Oro in Arezzo: A Jeweler’s Perspective

The manufacturers of Arezzo are best known for their production of chain, if not necessarily for innovation in the design of “value added” jewelry. But to expand their markets, gain recognition, and develop a more rounded profile among the world’s jewelry markets they have begun testing the waters with leading-edge designs and couture.

What I saw. One such company, Zucchelli, has produced a line of men’s jewelry that features specially treated leather elements combined with 18k yellow or white or two-tone gold. Other companies, such as Vezarro, Comero, and Neri, have embraced the “bigger is better” design philosophy, creating large pieces that retain their light weight and femininity.

One feature to watch for is an increase in the use of nontraditional materials in impressive jewelry pieces. OroArrezo offered many examples—carbon fiber, for example, commonly used in the production of lightweight body armor, made its appearance in some interesting jewelry pieces for men.

Dense, rich-looking and finely finished hardwoods have been skillfully rendered into clever bracelet link patterns, highlighted by contrasting stations of precious metals set with fine diamonds and colored gemstones.

Neckwear is large as well, with sculpted, open links of various organically inspired shapes in contrasting textures. A significant number of vendors displayed puffy, soft-looking lightweight pendants and neck links, including pendants that were 50 mm in diameter or bigger, and three-color rope chains that were 15 mm thick.

L’Imagine showed earrings consisting of large hollow yellow gold rondelles framed by amethyst beads. The company also used fine leather as an accent by weaving it through open sections of pendants, earrings, and bracelets. Chandelier earrings have mostly disappeared, replaced by less symmetrical tiny dangling rods set with irregularly sized diamonds or robust, nature-inspired shapes that swing from the ear. So the choices are “really big,” or “really small”—no sitting on the fence. The largest hoops, more than 3 in. in diameter, had printed Florentine patterns on the surfaces.

In the fine to super-fine category, we found an impressive expansion bracelet in white gold, completely pavéd with fine melee. It fits like a snug bangle but stretches to go on and off the wrist.

The companies that produce rings rely on color, texture, and shape and, in some cases, blow the pieces up to be loud and proud about the skill of the craftsmen. Huge belongs on the hand, too, if you’re riding the big wave. Soft, feminine shapes expanded to cover more than two knuckles were common, as were cleanly assembled and hollow forms with multiple, random protrusions. Some were set sparingly with colored gemstones or diamonds, or enameled to highlight shadows and curves.

What it means to me. I am primarily a studio goldsmith, meaning that much of my work is custom. I find trade shows inspirational because good ideas in construction and wearability travel home with me and are eventually utilized in some form in designing and building my own work. We aren’t doing knock-offs but pursuing our own “better mousetrap” or trying to find new ways in which to build clients’ interest in jewelry by increasing our own knowledge of what has newly emerged—or eliminating what has been done to death.

As a producer, I can’t respond to any sort of style that grates against my sensibilities. The extremely large pieces are fun to look at, but would that kind of style help my business? Not from a sales perspective, but marveling at the craftsmanship is good for my attitude and may give me the courage to stretch a bit in my designs.

Particularly interesting was the mixing of nontraditional materials with precious metal and gemstones. The marriage of organic and inorganic is not new to the art world, but the fine jewelry market may warm up to it very soon if some of the companies previously mentioned are successful in pitching some of these beauties toward a wider market.

Eye on the guys. The men’s jewelry that most North Americans are accustomed to seeing has been designed to address price point considerations (men often resist style, opting for chunky and cheap), show up well in hip-hop videos, or be in no way sexually ambiguous. It has to be “manly,” whatever that translates into for a potential consumer—occasionally, at the expense of taste.

I saw a leap toward true style in men’s jewelry in Arezzo, and I want to see more of this. My theory is that men who love their own jewelry will have a better understanding of why women love theirs and will help the women in their lives own more of it.

Are these products capable of surviving the ravages of time and wear? Probably not, but fashion has never given a moment’s notice to time or durability. You only live once, and the fashionistas make billions of dollars change hands yearly by capitalizing on that sentiment. Fleeting, yes, but sometimes incredibly appealing, in spite of the cost.

In summation, I think every market has leaders and followers, and each of us can decide which of those we wish to be.