For the past 100 years, ANTONINI has been well-known as a purveyor of gorgeous, contemporary fine jewels. The Milan-based brand began by creating one-of-a-kind pieces for their clientele, specializing in diamonds and precious stones. Fine craftsmanship, attention to detail and elegant designs quickly catapulted the brand into the spotlight, and the jewelry house became coveted by aristocrats and opera singers.
When Creative Director Sergio Antonini stepped in in 1986, the brand shifted its focus from couture creations to creating standalone fine jewelry collections which are modern, elegant and sculptural in design, highlighting diamonds and other precious stones like emeralds and sapphires.
While the company has shifted away from the business of loose stones in favor of seasonal collections, the brand still commands an elite and high-profile clientele, with celebrities like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez and more donning the jewels for the red carpet. And although it’s less of a focus, couture commissions still exist.
“We have a lot of customers that come with a special request; some big families in Milan or Europe may have an important heirloom stone in the family that they want to re-create into a one-of-a-kind piece,” Antonini explains.
The magic happens in Milan, the birthplace of the brand, where every piece is made by hand. Even the showroom, located in the historic Palazzo Borromeo, is a fairytale destination characterized by Italian gardens and painted frescoes dating back to the late 1300s.
While modern-day stars have taken notice, ANTONINI’s success is steeped in history. Exceptional quality, innovative design and gorgeous detailing have set the brand apart, which has led to accolades like the Diamond International Award in 1996 as well as the Andrea Palladio International Jewelry Award in 2017 for “Best Italian Jewelry Brand Collection.”
For those unable to make it to any of the select showrooms around the world—Milan, Lago Maggiore, Moscow, Japan and Azerbaijan—you can find ANTONINI jewels at select jewelers and retailers like Bloomingdale’s.
Here, enjoy our Sergio Antonini interview, where the creative director talks jewelry design and what’s next.
Tell me about your role as Creative Director.
I take care of all of the one-of-a-kind pieces, and for us, they’re quite important. We start with a sketch and talk to the customers to learn how they want to wear they piece, if they want something fancy or something sporty or something to wear for a special occasion or every day.
Then we make the sketch, the estimate, our computer design and send the piece. The entire process usually takes between three to four months from first sketch to final delivery.
What kinds of stones and metals do you typically work with?
I really enjoy metal because you can work on the surface of metal and work with a lot of different finishes. Right now, I really like the matte finish because, again, it’s understated. I think it’s much more wearable.
You have to propose something new to the customers.
I really like yellow gold. I used to work with rose gold but now I see so much of that pink gold that I wanted to go back to that pure yellow, that ‘80s gold. You have to propose something new to the customers. I also really like diamonds; diamonds, for me, are always the best.
What diamonds are you drawn to?
We only use the best quality diamonds. I really enjoy the Champagne-colored diamonds and the brown color as well; it’s sort of a chocolate color that works well with yellow gold.
I love green right now. It’s very strong, very powerful. I think with the yellow, again, they’re perfect colors together.
As far as stones, I use more faceted cuts on the emerald than cabochon. I know in Italy there is a big tradition about cabochon but green, it’s so powerful, so strong, that sometimes faceted is best to really show off the beauty of the stone.
Who is the ANTONINI woman? (Who do you design for?)
Our ideal customer is the independent woman. She has her own business, her own activities. They’re not women who are going to buy for a Hollywood moment and then stick the jewelry in a safe; they’re women who enjoy the pieces every day.
They’re not women who are going to buy for a Hollywood moment and then stick the jewelry in a safe; they’re women who enjoy the pieces every day
This is why we’ve created pieces that can be worn quite often, including the daytime. There are pieces that you can change, like a necklace that can be worn long and short. It changes the wearability so you have can something a little more fancy for the night and something more sporty-casual that you can wear during the daytime.
What would you say influences your designs?
We get a lot of inspiration from modern art and Milan. We live here, we are based here. We have all the fashion shows and there is inspiration everywhere. But you also have to interpret the global trends and propose your own ideas into your collections.
Do you have any favorites that you’ve designed throughout the years?
I love cuffs. I did a whole line of big cuffs with white gold and oxidized black rhodium that was really nice.
How far in advance do you work on new collections?
I go into the workshop in the morning and usually stay until 5 p.m. It usually takes about five to six months.
Tell us about your spring collection.
This is going to be a big collection—it’s almost 40 pieces. It’s one of the first times that they’ve done such a large number of pieces in a collection, but 2019 is the 100th anniversary of our company so they asked me to make a huge collection with a lot of different variation.
The mood is different. The requests of the young people are different. I really wanted to try and make a whole collection of course with variation in white gold and diamonds, so yellow gold with a splash of diamonds, but [young customers] are willing to wear a strong image of gold so I created gold Italian chains, very soft long chains 100 percent yellow gold with no diamonds. Big earrings in plain yellow gold, no diamonds, to give this kind of new, young look to the collection.
I know that some people, just for the fact that you put a few diamonds on something, they think it’s no longer wearable during the daytime. I wanted to be democratic in a way and give you the chance to wear pieces whenever you like.