Alberto Petochi knows the significance of early Roman coins. They served as money, a medium for messages to be relayed, and notable ideas through the designs and wording etched onto them. Long ago replaced by more valuable paper currency, the coins are now collectibles, especially for Petochi, the New York City–based owner and designer of 1884 Collection. These historical artifacts are the inspiration behind the line officially launching at Couture during Jewelry Week, though it’s been in 15 stores since March 1. “When I started sharing the idea with retailers in January, they wanted the collection much sooner,” Petochi explains.
Petochi is part of the sixth generation of a family of jewelers from Rome, a city with one of the richest histories on earth. The Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Fontana di Trevi all inspire distinct images of the capital of Italy. In fact, the fountain—with its legend that tossing in a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder ensures good fortune and a return trip—plays a big role in the 1884 Collection. For every piece sold and registered on the firm’s website, Petochi tosses a coin into the fountain on the buyer’s behalf. Thus far, 107 have been tossed, and, one customer and the sales associate who sold him or her the piece will be randomly selected each year to visit Rome and 1884 workshops. Additionally, a percentage of sales will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation to sponsor children whose wish is to travel to Italy.
According to Petochi, the seventh generation is already under his tutelage. One night during dinner, his sons (age 4 and 7) pitched papa their ideas for leather charm bracelets. “Granted, their samples were made out of spaghetti but the concept translated,” recalls Petochi.
Find Petochi at Couture booth 244.
Jewelry designer Alberto Petochi
JCK: How did you get into jewelry design?
Alberto Petochi: I am the sixth generation in a family of jewelers from Rome, so I’ve been around jewelry designers my whole life. I spent every weekend and holiday in my family’s shop; when all of my friends went to the beach, I’d be in the workshop. I’ve been designing jewelry as a hobby, since I was very young, and would sit with our designer when I was 12 and critique all her sketches. But, I made a career out of it about ten years ago. I went to GIA after college and spent the next 15 years on the business and sales end of the jewelry industry. Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I always knew I wanted to be in the jewelry business.
JCK: Tell me about your design process.
AP: I sketch all of the jewelry myself and then pass it along to my design team to create the pieces. We buy findings and components from small artisans in Rome, as I believe in supporting the local Italians who have supported my family over many generations. Some collections are cast, and some are fabricated; the silver is generally cast, and the two-tone silver and gold, and all gold, is fabricated. So far I have been working with sterling silver and 18k gold, but we will be introducing some different materials at the Couture show.
To date, we have three collections: Trevi, which comprises mainly silver and leather coin bracelets; Appia, which is 18k gold and silver; and 1884, which is all silver.
There are three coins currently represented in my collections, mint-condition ones that have been in my family for five generations. I reproduced them the way they used to be made, by stamping—casting wasn’t available—so they are exact reproductions of original coins. But in Las Vegas, I’ll also debut some one-of-a-kind original coin pieces in 18k gold that will start at $3,000. All the coins are over 2,000 years old, and on the back we state the name of emperor and the date the coin was made. We will provide stores with a book containing all the stories that will help make sales fun and talking points easy.
JCK: Where is the jewelry made?
JCK: What stones do you work with and why?
AP: I love the elegance of diamonds and the way they sparkle. I also use sapphires because they are such royal stones and full of history. The different colors of sapphires complement each other so well and will create an effortless style that a woman can wear with many things.
JCK: How many accounts do you currently have?
AP: We started wholesaling in February 2012 and currently are partnered with 39 U.S. accounts, including Bernie Robbins, and 15 of which have received the collection thus far. We also have five international accounts, including a store in France.
JCK: What are your starting retail prices?
AP: $180 in sterling silver (the 1884 Collection), $240 in the Trevi Collection of silver and leather, $660 in two-tone silver and 18k yellow gold (the Appia Collection), and $1,200 for one-offs in 18k gold
JCK: What is your buy-in, and what kind of support do you offer retailers?
AP: Our buy-in is $20,000. We provide stores with advertising co-op dollars, marketing collateral, gifts with purchases, sales incentives, and trunk show support.