By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
Italian fine jewellery manufacturers are flexing their creative muscles anew with eclectic jewellery collections that celebrate intricate craftsmanship and unmatched artistry.
In this issue, JNA takes a deeper look into the business strategies, expansion plans and design philosophies of major Italian jewellers, and how these companies have successfully sustained their top position in the global fine jewellery industry.
Established in 1979, BIBIGI has maintained its universal appeal over the years by offering one-of-a-kind collections that resonate with buyers from different generations. The company ensures that it adheres to its decades-old creative philosophies by presenting a wide range of fine jewellery in classic and contemporary designs.
“What separates us from the competition is our use of different techniques to produce our jewellery. We want our products to stand out. Even if the jewellery is quite simple, we make sure it has a sophisticated charm,” revealed second-generation jeweller Matteo Bernardotti of BIBIGI. “We use a variety of natural diamonds and coloured gemstones such as rubies, sapphires or amethyst and blue topaz stones. All our pieces are in 18-karat gold.”
BIBIGI’s major markets are mostly in Europe such as Spain and France. It also has customers from Russia and Ukraine. The manufacturer is currently investing its time and effort in Hong Kong and China, according to Bernardotti.
“We want to further strengthen our presence in the Asian market. We exhibit in Hong Kong four times a year. We also join the Shanghai fair twice. We are trying to understand this market because we see a vast opportunity for growth here. We are also building our foothold in Japan,” he continued.
BIBIGI recently unveiled its latest collections including More Than Feeling, which showcases the jeweller’s distinctive design technique where a wire is placed around the precious metal. This collection is particularly popular among Chinese buyers at the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, according to the company official.
The Sophie Collection, meanwhile, features lightweight, diamond-studded pieces that are reasonably priced despite their expensive look. “The pieces are small and delicate, which suit the preferences of Asian buyers, as opposed to Russian buyers who are into big, statement pieces,” noted Bernardotti.
BIBIGI also offers pieces from the Stardust line as well as its iconic Snake Collection.
Bernardotti disclosed that the company has in-house designers who execute designs conceptualised by him and his partner, Carlo Guarona, another second-generation jeweller. BIBIGI runs its own manufacturing facility.
“The company was founded by our fathers and we want to carry on their legacy of excellence. We know the market and we know what buyers are looking for; that’s why we keep making new designs,” added Bernardotti. “Italian jewellers are extremely creative. Creativity and quality set us apart from the competition. Our collections may be more expensive but buyers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality products in exceptional designs.”
Florence-based fine jeweller FerrariFirenze’s strength lies in innovative designs that take inspiration from nature, culture and everyday life, according to the company’s Raffella Podetti.
“We are a close-knit, family-owned company. Everything is done in-house in our production facility. From the design to casting and craftsmanship, our jewellery products are handmade with love, as our logo says,” noted Podetti.
FerrariFirenze’s customers can also attest to the company’s intimate approach to jewellery making, added the company official.
“Our clients often tell us that our jewellery is made out of passion; that they can feel the vitality and character emanating from our creations. This is figuratively and literally true because we offer pieces that are flexible,” continued Podetti. “The main characteristic of our jewellery is movement, which is obtained through a highly creative and unique technique.”
The jeweller’s top markets are the Middle East and the Far East. It also has a stable following in Italy, which the company is planning to further strengthen over the years. The US market, meanwhile, offers a great deal of business opportunity for FerrariFirenze, based on positive market response to its products at the JCK show in Las Vegas, added Podetti.
As a jeweller, FerrariFirenze’s main goal is to bring out the creative and playful side of women by providing them with pieces that are inimitable and innovative.
“We want our customers to appreciate and love the jewellery that they are buying from us. We want them to have fun while wearing these pieces in a sophisticated way. All our pieces are in 18-karat gold,” she said.
The Italian manufacturer is also known for its inventive use of diamonds and coloured gemstones, particularly the combination of stones in light to medium and dark hues to obtain a special colour gradation effect.
Podetti raised the importance of winning the attention of buyers by developing trendy designs that meet diverse customer preferences.
“This is why we invest love in what we do. This makes our products different from everybody else’s. Apart from the imaginative use of colours, our designs likewise exhibit flowing, undulating movements,” she disclosed. “We have a very prolific designer who is able to capture our design concepts. Our collections change every time; we update them three or four times a year. We make sure the designs are modern and refined. Some of our pieces are flexible and can be worn in many ways.”
Marcello Benzi of Giloro said the company’s business strategy is mainly rooted upon flexibility and the ability to provide a wide range of products according to specific client needs.
With more than four decades of experience in fine jewellery manufacturing under its belt, Giloro continues to catch the fancy of customers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It operates a manufacturing facility that produces diamond jewellery in 18-karat gold, and counts importers, distributors, chain stores and some retailers among its customers.
To further cement its position in Asia, Giloro participates in three major international jewellery exhibitions in Hong Kong where it unveils its latest collections.
At the June Hong Kong Fair, the Italian jeweller launched a collection of handmade pieces in 18-karat rose gold, which utilised a technique to make the object lightweight and competitively priced.
“The collection features a braid design that is made by hand. It is rare because only a handful of manufacturers still produce handmade pieces,” noted Benzi. “It’s important for our designs to be a cut above the rest since the market has become greatly competitive.”
According to the company official, Giloro’s team selects particular designs from a number of options, with price as a major consideration.
“A design becomes a collection if we feel that we can produce it and still maintain our usual price range. We don’t go too high or too low. If the collection falls within our set price range, and the overall look fits our design philosophy, then we manufacture it,” he added.
For Benzi, Italian-made jewellery stands out because it can meet both price and quality specifications, depending on what a particular market wants. “Some markets are partial to quality while others look at the price. A manufacturer can be competitive in terms of quality or price,” stressed the company executive.
Giloro considers the Middle East its most significant market at the moment, followed by Europe and Asia. The global economic situation, however, still poses a challenge for jewellery manufacturers since buyers have become more cautious and selective in their purchases.
“The global market has slowed down a bit but we are more optimistic about prospects towards the end of the year, particularly during the September Hong Kong Fair,” noted Benzi.
Roberto Mangiarotti, owner of his eponymous company, Mangiarotti, believes in placing a premium on the use of top-quality natural gemstones in his pieces. Roberto manages the business with his wife, who also acts as designer.
Backed by more than 20 years of jewellery manufacturing expertise, the company designs and produces fine jewellery pieces in 18-karat rose or white gold adorned with diamonds, corals, jadeites, pearls, tanzanite stones and other coloured gemstones.
“We take great pride in our original designs. Everything is done in-house, from design to manufacturing. Our products are highly fashionable and out of the ordinary,” noted Roberto. “The most important aspect of our creations are the gemstones that we mix and match to achieve a one-of-a-kind look.”
Colour gradation figures a lot in Mangiarotti’s fine jewellery collections, he added.
The company has built a strong customer base in major markets worldwide but its top buyers are from Europe. The jeweller is also aiming to develop its presence in Asia, through China.
“We sell worldwide to individual shops and wholesalers and we participate in various international exhibitions. At present, we are trying to penetrate China. It’s quite challenging but we are learning the ropes since we feel that there’s prospect for growth in this market,” noted the company official.
Chinese buyers seem to prefer pieces with bolder designs, as opposed to initial market observations that they are into smaller items, revealed Roberto, adding that understanding the market is the key to successfully establishing a foothold in China.
“Every market has specific preferences when it comes to design or price. We celebrate that diversity. We want to capitalise on that by bringing out the buyer’s creative side,” he continued.
According to Roberto, Italian jewellers have perfected the recipe for success when it comes to fine jewellery manufacturing – ingenuity, colour combination and quality of materials.