Each year I get inspired and invigorated by visiting my European/ Italian suppliers. This year was an amazingly stimulating trip. My first stop was to visit Orsini's main diamond supplier of jewellery 'Hulchi Belluni's'. Their headquarters are situated in the famous Diamond District of Antwerp. Their showroom is a sharp contrast to their glittering product, drab gray buildings line the main street, Hoveniersstraat, which has a metal gate, security detail and its own synagogue for the many Jewish people in the industry. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie with specially clad reinforced trucks zipping everywhere, men carrying large parcels in reinforced packaging with their machine guns on the ready. I felt strangely secure with so much ammunition on the ready. You can understand why when you realise that approximately 84% of the world's rough diamonds pass through the district, making it the largest diamond district in the world with a turnover of 54 billion dollars. It is fascinating to realise that over $16 billion in polished diamonds pass through the district's exchanges each year. There are 380 workshops that serve 1,500 companies. There are also 3,500 brokers, merchants and diamond cutters. I realised just how expert the people working at Hulchi Belluni are being surrounded by incredible diamond knowledge and heritage. Not long after being seated my own rings were whisked off to be cleaned and polished. I was amazed when they returned not long after looking brand new, not an easy feat after 20 years of marriage! Soon after we were shown vast numbers of glittering trays covered in exquisite jewellery and diamonds. A truly magnificent array of expert craftsmanship! We love the jewellery more and more each year and appreciate the quality of the jewellery.
Even though the Hulchi Belluni headquarters are based in Antwerp, the jewelry is handmade in Arezzo, Italy; prices start at 900 euros, or $980, and can go up to more than €3 million for commissions. The designer Martine Hul has created custom pieces for members of Qatar’s royal family, demonstrating the caliber of the jewellery. We loved our time in Antwerp and loved seeing the magnificent buildings, the Antwerp train station being a favourite.
Our next stop was a quick flight to Milano. Having visited so many times I have lost count, Milan grows on me more each year. one of the most vibrant capitals of the international fashion and design scene. We were fortunate enough to rent a luxury apartment just off Montenapalone Street and had a few days visiting all the fabulous designers and favorite sights. I have a fascination with the astounding interior design and the uber chic fashion, I also love to spot the wonderful roof top apartments, overflowing with trees and plants.
I met my other 2 key designers Pomellato and Marco Bicego in Milan and was once again inspired and awed by their craftsmanship, new designs and their stunning store fit outs. We visited the Pomellato headquarters, which take up a whole block in Milan. The Dodo jewellery is also part of Pomellato group and we not only went through the new Pomellato collections, but we also previewed the new Dodo jewels. Every Dodo design blends creativity and flair in a unique and unconventional way, compelled by the quality and expertise of Italian style. Unisex pieces of jewellery, with a strong identity and unique story-telling soul, in which every creature, symbol and letter holds a special meaning or a sense of love, luck, friendship and freedom. We popped into the Dodo store, and loved seeing the creations being worn by so many people on the streets and underground, you can understand why Dodo is called 'Dodomania' in Italy.
The Pomellato stores we visited were uber chic, having recently had a new refurbishment devised by DIMORESTUDIO, they were stunning! I loved being shown the new collections and having time with the staff.
The following day we spent with Marco Bicego staff in the Milan boutique. Usually we visit the headquarters in Trissino, however this year spending time in the Milano boutique, which was equally inspiring. Comparing notes and experiences with the staff was very useful, and made me realise that even though we live on opposite sides of the world, our clients experiences are very similar. The new collections were fabulous and once again going to be a great addition for my New Zealand clients. I especially loved the new Mother of Pearl Jaipur collections for the summer season.
Our journey took us South to the region of Parma, and then on to Florence and Tuscany. We also visited the Marco Bicego, Pomellato and Dodo stores in Florence, it is hard not to pop in and chat with the staff. I love their looks of surprise and delight when they realise we sell their stunning jewellery on the other side of the World.
I love bringing Italian jewellery that I hand select to New Zealand clients.