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From Byzantine echoes to timeless designs, Dubai celebrates Italian jewellers’ penchant for beauty

by Chiara Beghelli

“According to architect and philosopher Leon Battista Alberti, beauty is also ’concinnitas,’ meaning balance, which involves also variety. And Italian jewelers have always been good at following this rule.”

In the ballroom of the Conrad Hotel in Dubai, Alba Cappellieri, jewelry design professor at Politecnico of Milan, gives us a private tour of the show “The Italian Beauty,” a display of 32 stunning necklaces from Italian jewellers, organized during the Vicenzaoro jewelry fair in Dubai.

She is the curator of the show and the director of Museo del Gioiello in Vicenza (link to, opened last December, where the pieces in Dubai come from.

Professor Cappellieri selected them to show visitors the main themes in Italian, contemporary jewelry.

“Look at these three coral necklaces,” she said. “These are perfect examples of Italian ’variety’: one is a vintage necklace, inspired by those worn by our grandmothers. Another has a very contemporary design, and the third one took more than 25 years to be finished, since it's made of a peculiar Japanese coral very hard to find in this particular shade of red.”

She is referring to Luigi Liverino “Boke” necklace, “an ode to nature and time.”

Then, another necklace represents the peculiar Italian link between manufacturing and design.

“The design of this ’Senzafine’ is from the 1980s by Massimo Vignelli, renowned also for the layout of New York City Subway map of the 1970s,” she continued. “But this necklace was too cutting-edge, there wasn't yet the technology to make it. Only ten years later, the owner of San Lorenzo had the idea to put into the necklace the mechanism of industrial ball-bearing, and so it was finally realized.”

The search for elegance is another example of variety, as can be seen from the necklaces by Percossi Papi (that evokes the Byzantine style with colorful enamels and antique techniques of gem-setting) and that by Stefan Hafne, with a light cascade of diamonds and blue sapphires, similar to a sophisticate embroidery.

Among the most interesting creations is “Mirror, Mirror” by Francesca Villa, who travels the world to find “objets trouvés,” a sort of souvenir -- often in flea markets -- and assembles them in unique necklaces.

“Why did we put only necklaces on display? Because a necklace is the center piece of any set, adorns the neck, emphasizing a woman's face and décolletage, sitting close to the heart, because is to heart that beauty can and must speak,” professor Cappellieri explains.

(The Italian Beauty, Conrad Hotel, Dubai, until 26th April.