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Made in Italy


Jan 25, 2013 6:00 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Italy’s prolific jewelry design and manufacturing industry is facing some challenging ‎times. The sluggish global economy has influenced consumer spending and choice, while ‎political wrangling and an over-regulated consumer landscape have contributed to the ‎prevailing pessimistic mood in the country. Significantly, the industry is up against ‎growing, and seemingly unfair, competition from mass manufacturing centers such as ‎China and India.‎

While acutely aware of these challenges, local jewelers remain confident of their place in ‎the market as Italy works to stay relevant as a center of excellence in jewelry design and ‎quality product. ‎

Indeed, the incessant emphasis by Roberto Ditri, president of Fiera Di Vicenza, on “The ‎Future. Now” theme at this week’s VicenzaOro fair was telling. Italian design, while at the ‎forefront of all things beautiful, needs to be aggressive today to maintain its position ‎tomorrow.   ‎

‎“The Italian brand is still strong but we don’t know how to promote it,” Roberto Coin, CEO ‎of Roberto Coin SpA, said in an interview with Rapaport News. “We have a rich history in ‎jewelry. It’s in our DNA, so ‘Made in Italy’ is naturally associated with beauty. Our clients, ‎and the consumer, expect to see beautiful things and quality product from Italy.”  ‎

The fair itself has played that up. For retailers, VicenzaOro is arguably more about ‎observing design trends than buying inventory. The show, which ran from Saturday, ‎January 19 through Thursday, January 24, saw relatively steady traffic in the vast ‎jewelry pavilions – and significantly less in the small, and somewhat hidden, loose ‎diamond section. ‎

Design Versus Price

But while Coin and others stress that Italy is still driven by design rather than price, they ‎have made a clear adjustment in the past few years to accommodate lower price points.‎

Exhibitors noted a strong trend toward silver jewelry and the use of lighter weight gold as ‎precious metals prices have soared in the past few years. Similarly, diamond vendors ‎reported that jewelry manufacturers are compromising on the quality of goods they use. ‎

‎“Manufacturers are using fewer diamonds than before and have become scared to invest ‎in diamonds,” said Joey Loloi, a manager at Taj Diamonds, a Milan-based polished ‎diamond supplier. “Even when they do buy diamonds, their purchases have changed. SI ‎clarity goods used to be the lowest quality we sold here, but now it is pique stones.”   ‎

Loloi added, however, that Italian buyers still tend to look for good-cut and nice-make ‎stones and have also maintained their color requirements since “the color needs to ‎effectively fit into the design of the jewelry.”‎

Many argue that price doesn’t necessarily influence the quality of the design. But it has ‎changed the focus of the market. ‎

Paola De Luca, forecaster and creative director at Trendvision Jewellery & Forecasting, ‎notes that the rising “minimalist” consumer is influencing companies to refine their ‎designs and cater to an increasing desire for individualism and differentiation.  ‎

Certainly, that need to be different was felt at VicenzaOro, with a diverse array of ‎displays on offer as designers sought to attract passersby. De Luca, meanwhile, ‎observed that diamonds used with color and set in unusual shapes are strong trends to ‎look out for in fashion jewelry and suggested that diamonds paired with non-precious ‎metals have become popular “because that’s where the margins will be this season.”‎

China & India

Clearly, price matters more than it used to as consumers are tightening their spending ‎and new players enter the market. The exponential growth in jewelry manufacturing and ‎design in China and India have challenged Italy, not only to fend off mass generic – and ‎often copycat – jewelry production, but also to compete in those same growth consumer ‎markets.       ‎

Exhibitors noted that respective import duties on gold jewelry in China and India put ‎Italian jewelers at a disadvantage. The Indian government this month raised its duty on ‎gold from 4 percent to 6 percent in an effort to reduce its trade deficit. China charges 25 ‎percent duty and 17 percent value added tax (VAT) on gold jewelry imports, while gold ‎‎(not in jewelry form) is duty free. ‎

Despite this, there has been progress and China was among Italy’s top growth jewelry ‎markets in 2012. Jewelry exports by volume to China rose 20 percent year on year in the ‎first nine months of 2012, making it Italy’s fifth largest market and accounting for 5.1 ‎percent of Italy’s total jewelry exports, according to a study conducted by the Vicenza ‎branch of Verona University, citing data from Vicenza Chamber of Commerce and ISTA ‎‎2012. ‎

Italy’s largest market remains Switzerland, accounting for 21.9 percent of total jewelry ‎exports, followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 17.3 percent, the U.S. with 8.8 ‎percent, and France with 6.8 percent. Italy’s role in India remains marginal and jewelry ‎exports there fell 17 percent by value during the nine-month period. Italy’s total jewelry ‎exports by value rose 8.1 percent but by volume fell 8.7 percent, the survey stated. ‎

Diversifying Markets

To maintain growth momentum, Fiera di Vicenza, which organizes VicenzaOro, has ‎focused on building relationships in key markets over the past year. This month, the ‎group formed a partnership with the Dubai World Trade Center to strengthen its position ‎in the UAE. This came after it took the ‘Made in Italy’ concept to Dubai in November, ‎enabling Italian gold and jewelry companies to present there. Similar trips are planned for ‎India, Brazil and Dubai this year. ‎

This week’s fair also had a significant international flavor with buyers from approximately ‎‎120 countries attending, many as part of organized buyers groups. In organizing its ‎invitation-only AboutJ event in September in Venice, Fiera di Vicenza has set strict ‎criteria and is looking for a geographically diverse set of buyers ranging from central and ‎eastern Europe, central Asia and the Middle East to the U.S. and central America. “We ‎are trying to create a hub that is active in all markets, and where all players can meet,” ‎said Corrado Facco, Fiera di Vicenza’s executive director. ‎

In a panel discussion at the fair’s opening summit, Ditri stressed that collaboration is the ‎way forward. Other panelists agreed, especially for those key markets that are difficult to ‎penetrate, such as China, India and Russia.‎

Frustrated Confidence

Diversifying to new jewelry consumer markets is essential for Italy, especially as growth ‎in its more traditional markets, particularly in Europe, is weak.   ‎

In fact, the mood among Italians at the VicenzaOro Winter fair was one of frustrated ‎confidence, and justifiably so. They appear skeptical about any pending changes and ‎improved economic conditions after the February 24/25 elections and are annoyed by ‎regulations that restrict consumer spending – local consumers can only make cash ‎purchases up to EUR 1,000 as government seeks to monitor wealth and clamp down on ‎tax evasion.  ‎

However, jewelers remain confident in their ability to create beautiful, quality products, ‎and – as Cameo Diluca, of Cameo Italiano, stressed – tell a story through a piece of ‎jewelry. “No one is able to do that quite like the Italian jeweler,” he said. ‎

As the local industry faces today’s challenges head on, and adjusts to a changing global ‎market, it has come to realize that it’s not good enough to just do what it does best – ‎design beautiful, high-quality jewelry. It needs to tell its own story as well. Spreading the ‎‎‘Made in Italy’ message is essential to ensure the local industry’s long-term future and ‎vital to secure the global industry’s position in the luxury space. ‎

The writer can be contacted at

Follow Avi on Twitter: @AviKrawitz

This article is an excerpt from a market report that is sent to Rapaport members on a weekly basis. To subscribe, go to or contact your local Rapaport office.

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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Italy Roberto Coin Fiera di Vicenza VicenzaOro Jewellery Jewelry Gold Silver Diamonds Rapap
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