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POMELLATO: GOING FOR THE GOLD

Byline: Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — Many jewelry designers are loading up on big diamonds these days, but diamond overkill isn’t Pomellato’s cup of tea.
Not since Francesco Minoli took the reins of the Milan company in 1999, anyway. Since Minoli joined the Italian goldsmith as general manager, he’s been steering it back to its heritage of colorful semiprecious stones set in 18-karat gold for everyday wear. He is busy rebuilding Pomellato’s DNA after the former management had lost its focus, distracted by the fine jewelry world’s obsession with diamonds.
“Pomellato is a goldsmith company. Hence, jewels dripping with diamonds aren’t our style,” said Minoli in an interview. “We use diamonds to accent the metal, and we give top priority to design and labor-intensive craftsmanship since everything is handmade.”
The 35-year-old company is also looking to penetrate deeper into the American market. Its new subsidiary, Pomellato USA, is looking to make inroads into a market that Minoli considers fertile turf for the brand. The company will show its products in New York next week.
Based in Greenwich, Conn., the American arm is headed by Charlotte Barnes, who was formerly director of women’s wear for Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. in Europe.
“We’re experiencing great success in the U.S.,” Barnes said. “Our structure and organization reflects the brand’s global philosophy, and we’re training our salespeople to understand the soul and history of this company.”
Added Minoli, “We count on having 60 selected specialty stores within four years, and at the same time, we plan to strengthen the existing accounts such as Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.”
On the design front, Minoli seems to have struck the right note from the beginning of his tenure with the Lucciole firefly collection, launched in summer 2000. The simple formula of white, yellow and rose gold bands in matte and shiny versions was an instant success, the company said. In Italy alone, sales for Lucciole doubled to 60,000 pieces last year, fueling the company’s $56 million revenues.
At the same, Pomellato’s 19 freestanding stores are bringing in new clients and have resulted in a 15 percent sales increase at retail.
After the Sept. 11 attacks took some wind out of Pomellato’s sails, the company quickly picked up speed again with Nude, a collection of rings that features five different semiprecious stones embossed like big diamonds; Paisley, where the links of necklaces and bracelets are sinuously shaped like the pattern, and Victoria, which features jet-adorned chains and graphic rings.
The firm is also putting together its first complete watch collection, slated to bow in September.
Marta Nowakowski, fine and precious jewelry buyer at Bergdorf Goodman, said Pomellato is one of the top-performing brands at the store, citing Paisley chains and classical chunky rings with semiprecious stones as bestsellers.
“Pomellato’s jewels are classic, extremely well executed and fashionable, but not too trendy,” she said. “They are perfectly in line with the luxury imprint of our store.”

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