Much like fashion designers, jewelry designers possess an eclectic blend of passion, inspiration and creativity that translates into incredible, wearable works of art. I have had the good fortune of traveling dozens of times to Italy for jewelry exhibitions and to visit some of the finest designer workshops. Here are five of my favorite Italian designers who are renowned for their passion and creativity.
With roots dating back to 1919, Antonini Milano is a family run brand that creates jewelry featuring unusual shapes, mixed colored stones, and dynamic architecture. Because the brand specializes in semi-precious stones such as citrine, amethyst, smoky quartz, and others, the fine Italian jewelry is affordable. Founded and still based in Milan, the brand’s creative designer, Sergio Antonini, has an incredible eye for designing pieces that run the gamut from simple and to sublime, from chic to extraordinary. Worn on the red carpet by stars including Anne Hathaway, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood, Antonini’s jewels are easy to wear and look dynamite on. My favorite collection is the Malibu line of colored stone pieces inspired by Malibu Beach’s great sunsets. Another fun favorite (thanks to its whimsical geometric appeal) is the Siracusa line that plays with shapes that crisscross and intersect for a delightful look. This series has won several awards for its creativity and unique expression.
As its name suggests, the roots of this brand date back six generations and 134 years. Designer Alberto Petochi is a sixth-generation Italian jeweler who is inspired by his heritage to create vintage designs with a modern edge.
The Petochi family opened its first jewelry shop in 1884. The jewelry’s aesthetics and craftsmanship caught the attention of Prince Allessandro Torlonia who invited the family to move into the palace as a jewelry maker to the royal family. Today, Alberto Petochi has recreated the family legacy by designing sophisticated jewelry that incorporates original ancient Roman coins. Petochi does a masterful job of blending modernity into the 1884 Collection with interesting geometric accents and combining the Italian coins with bold titanium cuffs or tubular solid silver bracelets that wrap around the wrist. There are even colored-gemstone necklaces wherein the clasp is a simple accent piece. This contemporary design ethos not only makes an interesting statement, but also offers the wearer an intriguing secret: only she knows that the centerpiece in the trendy-yet-classic jewelry is an original ancient coin.
Few jewelry designers at the ultra-high-jewelry level are as adept at offering beautiful objects of art as Picchiotti. Because Picchiotti specializes in gemstone jewelry, the brand draws the eye in with pops of bold color and surrounding shimmering diamonds. Growing up in Valenza, Italy, Giuseppe Picchiotti was immersed in the art and architecture of centuries past throughout his childhood, and his exquisite jewelry designs reflect those surroundings. Picchiotti began studying jewelry at the young age of 13. In the late 1970s, at the age of 30, he broke out on his own with his namesake brand. His passion for architecture translated into beautiful treasures that adorn fingers, wrists, necks and ears. He mastered new stone settings until each and every creation he made was perfected to his demanding standards.
Today, the Picchiotti brand continues to work with big stones and a lot of diamonds. One of the more creative and somewhat revolutionary collections by Picchiotti is the Xpandable™ series of rings and bracelets with imperceptible technology that allows the ring size to contract or expand for a more comfortable fit; the ring’s entire shank is comprised of gemstones set into 18 karat gold rows, each of which expands by several millimeters.
A relatively young brand, Marco Bicego founded his jewelry company in 2000, following in his father’s footsteps as a jeweler. With every piece of jewelry made in the Veneto region of Italy (near Vicenza and Venice), Marco Bicego does everything in-house, from melting the gold to coiling or engraving it, setting the gemstones and hand polishing each and every piece.
Specializing in gold with added diamonds and colored stones, Marco Bicego offers a host of highly contemporary, easy-to-wear collections. With inspiration coming from different world cultures, Marco Bicego’s jewelry exudes an air of confidence and joy. My favorite collection is his Marrakech series in which fine strands of gold are woven together to create richly textured and flexible jewelry. Often the pieces are accented with diamonds for added sparkle. Alternatively, Marco Bicego’s Africa series of hand-hammered and hand-finished gold orbs, sometimes mixed with diamonds or turquoise, is a delightful modern line with classic appeal.
For most, Roberto Coin needs no introduction. His prolific designs make the brand an outstanding choice for gold jewelry, diamonds and colored stones. Coin first began his company in 1977 in Vicenza, Italy, to make jewelry for other companies, but his passion, creativity and talent made him restless. And so, in 1996, he started his own eponymous brand.
Today, Roberto Coin is globally known as a designer extraordinaire, employing many master craftsmen to bring his concepts to life. Any given year Roberto Coin debuts hundreds of new pieces and dozens of new collections. The Italian-born Coin loves to surprise people with his creations, which are made in all hues of gold, diamonds, and gemstones. With a firm stance that jewelry is an art that should evoke an emotional response, Coin has created some of the most wearable and beloved collections.
Among the best-sellers are the Appassionata line of intricately woven, highly feminine gold jewelry (created using a technique that took several years to develop and that makes gold feel like fabric against the body); the Cento, a proprietary 100-facet diamond collection; and the fan-favorite Animalier series of animal-inspired rings, bracelets, and cuffs. From the classic collections to the nuanced pieces that debut annually, all Roberto Coin jewelry carries a signature ruby on the inner side as his stamp of authenticity. With Roberto Coin, there is never a dull moment.