Italian jeweller damiani is no stranger to royalty. Late last year, Guido Damiani, president of the Damiani Group, personally presented an 18k yellow gold artistic interpretation of Prince Albert II of Monaco to the prince himself during the principality’s national day. Weighing almost 13kg and requiring almost 1,000 hours to produce, the bust was made in collaboration with acclaimed Californian artist Barry X Ball and is currently on display at the Galerie des Glaces in the Prince’s Palace.
The jeweller also had the honour of making a pair of bespoke wedding bands for Emanuele Filiberto of Savoia and his wife Clotilde Courau, when they tied the knot in 2003. Filiberto, the Prince of Venice, is a member of the House of Savoy and the son and heir of Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples. He is the only male grandson of King Umberto II, the last king of Italy.
This year, Damiani took this privileged position one step further by collaborating with Nicoletta Consolo Romanoff on two jewellery collections: The Fiori d’arancio and Fiocco collections. The 35-year-old Italian actress is the daughter of Princess Natalia Nikolaevna Romanova and the granddaughter of Prince Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, a descendant of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Although it has been a century since the Romanov Dynasty (1613 to 1917) fell, they continue to be remembered for their grandiose parades of gold, diamonds and fur.
“I know Nicoletta’s father (Italian politician Giuseppe Consolo) and she knows our jewellery. We started talking about working together because of her royal background and her family’s rich heritage,” explains Damiani. “She’s also a beautiful girl,” he adds.
Both collections are inspired by Romanoff’s memories of her upbringing as a Romanov and took about three years (from conceptualisation to final product) to produce. “It was a four-hands job that included our designer, Giorgio (Damiani, vice-president of the company), Nicoletta and myself. She had her own ideas and it was a joint cooperation. She really loved being part of it,” shares Damiani.
Among the varied high jewellery designs wrought in gold, diamonds and pearls, the Sveva tiara stands out as the most emblematic. Aside from its imposing structure forged from 500g of solid gold and adorned with 4,500 diamonds and 83 white Japanese pearls, it holds a special spot in Romanoff’s heart because it was named after her grandmother, Countess Sveva della Gherardesca, and modelled after the tiara that the Countess wore at her wedding ceremony in 1952.
“We wanted this tiara to be the most outstanding piece because when you think of tiaras, you automatically think of princesses. We chose this particular tiara because it was very special as she wore it on the day of her wedding. It is something that is full of feelings,” says Damiani. “I also wanted to present the possibility of being a princess every day to every woman. The modern princess today is a beautiful girl wearing beautiful jewellery. Therefore, I think it is my job to make every woman a princess,” he adds.
The original tiara was composed of clusters of tiny wax orange blossoms, a type of flower that is commonly used in Italian weddings. Under the expertise of Damiani’s master craftsmen, these fragrant white buds take the form of gold, diamonds and pearl florets that are repeatedly found in the sculptural bejewelled rings, earrings, necklaces, headpieces and bracelets of the new Fiori d’arancio collection.
Although the labour-intensive Sveva tiara demanded weeks of research and more than six months of production, the other creations in the collection also reflect the same astute attention to detail that is only implicitly found in high jewellery-making. Another noteworthy example is an asymmetric, open-ended hinged necklace set in gold and adorned with twinkling diamond-set flowers. Designed to be worn as a large statement piece, the bottom half of the necklace can also be taken apart and used as a brooch.
The ideas of decadence, femininity and the great Imperial Russian court also helped with the creation of the Fiocco collection. Fashioned around the bow, a popular motif in the European courts since the middle of the 17th century, they were so successful among the Russian nobility that bejewelled versions were even stitched directly onto garments. It is said that Catherine the Great, the most renowned and the longest ruling female leader of Russia, wore these paved versions in the evenings.
Long regarded as a symbol of eternal bond, these bows find themselves in Damiani’s high jewellery Masterpieces range crafted in white gold and paved with diamonds and pearls; they are also available in a regular collection in pink gold with outlines illuminated by diamonds or in pave white gold. Some eye-catching creations include a long pearl sautoir held in the middle by a precious diamond-set bow, as well as a supple necklace bearing a beautifully knotted pave bow held by delicate white gold chains set with diamond brilliants.
Having worked so intimately on this collection, it was hard for Damiani to select a favourite design. However, the piece that resonated most with him is a voluminous two-finger ring that drapes across the fingers fluidly like shimmering fabric. Unadorned with important or big stones, it is telling of the brand’s workmanship and expertise in goldsmithing. “The way we work with gold is something that is part of our DNA. We are one of few companies that can work gold and diamonds together such that it emulates fabric,” he explains. “Jewellery that feature big stones are quite easy to produce: You just take a big stone and put some gold around it; its value is determined by the stone’s value. The real challenge is to be creative using smaller stones,” he adds.
This collection, though, is a fairy tale without a set ending. Guido reveals this is only the first chapter of what could potentially be a long and fruitful partnership. “Let’s see. We didn’t put a limit nor have we thought about a next step. Moving from a friendship to a business could be something interesting...we have some ideas in our mind with coloured stones but maybe in the future”.