Italian Jewel: Positive signs of stability in exports
Reinterpreting consumer tastes: according to Prof. Beretta Zanoni from Didactic Science Studies in Business at the University of Verona, this is the recipe for Italian goldsmiths to regain momentum on the domestic market once the recession is over. The future of jewelry, however, may be seen in many ways, like through technology: significant approval comes from professor Alba Cappellieri, director of the Jewelry design specialization course and president of the Fashion Design degree program, who offers the point of view of someone who moves forward daily in the world of research.
Exports in the Italian gold sector seem to be picking up in the second quarter of 2013, both in value and in volume, per data emerging from the Flash Report published by the Center for Science and Didactic Studies on Business at the University of Verona (Vicenza campus) in sync with the VICENZAORO Fall fair. This data is important as it follows a two-year low and shows an increase in value between April and June of +6% and in quantity of +2,6%. The simultaneous fall in the price of gold makes the first figure even more meaningful: Italian jewelry that is such a big success abroad is high-end and sophisticated design. In order to fully understand the data presented during the fall edition of Fiera di Vicenza gold fair, Preziosa magazine asked the head of the research project Prof. Andrea Beretta Zanoni to explain the key points of the report.
Is the increase in jewelry exports for Italy a sign of recovery?
“It is certainly resounding: results from the second quarter showed an increase that hadn’t been seen for two years. We expect substantial stability for the second half of the year. There are two main factors: one is short-term and comes from a decrease in the price of raw material; the second is an increase in demand.
Which countries contributed to this performance of the Italian gold industry?
“The US, traditionally an end market for our businesses and which has been stalled for a while, showed a +12% value increase; the UAE grew 32%, and along with Switzerland they make up 40% of exports. Following the US is France, Hong Kong, China, Turkey, Germany, the UK, and Spain, while China stabilized thus slowing down the race.
A periodic report from the World Gold Council on world gold jewelry demand puts India and China in first place at 50.3%. How do Italian jewelers do on these markets?
“The two markets are very different: China has no tradition in jewelry consumption and there is a solid urban middle class that is paying a lot of attention to this market, boasting a growing buying power.
India on the other hand has a long tradition not necessarily linked to wealth but to cultural factors, however it is very difficult for our companies to penetrate their markets, especially because of high duties on imports.
In this moment of subtle recovery, what do goldsmiths need to invest in?
“In my opinion they need to approve strategic plans that include how to position themselves on the markets, but not wildly. Each company should identify its target and the difficulties it may encounter in each country to understand whether it can operate alone or in partnership with other companies and definitely aiming for high end markets where being good craftsmen is not enough, you need to sell your brand and design.
What happened between 2008 and now?
“A real revolution. Some were able to reinvent themselves and find their way. Undoubtedly the industry has changed more in the last 5 years than in the last 20. Anyway, the revolution is not over.
When the domestic market starts recovering and having positive affect on consumption and buying power, will the industry return to the same state as before the global recession?
“Right now the domestic market is giving no signs of life, but I don’t think the end of the recession will be enough. What has changed in recent years is buying behavior: the jewelry industry will have to deal with it in the same way companies do abroad and we won’t go very far if we refuse to reinterpret consumer tastes.
In matters of taste …
by Alba Cappellieri
Hume sustained that taste is the basis to aesthetics The standards for beauty are evidently the result of variables pertaining to a period in history, to culture, to society, to territory and so important that starting from romanticism (Hogarth, Burke) it seemed impossible to to define beauty in absolue and universal terms because individual sensations make any dogma vain. Here is why reinterpreting taste means first of all defining it culturally and in terms of market reference. Strategic market for our companies are those in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and to interpret taste in each of these countries is practically impossible because Chinese taste is so far from Russian taste – likewise from India and Brazil – for form, color, symbols, and decorations. In India gold must be pink, in China yellow and in Russia white, and even style is not to be taken lightly. Moreover, Italian goldsmiths are not used to diversifying collections that just a few years back would have sold across the globe in a blink. Today is different and even big international brands are having a hard time finding iconic products and it’s time to innovate. Not (only) because by interpreting consumer taste but also bylooking for new meaning and functions in jewelry. I believe we’re going through a semantic revolution and discovering new values – material, technological, narrative, aesthetic – is the challenge that jewelry is up against.
As far as I’m concerned, the future lies in the integration of technology, in particular sensors that will render jewelry intelligent giving it new functions and utility. We are already working with research groups at the Milan Polytech to conjugate the beauty of jewelry with functions and capabilities of sensors. Jewelry, thus, meant to be not only an ornament or status symbol but a narrative object performing functions from other sectors: from tourism to leisure, from sport to wellness.
Pleasant objects that increase in semantic value through design and become what we have called ‘utility jewelry’. For example? Bracelets that allow diabetics to monitor their condition from home or that allow mothers to monitor their children on the beach or at the nursery, and another smart jewel will guide tourists through locations they’re visiting, functioning as locators or as a payment mechanism at the supermarket, at subway turnstiles or on a streetcar. The sportware sector is the one that at the moment is most popular, with tools to monitor, localize and inform on miniature bracelets, rings, and pendants for runners, bikers, or those who practice extreme sports.
The frontier to explore is no longer aesthetics but meaning for pieces of jewelry. Technology is helping us out, design gives way to new ideas but companies must believe in research as the introduction to innovation.