Italian Design Cautious, but With Flair

A decrease in the number of international buyers along with a marked sense of caution in design characterized VicenzaOro I, the jewelry industry’s earliest barometer of the year’s trends.

Italian designers rose to the financial and emotional challenges, however, and introduced collections that met the demand for lower price points while remaining infused with creativity.

Unoaerre’s new spring/ summer line is a good example. The company has gone much lighter in design, moving away from its large, bold, gold collections of the past few seasons while maintaining high style.

“We decided to not go too much into luxury and stay away from high prices this season,” says Anna Toso, Unoaerre’s retail division director.

Negative space. Perhaps the strongest trend to emerge from Italian designers this year is the use of negative space. The effect is lighter, with pieces that show a little skin through interesting cutout patterns and unusual link designs.

Mattioli, for example, known for its handmade chains, translated the trend into a ring made of open heart links, while Damiani introduced several rings—including the new Butterfly Cocoon line—with cutouts on the shank.

Antonini, meanwhile, took last year’s popular drop earrings and added open oval-shaped motifs to the top and bottom of a flexible prong-set drop earring.

Geometry. The use of negative space was especially evident in classic geometric motifs, one of the strong trends. The new take on this old favorite is a mix of open triangles, rectangles, and ovals.

Gianni Carità& Figli’s new geometry collection of pendants, rings, and earrings, for example, mixes open geometric shapes in 18k gold. The Sensation line also features geometric shapes, infused with pink sapphire and white diamond pavé.

Fope’s Lune Collection adds a geometric twist to the still-strong trend for drop earrings and dangling, lariat-inspired necklaces. The collection emphasizes a mix of open geometric shapes.

Contrasts. Social, economic, and political uncertainty has forced people around the world to alter perspectives, come to grips with differences, and embrace change. Jewelry designers, like others profoundly influenced by the events of the past seven months, are reflecting the changing world in collections filled with contrasts and contradictions.

The question of white-vs.-yellow metals, for example, is answered this year with the always accommodating two-tone. Ponte Vecchio Gioielli pushes the concept over the top with perhaps the freshest example of how even a mixed-up world can be beautiful. A yellow and white gold cocktail ring randomly mixes round and square-cut diamonds in a brilliant, if somewhat chaotic, grid pattern. The bright white diamonds are contrasted with a few yellow citrines—added to the mix in no apparent pattern—for a high-wattage two-tone effect.

Other designers using symbiotic contrasts include Alfieri & St. John, whose Embrace collection features a bracelet that melds the concepts of rigid bangle and flexible line bracelet. Additional contrasts include an alternating pattern of prong- and bezel-set diamonds.

Classic style cooling on color. Classic themes such as hearts and flowers join geometry motifs as the season’s favorites.

Meanwhile, the large and daringly flamboyant semiprecious gemstones that dominated fashion last year have become a victim of the times. The majority of color this year comes in the form of the “Big Three.” Traditional rubies and blue sapphires are the favorites, especially mixed with diamonds in red, white, and blue combinations that have become European designers’ subtle but moving tribute to the United States.

The softer hues of pink sapphires also are popular, but caution is dictating a move away from many of the wildly colored stones seen in the past. “People are more cautious this year. They’re looking for more basic items,” says Erika Bertin, vice president of Favero.

Those still using vibrant color mixes have a different—and more cautious—approach this year. Alfieri & St. John, for example, is offering smaller versions of last year’s Bouquet line for about half the price. “It’s more in line with the times,” says spokesman Doug Robinson. “It’s the look without the price.”