Italian designer Maria Conti talks to JNA about her eponymous silver jewellery brand that caters to the needs of modern women and helps foster environmental sustainability.
Structure of the Universe jewellery pieces
Structure of the Universe jewellery pieces
This article first appeared in the JNA July/August 2020 issue.
Hong Kong-based Italian jewellery designer Maria Conti takes inspiration from her Chinese and Western upbringing as well as traditional and modern ideologies in crafting unique silver jewellery pieces.
Tao, her signature collection, melds colours and shapes with contemporary concepts in homage to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Another jewellery line, Structure of the Universe, alludes to futurism and 20th century art movements, which originated in Italy. The collection is characterised by vitality.
Manufactured in Italy, Conti’s stylish, everyday pieces are replete with volume and 3D effects, but are also lightweight and comfortable to wear.
With over 20 years of experience, the designer hopes her jewellery will continue to complement the beauty of modern, sophisticated women. The brand is also environment-friendly.
You studied Chinese language and culture in college. Why was this of interest to you?
Maria Conti: I studied English, German and French in high school, and I wanted to learn a new language in college. I was most fascinated by Chinese history and traditions, which I felt closely resembled Italy’s. Both Italy and China have had kings and emperors while their cultures and arts flourished around the courts. Many commercial and cultural exchanges also occurred between the two countries since Marco Polo visited China during the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. Both cultures greatly value family ties as well.
How do your ancestry and your knowledge of Chinese culture influence your jewellery designs?
Conti: I researched a lot about Chinese philosophy and culture as part of my studies and for my personal interest. As an Italian, I’m inherently curious, imaginative and drawn to beauty. I always try to experiment.
I also look to my surroundings for inspiration. The universe and nature are rich in details yet to be discovered.
In 2013, I started my first jewellery brand, Bianca Venere, after seeing the Birth of Venus painting by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli on display in Hong Kong. Botticelli portrayed Venus as a goddess and an imperfectly beautiful human at the same time. For me, those traits embody a woman and my designs are meant for her.
Backed by more experience, I launched Maria Conti Jewelry in 2018 as my creations have evolved into something more refined and expressive.
Please describe a Maria Conti jewellery piece.
Conti: I mix traditional craftsmanship with modern technology so some parts are assembled by hand while others are machine-made. In my experience, while certain aspects of the jewellery piece can only be achieved skillfully when handcrafted, some details look nicer when machine-finished.
I design lightweight jewellery with 3D effects in silver, with occasional freshwater pearl embellishments. The pieces move with the wearer and are not too bulky. I prefer jewellery pieces that are noticeable because they are beautiful rather than big.
I focus more on Asian customers since I’m based here but my creations are well-liked and sold worldwide. We’re planning to expand our reach in Europe, the US and Canada in the future.
How does your brand help promote sustainability in the trade?
Conti: It is important to be sustainable now more than ever. Oxidation of silver is inevitable, but the original colour and quality can be preserved if the best production technique is used. Otherwise, the items would have to be repeatedly plated, which is not eco-friendly. We experiment with new manufacturing methods to keep our silver long-lasting and minimise any environmental impact. An example is Agere, a new antioxidant technology developed and patented in Italy that helps prevent colour loss and rusting of silver jewellery.
Women may easily lose interest in old items since fashion trends constantly change. Instead of putting those aside or throwing them away, we suggest choosing a material that can be melted and forged again like silver.
As such, we promote responsibility by educating our customers on how to protect their jewellery so that it lasts longer. We always choose responsible suppliers. It is important to give opportunities to artisans and small workshops that share your values.
Where do you sell your products?
Conti: We have online and offline sales channels. In fact, we recently opened our own Taobao shop. We promote our brand through social media platforms such as WeChat, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. We likewise participate in international trade fairs in Hong Kong and events such as the Shanghai Fashion Week and the New York Fashion Week. We plan to join the Milano Jewelry Week next year to further expand our market.