From running a successful brick-and-mortar business in New York to dressing up “super tai tais” (high society women) in Hong Kong, Italian jeweller Danilo Giannoni is now ready to settle down in Singapore with the launch of Arte Oro — an authentic local atelier attuned to creating “Made in Singapore” custom jewellery.
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“I decided to relocate to Singapore because of my family. My wife is Singaporean and so are my two children. We want the kids to go to school and live here,” says the gem hunter, jewellery designer and often-described storyteller, who has 30 years of industry experience under his belt.
He counts the blue sapphire, red ruby and white diamond as his favourite stones to work with — for the challenge in making the colour pop, the passionate hue, and for being the first gem he ever held in his hands, respectively. You could say the 47-year-old was destined to work with jewels, although he actually comes from a family where men worked with guns. “My father was a soldier, my brother was a soldier… But growing up in a tiny Italian town called Alessandria, one could only really do two things: Get eaten by mosquitoes or become a jewellery designer. There is nothing else to do,” he jokes.
Giannoni’s childhood home was nearby Valenza — one of the world’s capitals in jewellery production, where some of the most prestigious jewellery brands such as Bvlgari and Cartier have set up their R&D departments. Danilo Giannoni was even groomed at some of these renowned factories at an early age.
“When I was 14 years old, I was picked to be part of a programme where I got to study in the morning and was trained in the afternoon. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I would be sitting next to great masters — mine was a man named Roberto and he’s an amazing teacher; I still get goosebumps talking about him. He’d shout at me and say: ‘Nobody will teach you anything, you need to learn to see with your eyes’ — so I learnt how to look at pieces with different lights reflecting on the jewels.”
His keen eye has brought him around the world, most recently to Hong Kong where he eyed the most beautiful gem of all: His now-spouse. And when the couple finally decided to move to Singapore in 2016, Giannoni saw that the nation lacked local jewellery craftsmanship, even though he felt there is a huge market for it here. Thus, Arte Oro (which means “the art of gold” in Italian) was born, where staff are local, including those trained in traditional jewellery making techniques as well as Giannoni’s newest prodigy: A design graduate who puts into practice 3D prototyping and printing.
“I want to leave a legacy, not only for my kids, but also for the Singaporean people — especially the younger ones. And how we get them interested is by introducing new technology in the atelier. What I like about Singapore is that technology is widely available and present in everyday life.
For Arte Oro, I think using technology is a good way to teach this young generation — a sort of short cut if you will. Because learning handwork skills takes 10 to 15 years but if they can visualise and start to see it on the computer, it will be easier for them to see what they are doing once they use the jewellers workbench. It’s an accelerated learning process, which will also get them interested and invested I feel.”
Founder and Creative Director of Arte Oro, Danilo Giannoni, shares some tips for buying gems.
1. To Wear: Don’t Follow Trends
“If it’s for your own pleasure, try to be yourself. Don’t follow the trends and if you have a budget in mind, let the jeweller know — and we’ll sort out the rest. The mistake people make is that they always choose with the budget they have the things they like less. So let’s say: If you’re set on getting a ruby with a certain budget, you will likely choose a ruby that may not be as spectacular but if you ask the jeweller to work with the budget you have, they can find a better, bigger gem more beautiful than you can imagine and you will have a more personal gratification.”
2. To Invest: Follow Trends
“For investments, we always look at market trends — the price of white diamonds has fallen, coloured gemtones are going up. There are subtle indications that certain types of stones are still very hot. Rubies are one of them — they are rare and difficult to find, especially important rubies, such as six to 10-ct clean pigeon blood Burmese rubies. Other rare gems worth investing in are Kashmir and Padparadscha sapphires, as well as Colombian and Zambian emeralds.”