Valentina Callo, head of style for Ponte Vecchio Jewelry, talks to Preziosa Magazine
“Jewelry will always distinguish itself for its uniqueness and timelessness”
TO design and then see your idea become reality must be fabulous … but why did you pick the world of jewelry?
This specialty was just by chance … as a student I liked to design metal because it reflects light and so my portfolio contained a lot of lamps but also bracelets inspired by Nouvell Bague, jeweler Leopoldo Poli’s brand. When I graduated, the director of the institute introduced me to Poli, who saw my portfolio and hired me immediately; I worked with him for three years.
Is design the secret to success for all products?
Style is very important. Many entrepreneurs have high expectations, thinking they’ll find a designer who magically creates a product everyone will crave … it takes teamwork involving management, marketing and communication.
Teamwork must be a deterrent for spontaneity ….
The market sets the rules. I teach my students to express a concept through form, but when they start working they must take into consideration customer needs.
The decrease in carat weight is a heavy price to pay for the recession ….
It is also state of mind, in emerging economies the average income cannot be high but people face life with more trust. I too spend less on purses while others are willing to spend. They give in to the charm of made in Italy.
Italians seem to be more creative than twenty or thirty years ago.
In the 80s there were companies whose style was unique and recognizable. Nouvelle Bague could be picked out by its enameled bracelets that didn’t need to be radically changed. Successful models lived a long time.
That’s why they were called iconic ….
Think about an Armani jacket, Missoni pattern fabrics proposed year in and year out in all new colors…. The world of jewelry in the 90s made an important change: some manufacturers started to become known to the public. Think about Damiani, Pasquale Bruni, Chimento, Fope, and then crowd pleasers like Breil. From that moment on the focus was no longer on a single product but on entire collections that renewed every six months, like apparel.
Amongst the brands that have won a place in prestigious showcases is the one that hired you as style director in 1996.
Yes, I’m proud of the results obtained at Ponte Vecchio Jewelry: we have been together during all the stages of brand development from studying fashion and social circumstances to understand the public and fulfill their needs, to the adoption of celebrity testimonials including Mara Carfagna a few years ago. We created a style and – for sake of argument – we were the first company who following north European artists, marketed rings with visible stones on the side.
You have inspired certain jewelers who have taken your ideas, like using stones of different forms and colors. Does that bother you or are you honored?
I’m used to being on the side of research so the risk is always that of being copied. Those people should be looking at reality, looking for new things in the movie and contemporary art industries, and trying to read the mind of the young people and what they like. New ideas come up for people who know how to read the sign of the times in their own language.
The designer is not always known to the public.
Sometimes the craftsmen aren’t either. When you design a collection for a big label you may not be able to brag about it by contract or for other reasons…
What’s new this year?
The classic jewel forever, white diamonds and elegant forms are top sellers. But the international customers are asking for more color, even in high quality products, and we’re seeing a come back for rubies and sapphires. the animalier never go out of style but news is that the return to geometric forms is a trend we’re seeing in textiles. More often than not artisan manufacturing is supported by new technology.
How do you see the future?
Besides those made with precious materials, products made with non-precious materials are also called jewels. Sometimes they are well-made, other times they have nothing to do with jewels. This coexistence will bring a rise in supply, but jewelry made with precious materials will be distinct from the rest because of uniqueness and timelessness, handwork by artisans who are backed by great tradition.
Born in Manarola on the splendid Cinque Terre coastline, Valentina Callo studied industrial design at ISIA in Florence, home of the renaissance and of Benvenuto Cellini. She loves contemporary sculpture and Henry Moore, but she is convinced that sculpture today can be found in industrial design. A choice that is both realistic and courageous is when she chose to design to design jewelry instead of furniture and knick knacks albeit excellent results working for companies like MCO and Artista Visitatore. Her rise through the ranks began at Nouvelle Bague, the most creative goldsmithry see in the past decade, then she worked with Lux Coral, Pietro Balestra, Silmar and in then in around 2000 she designed two lines for Breil Tribe and Trudi, also for Rosato, Italian Luxury Group, and Silplat. Since 1997 she has headed the style office at Ponte Vecchio Jewelry where not only does she take care of products but she also attends to their image and promotes the brand at the international level. Despite a busy schedule, Valentina is able to find time to pass on her expertise to the new generations and she does so at the school of jewelry Le Arti Orafe where she’s been teaching since 1993, and for the past few years at the School of Architecture in Florence.