For a while it seemed as though being around people in large or small groups might become a thing of the past. In 2020, jewelry and watch trade fair floors saw metaphorical tumbleweeds as large conventions were no longer an option. For a time, many jewelry stores closed their doors to the public and worked with customers virtually. And many jewelry manufacturers, both in the United States and overseas, had to shut down production for the safety of their employees. There were losses. Some great. Some small. And for a time, smiles were few and far between. But in Italy—where the pandemic hit the hardest, the earliest—a feeling of hope and an idea of living life to its fullest potential kicked in, and eventually, the spirit of happiness that is a huge part of the Italian culture returned. And because of this newly felt bliss, beauty returned along with it.
There is a saying in Italian that translates to “Life is like a photograph. If you smile, it’s better.” At the 2021 edition of the Couture and Luxury/JCK shows, Italian jewelry designers and watch brands showed up, photo-ready. They wore beautifully tailored suits and finely made Italian shoes, and they happily showed off their products wearing the best accessory of all time: a smile.
The Italian brands that exhibited at Couture at the Wynn Hotel were busy. Very busy. Appointments were plentiful, and buyers, well, for the most part, bought. Popular brands, such as northern Italian company Pasquale Bruni, welcomed onlookers to their elegantly decorated booths, which were filled with equally elegant jewels. Daniele Bruni, president of Pasquale Bruni USA, proudly showed off the brand’s newest collections, including pieces from its Luce line. “This is a collection inspired by light. The spherical shapes capture and reflect light. The pieces glimmer,” stated Mr. Bruni.
Glimmer was the word that stuck out most, because in times of darkness, people around the world found glimmers of hope and happiness wherever they could. The pieces, which are made in Italy in 18k rose gold and white diamonds, use varying sizes of flat, high-polished circles on the outer sides, while their undersides—the parts that mainly touch the skin—are half spheres, resulting in an almost “comfort fit” style, making rings, bracelets, chokers, and other jewelry in the collection extremely comfortable to wear.
Aside from showcasing what was fresh and new, many Italy-based brands were also nominees in the annual Couture Design Awards, with several taking high prizes. Both Gismondi 1754 and Vendorafa were finalists in the categories of “Editor’s Choice” and “People’s Choice,” Mariani took first place in the “Best in Gold” category, Busatti came in second place in the “Best in Bridal” category, and Fope took second place in the “Best in Mens” category.
Another brand that exhibited at both the Couture show and in the Italian Pavilion at JCK was Valenza-based Leo Pizzo, which has designs available in well-known retailers in the United States such as Neiman Marcus and Betteridge. The brand’s popular Flora collection was on full display, featuring standout pieces such as earrings, statement rings, and eye-catching pendants often accentuated with diamonds and colored sapphires, and always—in Leo Pizzo fashion—crafted in luxurious precious metals.
Statement jewelry featuring faceted colored gemstones such as sapphires in a variety of hues, rubies, emeralds, and spinels was a trend among a number of the Italian jewelry brands in Las Vegas, and it made for a nice change in comparison to small, delicate, layering and stackable jewels that have been popular for the last several years.
Antonini Milano, a brand that has always used the rainbow in creatively splendid ways, brought along vibrantly colorful rings, sparkling drop earrings, and more, and the reaction was upbeat and positive. “It’s been nice to see people again,” said Maddalena Allegretti, who was handling sales for the Antonini booth. “Everyone seems happy to be here, and the reaction to the jewelry has been very positive.”
Many Italian brands exhibiting at Couture echoed Ms. Allegretti’s sentiment. Over and over, success stories could be heard about brands’ own manufacturing facilities or about the retailers with whom they work, both Stateside and throughout the world. The general feeling about where everything stands right now for the jewelry sector was one of positivity. People are spending money on jewelry, believe it or not.
Aside from viewing the designers mentioned above, Couture attendees also visited the booths of brands such as Pippo Perez, Piero Milano, Mattia Cielo, Casato, Bea Bongiasca, and Anna Maccieri Rossi in the main Crystal ballroom. Brands such as Roberto Coin and Marco Bicego and Roberto Coin—which are a bit more established in America from a branding standpoint—had private suites on a separate level.
Overall, the general vibe coming out of the Couture show was “eccellente.” The show floor, to an onlooker, may not have looked busy, per se, but that’s only because people weren’t in the aisles but rather were in the booths. Buyers were interested and engaged in what the Italian brands had to show and say, and that fact was a bright light in what has been a very dark time.
This year’s JCK show started after the Couture show ended, allowing for a handful of the Italian brands to move their product from the Wynn to the Sands Convention Center to be able to participate in both Las Vegas trade fairs. One of the brands that did just that was Picchiotti, which seemed to be a brilliant move from an onlooker’s point of view. There wasn’t a time when the Picchiotti booth wasn’t buzzing with retailers, buyers, and editors, and for good reason, as Picchiotti creates a level of high jewelry often unmatched by any brand on earth.
Another brand that showcased new product at both shows was Crivelli, which for years has proven itself to offer a unique representation of Italian design. But regardless of the business at their booth, the folks at Crivelli took time to explain their new, fun collections in a warm and enlightening way. This is the Italian way. This is how the world could be if it embraced beauty and life and joy.
The Luxury show housed a handful of Italian designers such as Savoia, Zydo Italy, Pesavento, Marco Dal Maso, and Evanueva. JCK itself had an entire pavilion at the front entrance dedicated to Italian designers and brands, which included (in addition to those mentioned above) Vaid Roma, Vanessa Gioielli, Musy 1707, and Giorgio Visconti. Another brand that showed in the Italian Pavilion was Miseno, named after a town in the province of Naples.
To sit down with Antonio Cardamuro—the brand’s founder, who has spent time working over the years with Bulgari, Bedat, and Buccellati—is an absolute gift. To listen to Mr. Cardamuro wax poetic about his beloved Naples and how the city and its gifts have inspired collections like the new Baia Sommersa, which was created in honor of the polychrome mosaics kept in Capo Miseno’s bay, is an honor. This is a man in love with his home country who is bound to show the world, through the beauty of fine jewelry, just not just how magnificent Italy is, but how glorious Naples is as well.
There is no jewelry on earth like the jewelry made in Italy. In the same ways Italy is known in the north for its glassworks, in the center for its leathers, and in the south for its cuisine, it is known all over for its jewelry-making, and it is vital that the world continues to know its story. Italy, and all things Italian, are a gift. When you work with Italians, you work with a smile.
To learn more about the jewelers mentioned in this article, feel free to visit the Extraordinary Italian Jewelry website, here.
Top: Pippo Perez, Fope, Pesavento, Marco Dal Maso, and Vendorafa pieces. (All photos courtesy of Barbara Palumbo.)