The history of Damiani began in Valenza in 1924 when Enrico Grassi Damiani opened his first laboratory and won over the most important local families. But it was only after the 60s that thanks to his son Damiano’s talent and entrepreneurial skills, the family watched its own name become a signature label. Once famous, the Damiani family kept their authentic calling in mind. Rather than label accessories and other products, they prefer to focus on being goldsmiths, perfecting their style and workmanship. Their skills are confirmed in the record number of International Diamond Awards they have received: 18 since the 70s. In 1996, when company management passed on to the third generation – Guido, Giorgio and Silvia Damiani – it was already a large firm where manufacturing alone employed 100 people. Thanks to Guido Damiani’s strategic planning as president and CEO of the group, the Italian brand became known worldwide. Their jewelry is sold not only in jewelry stores but also in numerous Damiani signature boutiques located on luxury strips around the world. Brands belonging to the group include Salvini, Bliss, Alfieri & St. John, and Calderoni; plus Rocca stores which are listed on the Milan stock exchange as of 2007.
In celebration of your ninetieth anniversary, an exhibit at Palazzo Pitti in Florence has been dedicated to your work.
Knowing that your work is worthy of such a powerful museum rewards us for the passion we put into our profession. It is from this love that the Ninetieth collection came about, made up of ten models each inspired by a decade of our history and created in not more than nine numbered pieces.
You took over the company when you were 27 and your siblings were still small.
My father took over when he was 19, and when he died in a car accident in 1996, it was our turn. We were not ready for something like that but all we did was look each other in the eyes and we knew we had to move forward…
The first decision you made was to take the Damiani brand global.
Yes, we were strong only in Italy, then we began opening stores worldwide. Just seven years ago our stores made a modest 5% of global turnover, now we are at 40%.
The luxury market is dominated by colossals like LVMH, Kering, Richemont. How do you compete with them?
A BNP Paribas study published on the Sole 24 Ore puts us eighth in the rankings among jewelers worldwide for turnover. We are considered little amongst giants, and it is much better to be a giant among the little ones….
Is there a secret to the Damiani phenomenon?
Maybe it’s the close relationship I have had with my siblings Silvia and Giorgio, ever since we were kids. In the company we laid some ground rules and this has kept us united, as well as our agreement to keep our spouses out of the company.
You spoke about passion … what does it mean for you?
My mother once sold a string of very valuable Australian pearls, so she called my father immediately to give him the news. She realized he was a little hesitant and she asked him if he was happy … Sure, he answered, I’m happy, but when will we ever find another necklace as beautiful as that one? My father was like that, and so am I.
How important is it to have in-house manufacturing?
We cannot live without it. Most of our jewelry is made in Damiani laboratories, of which we are majority shareholders. It is also important to foster relationships: just think, we just bid farewell to an artisan who had started working under my grandfather …
You have opened stores in China. Are your results meeting your expectations?
Yes, even if we started 20 months ago and we have a long way to go. Anyway, almost all the stores opened in China belong to us and this helps convey the value of our brand.
When you were receiving your Oscar, Paolo Sorrentino was wearing a Damiani watch…
Famous friends and testimonials help us get attention. We recently organized an event in Singapore and Shanghai with Eva Longoria, and now with Sofia Loren. Many VIPs get married with our wedding bands. Just lately Vasco Rossi, Elenoire Casalegno, Riccardo Montolive, Laura Chiatti….
What are you most proud of?
Being the most famous Italian jewelry designer label in the world, the only one that did not fall for the flattery from the big groups.
The company belongs to the family and I hope it will for a long time ….