Destinations

Vicenzaoro VOICE: Augusto Ungarelli of Vendorafa on Made in Italy, Tourism, and the New Pebbles Jewelry Collection

Vicenza, Italy. Sept. 11, 2020. Like many jewelry firms, family and business intertwine for the Ungarellis of Vendorafa: Augusto is the CEO, wife Daniela is the creative director (and daughter of company founder Vendorafa Lombardi), and daughter Francesca handles marketing and social media.

While they spent much time together—“We had the great luck of making the most of our house and garden, filling our spirit with beauty and being inspired to design,” says Augusto—they also checked in with other brands and friends.

“We talked often to others to both lend a shoulder of support and for when we needed one ourselves, making best efforts to stay positive,” he explains. “And it is with this same spirit of support and positivity that we have approached our industry and our community with this new start.”

Read on to learn more about the brand’s return to business at Vicenzaoro VOICE, Sept. 12–14.

Voice by VicenzaOro

Jennifer Heebner: What are your expectations for business at the fair?

Augusto Ungarelli: Business is always important but now we are more focused on our communications, our community, our factory, our industry, and continuing the legacy for our heritage of made in Italy excellence and with The Foundation Fondazione Mani Intelligenti to ensure that handcrafted Made in Italy leadership will continue.

At VOICE, we expect to see our current clients and book orders, but it is unknown in terms of projections and business expectations. We have never engaged in virtual presentations, but we are open to the new formats and possibilities to engage with the international jewelry community. In this way we may be able to showcase our brand to new buyers and stores or markets who have not previously been to see us in person.

But most of all, the message that we want to send is that we are active, productive, creative, and that we haven’t been hibernating at all; we have worked hard to be best prepared to start again—with a bang! Voice is an incredibly important moment because with the virtual talks, meetings, and sharing opportunities, we will listen to the industry and the buyers’ needs, which will then be translated into our product. We are as much artists as jewelry manufacturers, so the moments are to be able to communicate, inspire, and be inspired as well as to listen to the needs of our partners and clients. 


JH: What does business in Italy look like now? Is it starting to pick up?

AU: International tourism is crucial for our industry, and unfortunately, that has been frozen for a while. But there are positive signals of reaction from our Italian market; the idea of “beautifully handcrafted” is alive and well! Our customers are always looking for quality, style, and an excellent level of quality manufacturing, and this is proper of the high-end jewelry segment. Business is more difficult, but we are prepared to work harder. 

Our brand is turning 70 in 2021 and we have seen significant changes over this window of time in an industry that has transformed over centuries. We need to learn and to change and move into new and modern directions with marketing and communications, but we believe as an industry the connection to “Made in Italy” and the quality of fine handmade gold is everlasting.  


JH: What are your U.S. accounts telling you now about business? 

AU: Our U.S. accounts have activated all the available digital connections with the industry and any opportunity of online collaboration or contact available, this is unfortunately for now the only way to compensate for the impossibility of having a physical presence in stores.

Their clients are returning for appointments and viewings. This is slow and steady—limited and safe, of course, and within new parameters—but it is moving ahead. Slower overall, there are bright spots and selling opportunities. Most of our retail partners do have top collectors and loyal jewelry buyers who still want to mark occasions with jewelry and celebrate with new pieces. Gold is a high request, and while there is still a general hesitancy with the market, U.S. retailers are feeling more optimistic about the holiday season.

Americans in search of quality jewelry have always loved volume and surfaces with particular designs, precision production, and finishing of the gold that enhances the color and the feel. Vendorafa has always stood out with our unique gold features; our aesthetic research involves an in-depth study of shapes and volumes, which are the fundamental starting point to giving each single item of jewelry its own personality. These characteristics have always been recognized and loved globally and specifically in the United States. 


JH: What kind of Christmas season are you expecting in Italy and in the U.S.?

AU: Obviously, Christmas season is usually a very good moment for our business, and given our current year, many variables have still to be taken into consideration before being able to make a prediction. Nevertheless, we are having promising feedback.


JH: Tell me about your newest jewelry collection.

AU: We have recently designed and created some new additions to our very well-known Buckle collection, which we are bringing back to the U.S. market. With 20 new SKUs and a retail price range from $4,000 to $20,000 USD, it will soon be in European and U.S. stores. We also had line extensions in some of our other collections.

Pebbles is our completely new 2020 collection. Pebbles introduces the concept of movements in materials in a very different way for our brand. We are combining gold with mother-of-pearl, tiger’s eye, and malachite in various shapes and directions. This collection, which also comes in gold-only pieces, offers both movements and transitions from gold to other materials. Pebbles includes choker and lariat-style necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets, all of which are meant to be worn singularly or in combinations of materials, mixed and matched. We have 12 pieces launching for the U.S. market as well as Europe and the Far East; these will be available after Voice for the holiday season, arriving in stores in October. Retail prices for Pebbles range from $3,000–$14,000.

Pebbles rings in 18k gold with Tigers Eye or Malachite, $3,200 apiece; email massimo@sobeluxury.net for purchase

Pebbles rings in 18k gold with Tigers Eye or Malachite, $3,200 apiece; email massimo@sobeluxury.net for purchase

Pebbles Y necklace in 18k gold 18K gold with Mother of Pearl, $14,000; email massimo@sobeluxury.net for purchase

Pebbles Y necklace in 18k gold 18K gold with Mother of Pearl, $14,000; email massimo@sobeluxury.net for purchase


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Destinations

Vicenzaoro VOICE: Cristina Costantini on Lockdown Life, Business in Recovery, and Laurent Gandini’s New Lucine Jewelry Collection

Vicenza, Italy. Sept. 10, 2020. Making new jewelry and taking online yoga lessons are among the ways designer Laurent Gandini and partner Cristina Costantini spent the quarantine, but both will emerge from hibernation this weekend at the Vicenzaoro VOICE fair taking place Sept. 12–14, 2020, in Vicenza. Below, Costantini weighs in on how they passed their time during quarantine from their home in Milan and their expectations for sales at the upcoming show.

Voice by VicenzaOro

Jennifer Heebner: How did you and Laurent spend your time in quarantine? 

Cristina Costantini: Laurent passed the entire lockdown period in our house and atelier developing new ideas and creating new pieces of jewelry. I personally was focused on myself, playing harp and doing online yoga lessons. I was also learning more about how to develop online business, and I learned a lot about Google ADwords and analytics. Basically, we took the time for ourselves that we never had! 

JH: What are your expectations for business at the fair?

CC: We’re expecting to do a little business, but we are also waiting for surprises—you never know. Here in Italy, the COVID situation is not so bad right now.

JH: What have your retail clients been telling you about business leading up to the fair? 

CC: Retailers told us they worked very well the two months after the lockdown and that, surprisingly, they are still working.

JH: What does business in Italy look like now? Is it starting to pick up?

CC: Business is not going bad. If the situation remains the same as now, we’re expecting to work the same way we did last year, or maybe more because no travel and no restaurants means that people have to gratify themselves in some way and jewelry is one way! Also, retailers bought very few pieces in the first part of the year, and now they need to have more merchandise.

JH: What is the focus of your newest pieces?

CC: From our collections, people in Europe are buying much more 9k gold instead of sterling silver. Our accounts in the U.S. are very shy in buying now.

JH: What kind of Christmas season are you expecting in Italy and in the U.S.?

CC: I don’t know about the U.S., but we are expecting a nice Christmas season in terms of business in Italy. Maybe not in the classic tourist areas, but generally we expect a nice Christmas.

JH: Tell me about your newest jewelry collection.

CC: It is called Lucine, which means little lights in Italian. We show chains of diamond beads with small gold items from our collections; the pieces are very shiny, and some have colorless rock crystal. They are not yet on our website, but you can see some jewels on our Instagram account @laurent_gandini_gioielli. Retail prices for Lucine start at €550. We are hoping that Lucine will be in stores in Europe and the U.S. by the beginning of the new year.

Navette ring in 9k rose gold with brown diamonds, €990; email Info@laurentgandini.com for purchase

Navette ring in 9k rose gold with brown diamonds, €990; email Info@laurentgandini.com for purchase

Giudecca earrings in 9k rose gold with hooks in 18k rose gold and brown diamonds, €1,900; email Info@laurentgandini.com for purchase

Giudecca earrings in 9k rose gold with hooks in 18k rose gold and brown diamonds, €1,900; email Info@laurentgandini.com for purchase


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Destinations

From Inhorgenta in Munich: Kate Wood Jewellery Is the Delicate, Organic-Looking Line to Fall in Love with Today

Munich. March 20, 2020. The ethereal artistic aesthetic of Kate Wood Jewellery, based in Bristol, England, is dainty, blossoming, and moveable forms in monochromatic and ombré color schemes. Jewels are executed in recycled sterling silver, oxidized silver, and gold vermeil, with hand-beaded gems like tourmaline, pearls, emeralds, salt-and-pepper diamonds, and sapphires.

Wood is a self-taught jeweler who persevered through trial and error until her signature style was born. Her love of nature and delicate movements are clear to see; each piece is a dainty bouquet-like offering of precious metals and gems.

“I’m inspired by patterns in nature, including berries and floral forms,” she explained at her booth. “Everything is made by hand.”

The 15-year jewelry design veteran has exhibited at the Inhorgenta fair in Munich for the past five years, and she can also be found at the New York Now show in Manhattan. At retail, find her work at the Aaron Faber Gallery in New York City, among other shops. (Click this link to see the list.) She also sells directly from her own website. Retail prices start around £100.

Long Feather earrings in oxidized sterling silver curb chain with hand-beaded white freshwater pearls, £265; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Long Feather earrings in oxidized sterling silver curb chain with hand-beaded white freshwater pearls, £265; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Ombré Cluster bracelet in oxidized sterling silver with hand-beaded gradient tones of blue sapphires with a lobster clasp and oval extension chain, £625; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Ombré Cluster bracelet in oxidized sterling silver with hand-beaded gradient tones of blue sapphires with a lobster clasp and oval extension chain, £625; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Ombré Full Row necklace in gold vermeil curb chain with hand-beaded gradient tones of emeralds, £695; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Ombré Full Row necklace in gold vermeil curb chain with hand-beaded gradient tones of emeralds, £695; available online at Kate Wood Jewellery

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Destinations

From Inhorgenta in Munich: Convertible Jewels from Fruit Bijoux & Marcel Roelofs

Munich. March 19, 2020. Interchangeable jewels that offer multiple looks in one main piece are a jewelry lover’s dream! At this year’s Inhorgenta Fair in Munich, held in mid-February, convertible options were on offer at both low and higher price points.

Fruit Bijoux

Nine-year-old Fruit Bijoux out of Sopot, Poland, is the handiwork of Simon and Marta Ciechorski. Simon is a onetime product designer who experimented with myriad jewelry concepts until his screw-on sterling silver, 24k gold plate, and geometric-shape resin and metal rings took form.

“The concept allows you to have one band with multiple different tops,” he explained at the Fair.

The aesthetic—though not the interchangeability—carries over into earrings and necklaces, with nugget-like silhouettes also available. All jewelry is made in Poland, and retail prices start around €30. While the line is widely sold throughout Europe, you’ll have to travel to Pistachio in Chicago find it stateside.

Retail prices for interchangeable rings in sterling silver and 24k gold plate with geometric-shape resin or metal tops start at €30; email pistachiosjewelry@gmail.com at Pistachio in Chicago for availability and purchase.

Retail prices for interchangeable rings in sterling silver and 24k gold plate with geometric-shape resin or metal tops start at €30; email pistachiosjewelry@gmail.com at Pistachio in Chicago for availability and purchase.

Marcel Roelofs

Seasoned jewelry designer Marcel Roelofs (in business since 1977) makes high-end interchangeable jewels by way of the Vario clasp system, an invention by the Jörg Heinz company in 1974. Once Heinz’s patent period expired in the mid ’90s, firms like Roelofs were able to utilize it in their designs.

“The clasp is spring-loaded,” Roelofs explained at the fair. “You push it in and give it a quarter turn, and you can feel it lock. It’s like a little key.”

He made the convertible clasp concept his own through bold designs in 18k gold and platinum with graphic freeform slabs of one-of-a-kind gemstones sourced from vendors largely based in Brazil. U.S. stone cutter Steve Walters frequently provides custom-cut gems to Roelofs.

Some of Roelofs’ latest works include steel chains with black PVD coatings and the occasional 18k gold link to offer a lower price point. He’s not using sterling chains because the deep black color he loves eventually wears off on silver, though not in steel. Every chain requires one of his Vario clasps, some of which feature Murano glass instead of gems to keep costs lower.

While the Dutch-born artist works out of Dusseldorf, Germany, his favorite clients hail from the U.S.

“The U.S. mentality is that they are willing to show and wear what they have,” he says. “I can sell bigger pieces in the States.”

Necklace with natural-color pink freshwater pearls and platinum and 18k yellow gold Vario clasp featuring pink opal with colorless diamonds, $10,300; email info@marcel-roelofs.com for purchase

Necklace with natural-color pink freshwater pearls and platinum and 18k yellow gold Vario clasp featuring pink opal with colorless diamonds, $10,300; email info@marcel-roelofs.com for purchase

A closer look at how the Vario clasp system works. Shot at the Inhorgenta Fair in Munich in February at the booth of Marcel Roelofs.

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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