Pomellato invented the concept of prêt-à-porter jewellery. Inconceivable in the mid-20th century, it is now state of the art. Yet even prêt-à-porter jewellery requires a lot of effort, as became clear when we peeked behind the scenes at the Pomellato studio.
When the design department is beavering away at meticulous new designs, they have to bear much more in mind than just beauty: the piece’s weight, how comfortable it is to wear, how it lies on the skin, how it looks when it moves. And in addition to the design, they also have to take each item’s value and price into account. After all, the amount of work involved needs to be proportionate to the price of the materials.
The Pomellato studio lies at the heart of the fashion metropolis that is Milan. Here, everything is under one roof. In a hall divided by partition walls pieces of jewellery wander from one bright and personalized workplace to the next. From the wax model to the small clasp and even the cocktail ring, everything is made here: parts are cast, soldered together, cleaned and polished – all at this address. Finally, the stones are set, the pieces are polished and then, to round off the process, the finished piece is signed: the Pomellato logo as a hallmark. That, too, was very unusual before Pomellato became an established company: previously, pieces of jewellery rarely had a label. The bright, big stones with their characteristic cut became the trademark of the studio that was founded in Milan in 1967 by Pino Rabolini – who claimed that these conspicuous pieces could be worn all day long. At one time it was common practice to only wear extravagant jewellery in the evening.
Pomellato’s soul is a rainbow
The gem-setter is sitting in front of a huge, blown-up sketch of a ring. He sets ten stones an hour. Sometimes there are up to 170 stones per piece of jewellery. In the stone department, 150,000 coloured gemstones are put under the microscope every year. Yet with diamonds, Pomellato is content with just a randomized check. The flawless diamonds are left to the competition: after all, Pomellato’s soul is a rainbow. Ten employees painstakingly examine every colourful stone that is used for the collections Nudo, Capri and Bahia. Diamonds are only embellishments; mere frames for the amethyst, quartz and topaz that make the coveted, brightly coloured jewellery what it is.
In the vault there are piles of bright fragments of rough stones in every colour of the rainbow. They are the backup for times when there are no supplies on the gemstone market that meet the company’s strict quality criteria.
On a bed of velvet lie the colour charts for the Nudo rings, one for shades of red, one for blue, one for yellow and one for purple. This the extent of colour variation permitted for this collection. Finding stones that are practically identical in terms of quality and hue for 40 to 50 rings in a series is comparable to searching for truffles: nature does not deliver to order. Three gemmologists are kept busy doing nothing but getting hold of gemstones for Pomellato’s studios from stonecutters around the world. 95% of the stones in the distinctively irregular faceting for which the Nudo range is famous are bought especially. If a stone isn’t suitable, the faceting is destroyed so that it can’t end up on the market as a fake, and the stone is sent back.
Pomellato actually began with diamonds, gold, and every now and then a garnet. The colourful stones were only added in the ’90s. Today, materials like jet – fossilized, black wood, also mistakenly called black amber – are used, too. In the Victoria collection jet is combined with rose gold. The gold is poured into plaster moulds; the jet is carved like fretwork. To date, other attempts – such as combining gold and titanium or using mammoth teeth – have been unsuccessful, but the brand’s experimental spirit has not been crushed. What are they working on at the moment? Well that, of course, is top secret.
The craftsmanship, the passion, the perfectionism, the company values: those are the most essential criteria to make a sought-after brand. Something that you can best sense when you’re surrounded by the goings-on in the heart of the company. We have been permitted to visit the studios of the labels in the Goldenes Quartier and look over the shoulders of the creative minds who work there.
Part 1 in the series: Pomellato.