By Nancy Pier Sindt
Whether it’s a tricolored salad or a delectable pasta sauce, Italians know how to combine ingredients like no one else. This was most evident at the recent VicenzaOro Fall jewelry fair, where Italian designers – and a couple of featured brands from other countries — used their creativity to combine a multiplicity of elements, from precious materials such as gold, diamonds and gemstones to industrial and utilitarian substances like steel, leather, Plexiglas, bronze, brass, crystal and Murano glass.
Once upon a time, no jeweler would think of mixing lowly ‘birthstone gems’ (we refuse to use the term ‘semi-precious’ because all natural gems are rare and precious) — such as amethyst, citrine, peridot — with diamonds. Only the Big Three of rubies, sapphires and emeralds could be accented with diamonds. And setting diamonds in sterling silver? Never! Diamonds only went into 18-karat gold or platinum settings.
Now, all of the old rules have been thrown out. Today’s sophisticated consumer accepts the idea of mixed materials, and uses these creative combinations to reflect her personal style. Most of the standout mixed-media jewelry at the Vicenza fair fell somewhere between high-fashion and artisan designs. While some artists played with colored gemstones, beads and glass in colorful arrangements, others mixed stainless steel with diamonds, rubies with plastic. For the most part, the sizes were bold and eye-catching and meant to be worn as statement pieces.
Because these designs are far from the mainstream, some have found an audience with American retailers; others sell only in Europe or from their websites. Either way, I think you’ll agree, the originality of these designs, their playfulness and modernity make them special. Here are a few of my favorites from a show of more than 1200 exhibitors. See if they tickle your fancy.