MILAN – While the jewelry brand Pomellato he founded in 1967 lives on under the Kering umbrella, the sudden death of a heart attack on Aug. 24 of Pino Rabolini, who in his latter years devoted himself to the arts and culture, was a more private matter. He was 82 and is survived by his son Alessandro.
Inspired by Pierre Cardin and the arrival of ready-to-wear in the Sixties, Rabolini, who hailed from a family of goldsmiths, thought he could apply the same concept to jewelry. “I always devoted my Pomellato creations to women in general, and not to one woman in particular, starting with the first collection launched in 1967: 30 pieces in which I concentrated the rebellions of that crucial decade and the experience of tradition,” stated Rabolini in the introduction of a book published by Rizzoli to mark the 50th anniversary of the company. “I wanted to create something unexpected […] women were changing before my very eyes: they were dynamic, they traveled, they drove cars. I sensed that dynamic jewelry was ideal for them, things like chains, charms, and gourmette chains. But I also understood that design, high-quality execution, and accessibility were fundamental. I told myself that this was the prêt-à-porter of jewelry, which transforms gold into pure modernity.”
Kering took control of Pomellato in 2013, further building the brand’s storied collections such as Montenapoleone; Iconica — the first ring introduced by Rabolini; Sabbia; M’Ama Non M’Ama, and Nudo and leveraging its colored gems, sleek designs — cocooning rings, chain bracelets and necklaces in gold or pink gold — and Milanese goldsmith tradition and craftsmanship. In 1995, Rabolini launched the more accessible label Dodo, a fun collection of animal-shaped charms.
Pomellato chief executive officer Sabina Belli, who joined the company in 2015, said Rabolini “generously accepted to meet” her when she took on the job. “I was impressed and fascinated by his vision and, since I believe in understanding the roots and history of a company, it was important for me to meet him,” said Belli. “We had a very pleasant conversation over tea, it was a privilege and I treasured the comments he shared with me. He was an extremely modest man, authentic and kind, very direct and also ready to listen. He told me the Pomellato chapter was concluded, that he had cut the ties with it and that he had no nostalgia or regrets. There was no sadness, and he had so many projects and ideas about the arts that it is a pity he did not have the opportunity to carry them on.”
“He was atypical as an entrepreneur, with a particular passion and drive, and he always went against stream, testing new paths that had never been taken,” said Andrea Morante, who is now chairman of Sergio Rossi, after holding the role of ceo at Pomellato from 2009 until 2015 and succeeding Francesco Minoli. Rabolini, said Morante, believed jewels were not status symbols. “Traditionally, jewels were chosen by men as gifts for women, but he was the first to introduce the concept of jewelry chosen by women for themselves.”
Along these lines, he also changed jewelry from being “heavy and kept in a safe when not worn, to an accessory that would help women feel good, just as shoes can,” noted Morante, who praised Rabolini for realizing that, when the company reached a certain size, he “needed to rely on professional management, separating ownership from management. When he decided to sell Pomellato, it was not for purely financial reasons but to provide continuity to the company, and he wanted it to land in the right hands. He was a man of vision and was very cultured and an art collector.”
Morante said that, in addition to producing the 2017 film “Agadah,” inspired by a book by Polish writer Jan Potocki, Rabolini had collected drawings created by 110 Italian artists from the 1900s. “This is the biggest and most complete collection of drawings, which he felt should be given more relevance in the future,” said Morante.
“With his foresight and creative sensibility, Pino Rabolini strongly contributed to modernizing the world of jewelry, founding a solid and highly successful company,” said Guido Damiani, president of the Damiani group, which has a minority stake in Pomellato. “We will sorely miss his resourcefulness and personality also because his contribution to Made in Italy jewelry is irreplaceable: Pino was a master in combining design, fashion and jewels. We take the opportunity on this sad occasion to once again express our deep respect, appreciation and affection for him.”