Valenza Plays It Safe With Proven Designs

Valenza, deservedly famous as the capital of handmade, gem-set jewelry, continues to be the epicenter of Italy’s most elegant and beautifully made pieces. However, the recent edition of Valenza Gioielli was populated chiefly with moderately priced pieces that offered little in the way of innovation.

This twice-yearly show displayed the production of about 250 local firms, mostly jewelers, but also a large contingent of stone dealers, mountings suppliers, packaging suppliers, and machinery and equipment producers. To be sure, there were some big names at the show, such as Roberto Legnazzi, Leo Pizzo, Palmiero, Gaspari, Staurino Particolari Preziosi, Santagostino, and Moraglione, but primarily the stands were filled with products from small, nonbranded companies.

Overall, there was a dominance of small-scale designs of white gold and diamonds with repeating geometric shapes; curving, tendril-like forms; or traditional heart, star, and flower motifs. Some buyers expressed disappointment at not finding the trendsetting, imaginative designs they expected. As with most Italian fairs, however, there were some standout collections. They included designs with bolder forms using colored gemstones, textured gold, or larger fields of diamonds. Except for the popularity of vibrant orange, gemstone colors remained pale, with an emphasis on cloudy, milky stones such as chalcedony, aquamarine, pink and smoky quartz, mother-of-pearl, moonstone, carnelian, pink opal, and white agate.

Dramatic rings and matching earrings set with large oval cabochons in multicolor combinations were catching eyes at Moraglione, Ancora, Griff, and Marega. Similarly, designs with tonal combinations of faceted amethyst, blue topaz, and yellow and lime citrine from Deambrogio and Mangiarotti looked fresh and springlike.

Aside from the standard diamond-and-white-gold designs with openwork circles, squares, and hearts, there were some interesting designs in which the diamonds appeared to be floating. Lunati, for example, showed a stunning choker with diamond clusters floating on fine wires between two rows of round diamonds. Raselli Fausto offered a series of earrings and pendants with diamonds spaced at intervals on delicate wires.

Flowers continued to be popular, but, perhaps as a nod to winter’s approach, a number of diamond snowflake motifs were on display. Some, such as those from Giorgio Visconti, Montres et Bijoux, and Salvatore Arzani, took the forms of oversize brooches and pendants. Also noteworthy were a handful of bold, high-fashion collections from Petralux, Parlapiano, and Santagostino that incorporated carved gemstones, manipulated beads, and multicolor combinations.

Valenza manufacturers understand the need to diversify their product mix to serve a larger audience. At Barberis & Prati, for example, one new collection featured diamond-trimmed writing instruments, key holders, and eyeglasses. Massaro Gioielli showed dramatic hammered-gold pendants and bracelets strung on multiple leather cords. Guerci & Pallavidini, known for its gold and diamond designs, unveiled its new Alex Ball collection of gemstone spheres adorned with diamonds, with themes including symbolic, spiritual, and the Latin world.

Bee and Lee Fong, owners of Carmond, Malaysia, a shop catering to a sophisticated, high-end clientele, said they were seeking unique items with a distinctive Italian flavor. Disappointed at first by the lack of fresh, innovative designs, the couple did manage to make a few purchases later. Pieter Hye, owner of Pieter Andries, Southlake, Texas, found jewelry prices very high for the type of merchandise offered, but he was enthusiastic about some jewelers’ benches and other machinery he found for his renovated workshop. The only hitch was the manufacturer had no shipping facilities to the United States, forcing the retailer also to search for a shipper for the goods.

Traffic at the four-day show began slowly on the Saturday opening, rose on Sunday and Monday, then tapered off, which may have been partly the result of a new show in Arezzo immediately prior—or just poor timing. An October show is too late for holiday purchases for both American and Asian buyers. Also, the international calendar is overloaded at this time of year. Observed Simona Stanchi, Staurino Particolari Preziosi, “The Valenza show used to be very important and highly trafficked, but in September alone, we have had Macef [Milan], Vicenza, Hong Kong, and Arezzo—with Valenza following.” In fact, several firms said their goods were still tied up in carnet from Hong Kong, leaving them with very little to display.

The city’s long-awaited convention center, slated to open in 2007, is intended to inject new life into the Valenza fair. Enlarged and improved facilities for this fair and the publicity generated by a new branded association of the region’s larger firms are expected to boost awareness and sales for the smaller manufacturers of Valenza.