The September edition of Italy’s leading jewellery trade show, VicenzaOro Choice, put the spotlight on navigating the global economic downturn and new seasonal trends, Carla Caruso reports.
“Beautiful and well-made” was the catch-cry at the VicenzaOro Choice gold and jewellery trade fair, where numerous “experts” argued that a focus on quality craftsmanship would help the country ride out the current economic downturn.
Despite being one of the world’s leading exporters of gold and silver jewellery, Italy has in recent times faced fierce competition from emerging economies, such as Thailand and Turkey, due to its high labour costs.
At the opening address, entitled Innovation is in our hands, stubbornly Italian, fair president Roberto Ditri urged that: “The value of craftsmanship is not only a great legacy of our past, but rather one of the concrete opportunities to build our future.”
Fellow panellist Giovanni Bonotto, the art director of Bonotto Spa, which manufactures fabrics for high-end fashion designers such as Armani, Chanel and Versace, weighed into the debate. “We have lost the battle with the manufacturing costs. We have to seduce with our own ‘DNA’… The new rich of the world will become the first customers of our culture. They will become the customers of our DNA, our lifestyle.”
Claudia Piaserico, the creative director of Italian silver jewellery specialist Misis, also on the panel, added: “Italians, if they spend money, it’s for quality and substance. Italians can recognise well-made things.” She said this type of thinking needed to be conveyed to new customers in emerging markets so that the higher costs could be understood.
Meanwhile Bonotto added that in the light of the economic downturn, retailers needed to look beyond the product.
“Everyone says the crisis is an opportunity and it’s true. Consumers become something different. They speak a different language to us. Consumers don’t need anything anymore. consumers want to be seduced; to have different experiences.”
The importance of youth in continuing Italy’s jewellery-making industry was also highlighted at the opening address. Ditri said: “Vicenza Fair is making a very important effort to attract young people.” Indeed, new features at the fair included a contemporary jewellery space, dubbed Trend Vision New Directions Hall, showcasing the creations of 14 young designers, and an international competition for designers aged under 30, known as the Next Jeneration Jewellery Talent Contest.
The online world was another focus of the fair with a “flash event” on e-commerce and the unveiling of the iPad version of the fair’s official magazine, Vioro.
More than 22,100 visitors thronged to the September fair which featured around 1400 exhibitors from 50 Italian provinces and 40 countries.
According to the latest data provided by VicenzaOro Choice, world demand for gold for jewellery has had an encouraging upward swing.
The latest figures show there had was a 12.5 per cent increase in demand during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the previous quarter and 5.5 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2010.
India and China were confirmed as the leading countries in the world in the demand for gold jewellery, accounting for 37 per cent and 25.7 per cent of the overall demand during the first quarter of 2011. In contrast, however, the demand for gold for jewellery in the US decreased from 6.2 per cent at the end of 2010 to 3.7 per cent during the first quarter of 2011.
The leading countries of destination for Italian gold and jewellery were Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, although fair representatives said these places do not represent the final product destination but an intermediate stop on the way to other markets.
Significant increases in export were also recorded for China, Romania, Turkey and Russia.
In a statement, the Fair said: “The positive trade balance with China should be highlighted, equal to 13.8 million euro. This figure is particularly significant if we consider that at the end of 2010 the import-export trade balance with the Asian giant was still heavily negative (-10.7 million euro).”
Australia-founded brand Autore, one of the largest South Sea pearl companies in the world, was one of the exhibitors at the Italian fair.
Autore’s international executive director of jewellery sales, Philippe Poix, told Jewellery World that the global downturn had led to the refining of some of its offerings.
“The novelty is we made the collection more affordable for a lot of people,” he said.
“We love to follow our customers and our customers are going more to inexpensive pieces. We don’t want to become common, but we want to become more accessible… We are still focusing on big pieces, but now we want to also be amazing for all pockets.”
In terms of the scope of its international clientele, Poix said: “We are very strong in Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Still, the US is good for us. We did the Las Vegas Show and the JCK Fair – and we had some very good results, but still some of the markets are very uncertain.”
Poix noted business had been a little slower on the first day of the Italian Fair, but said: “I trust that we still have good years coming .”
Trend-wise, following are some of those seen at the fair, as well as highlighted in the event’s official magazine, Vioro.
A feeling of lightness prevailed, due to the rising costs of precious metals. “We can easily see it in butterflies’ wings, in ethnic embroidery and cutwork, in the gold nets and cages,” Vioro said. Designers such as Italy’s NeoNero, with its Gold Lace collection, adhered to this trend, spruiking intricately designed, lightweight pieces in gold, white, yellow, pink and burnished gold “without the opulent weight”.
Quartz stones have also seen a revival in these “times of thrift”, according to Vioro. “The present quartz trend can be a proof of the need for saving, as well as the widespread lightening of weights, with a lower number of carats for gold, the invasion of silver and so on… However, it also has another great feature – is versatile, especially in terms of colours, owing to the great variety available in nature.”
In metals, yellow gold reigned supreme. Vioro said: “The cost of gold is constantly growing, leading to think twice about the colour of this metal. When it is chosen, better to have it in its most evocative, traditional shade. Yellow prevails over white and rose, but avoiding the glitter and all-metal look of the 1980s, it is matched with black.”
Motifs went Greek-style, with evil eye pendants all the rage. Luxury New York jeweller Aaron Bashahad had its evil eye talismans adorned in enamel and diamonds and set in 18-carat gold. Dubai brand Eyes of Babylon by Farah Jewellery also incorporated the ancient symbol of the hand of Fatima, known to ward off the evil eye too.
Fear-inducing animal motifs were also prevalent, according to Vioro, including “fierce beasts, treacherous snakes or dangerous spiders”, turning “the animals into very chic amulets”, despite our phobias of them in real-life.
In other motif trends, Vioro said: “Rustling and swinging tassels remind us of the roaring 20s, the era of jazz and Charleston… the sautoir necklace becomes longer and livelier.” Fan shapes were also highlighted with their “now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t appeal”.
As well, jewellery has become “a guide to constellations and planets”, according to Vioro, with popular motifs including stars and crescent moons. Brands like Italy’s Pasquale Bruni took note, showcasing an earrings collection known as Royal Stars, while Aaron Basha revealed an astrology-inspired Zodiac charm collection.
Tough-look motifs also abounded, according to Vioro. “Punk girl symbols, like skulls and crossbones are still to be found… accompanied by the mystery of burnished gold and silver, black diamonds, Tahitian pearls – an extremely chic Goth – and rough and wrinkled textures”.
On the flipside motif-wise, Vioro said: “There is nothing as powerful as a heart.” And floral designs also reigned supreme. Italian brand Rovian followed this trend with its Lovely collection, seeing “colourful flower cups adorning wrists, fingers, earlobes and décolletés”, using coral, gold, diamonds and precious stones.
Eye-popping colour was also like “an electric shock” in stones. “Jewellery is hungry for colours,” Vioro said, noting a particular trend for stones in lavender shades – “from purple to periwinkle, from violet to lilac to fuchsia.” Plus, it said red is always “classic, stylish and melodramatic”. Green emerald also shone, according to Vioro. “Compared to the carnival of colours that are raging triumphantly in jewellery, it is a prestigious green with a whiff of privilege coming off of it.”
Plus, it said: “Blue is here again and always chic”, adding “gold, diamonds and sapphires a classic combination, now back in vogue” – perhaps being prompted by Kate Middleton’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring.
Still, despite “the urgent spread of colours”, a desire for white has helped to balance the trend, according to Vioro, with a consumer lust also for white gold, platinum, diamonds and pearls.
In stone cuts, Vioro said square shapes have taken the lead.
“The need for clean and pure lines has raised its head and is back in fashion.” Still, it also noted that curves have made a comeback in items such as beads. “The rich roundness of the sphere goes hand-in-hand with the latest oversized fashion trend.”
Other interesting pieces seen at the fair included super-soft jewellery by Italian brand Aurora, featuring textile-like, metallic bracelets and necklaces made with Lurex yarns, and Miiori New York’s FlashSet collection, comprising items with pave-set diamonds and precious stones that change colour using a patented setting technique.
Italian brand Chimento also showed off a silver Stretch bracelet collection, using a high-tech, innovative alloy for a flexible design – the bracelet ends adorned with colourful pearls and quartz.
The next edition of VicenzaOro will be held from January 14-19, 2012. Head to www.vicenzaoro.org/uk/ for more information.