN — High-end jewelry firms exhibiting at the About J trade show here said the jewelry industry was locked in a wait-and-see period as a result of the global economic crisis.

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Many brands added fashionable and romantic details to their collections, combining valuable stones with semiprecious ones and utilizing several hues of gold at the fair, which ran Feb. 22-24, looking to entice hesitant buyers.

“We had programmed to open a flagship in Rome this year, but we had to put it off,” said Federico Gauttieri, founder of five-year-old jewelry brand Casato Roma. “It’s impossible for us to predict how the year will go, but we have to push creativity and expand the collections.”

Maria Elena Aprea, creative director of Chantecler, also espoused increasing product offerings in today’s shaky climate.

“You have to show the client you are passionate, that you can create something magical,” Aprea said. “It’s the moment of truth for every brand to show what you are made of, and it certainly is the right time to expand retail space.”

Rosato jazzed up the fashion quota on its lines with a new collection called Ribbon. Earrings, necklaces and rings featured rose, yellow or white gold pavé-diamond-encrusted ribbon that trimmed oval-shaped smoky brown or lemon quartz. Another ring’s center stone of rock crystal was positioned over a pavé-diamond bow.

Vintage was the theme for a new collection by Casato Roma. The firm set a cascading gold branch of diamonds under a rectangular cut crystal rock or amethyst in period-looking rings and pendants.

Recognized for its playful pieces, Chantecler upped the whimsy on its new collections including Di Amour, a line of gold necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets made up of the firm’s signature chicken shaped into a heart, some studded entirely in white diamonds. The Capri-based jeweler also presented Marinelle, a marine-themed line that included a jellyfish pendant made of pink quartz, its tentacles sparkling with rubies and diamonds.

Euro Pearls, a London-based family jewelry company specializing in pearls, is pushing its own brand, Yoko, created from the most valuable pearls that can be sourced. Under Yoko, Euro Pearls launched a line of pistachio-hued Tahitian pearls in necklaces and earrings linked with gold pavé crosses.

“White pearls are classic and timeless,” said Michael Hakimian, chief executive officer of Euro Pearls. “But we cater to the woman who already has those and she wants to take it to the next level.”

Euro Pearls plans to open two to three Yoko boutiques over the next few years.

For its 80th anniversary, Vicenza-based Fope showed flexible chain bracelets in white, rose and yellow gold, constructed from 64 micro-hinges and topped with a round gold bauble studded with brown or white diamonds, or pink sapphires. Giulia Cazzola, marketing director for the company, said though the designs were limited edition, they would be supplied to stores with a small display unit that will screen an animated short film on the bracelets.

“This sort of technology combined with more contemporary product is attracting a new customer base,” said Cazzola.

Gavello tweaked jewelry’s ongoing skull trend. Fashioned from black gold, Gavello’s skulls had smooth surfaces made from black pavé diamonds and red ruby eyes, and were flanked with red coral-backed wings in rings and necklaces.

An ecologically mined gold from Argentina that Valenza-based Garavelli sourced for its new Globo line came in round-cage gold pendants dotted with diamonds, some containing a pavé ball threaded onto necklaces. Garavelli also presented a revamped version of the tennis bracelet, a wraparound circle made of white, brown and black diamonds, as well as sapphire or pavé-diamond-covered oval links that can be tailor-made into necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

“The customer becomes her own jewelry designer,” said Elisabetta Molina Valerani, marketing director of Garavelli. “Now’s the time to get closer to customers and elaborate on what they want, giving newness that’s going to keep them interested.”

Seen at the Garavelli stand was Jeri Pilgrim from Frasca Jewelers in Palm Desert, Calif.

“Our budgets have been cut because clients are buying half of what they used to now, but we are here to find the pieces that stand out,” Pilgrim said. “That’s what makes the difference now.”