In Venice, Jewelers Try to Revive Their Businesses

Venice has endured struggle, plague and conquest in its 1,200 years as Queen of the Adriatic, however after the final two years, a lot of its jewelers are struggling to keep open.

On Nov. 12, 2019, greater than 85 % of the 120 islands that make up town have been inundated with as a lot as six ft of water, a results of excessive tides and a storm surge pushed by robust winds.

Leslie Ann Genninger, a glass jewellery artisan whose studio is within the Dorsoduro neighborhood, stated her show tables have been submerged. “The glass was broken so I had to redo about 80 or 90 percent of the pieces,” which took eight months, she stated. Water was knee-deep in St. Mark’s Square, forcing the Nardi jewellery store there to shut for 2 months.

On March 9, 2020, town’s first coronavirus lockdown was ordered. Since then the Veneto area, of which Venice is the capital, has been Italy’s second hardest hit area within the pandemic (following Lombardy), with greater than 439,800 instances reported as of early this month.

The two disasters turned Venice from a crowded vacationer hub right into a metropolis the place its roughly 258,000 residents have been nearly alone. “It was a beautiful, empty, surrealistic Venice,” Ms. Genninger stated.

And abandoned streets don’t purchase necklaces.

Now that vacationers have been returning, regardless of the unfold of the Delta variant, the jewelers try to recuperate.

Alberto Nardi, whose household jewellery firm is sort of a century previous, within the Nardi boutique in St. Mark’s Square.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Alberto Nardi, 54, whose store entrance spans 5 arches of the gallery edging St. Mark’s Square, wouldn’t element his revenues however stated the enterprise misplaced 30 % of its gross sales yr over yr. He has decreased the shop’s opening days and hours, to minimize prices, and has launched buyer appointments.

“We have to show to clientele that we are different, and that’s the only possibility that we have to survive” in opposition to the big-budget megabrands, stated Mr. Nardi, who plans to introduce two collections throughout the Venice Film Festival in September.

And if the virtually 100-year-old Nardi model is worried, think about the difficulties of lesser-known companies. “Jewelers in Venice aren’t that big anymore in the market today,” Leo Criaco, jewellery specialist at Christie’s in Geneva, wrote in an electronic mail. He cited as an exception Nardi, which is legendary for its Moretti items. (Also often called Blackamoor, the designs characteristic the top of a person in ebony or onyx or painted black and have come underneath some criticism these days.) He additionally cited the Venetian artisan Attilio Codognato.

But, he added, “we rarely have big pieces (if any) from them.”

Nardi earrings in turquoise, pink gold, diamonds and enamel.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Tom Burstein, a Connecticut-based jewellery gross sales and acquisitions specialist, agreed, evaluating Venice’s jewelers with manufacturers in world capitals. “If you think of Paris, you immediately think of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels,” he stated. “If you think of London, you think of Graff and Asprey. In the U.S., Tiffany and Harry Winston. Bulgari, Rome,” he stated. “And then in Venice you really think of two primary jewelers, Nardi and Codognato.”

But, he added, “in such a small concentrated area, it would be difficult to get more than two or three global brands out of that area,” he stated.

Also, “there’s no really mass defining style that has come from Venetian jewelers that people find synonymous with the name,” Mr. Burstein stated, “the way there is when you think of the Alhambra that everybody in the world knows what that is, therefore they learn the house of Van Cleef & Arpels. There hasn’t been that type of design that’s reached a mass audience to bring the Venetian jewelers to the fore.”

While Venice does share Italy’s wealthy custom of gold work, what units it aside is its use of glass — “which you find only in Venice,” stated Camilla Grimaldi, the proprietor and director of a Tuscany wine property and the chief artwork officer on the on-line gallery Kovet.Art. Her jewellery assortment contains items by Codognato and different Venetian artisans.

Leslie Ann Genninger labored in funding banking earlier than educating herself jewellery methods and opening her personal studio.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Ms. Genninger, 62, has a consumer record that features Grace Jones and Elton John. She chooses the design, colours, shapes and processing methods for her glass artwork items, consulting together with her bead grasp, a specialist who works from an atelier within the Lido. Once the beads are created, Ms. Genninger strings them on braided stainless-steel wire or wrapped multistrand wires to kind her creations.

Most of the 20 artisans with whom she works are primarily based on the island of Murano, a glass-blowing middle because the 13th century, whereas some are primarily based on the close by island of Giudecca and within the metropolis middle. “I walk and take a vaporetto,” she stated, as, in Venice, “you can’t just get in a boat and find a parking lot.” A go to to eight artisans or factories may take from eight:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., she stated.

The artisans all have their very own specialties, she stated. But because the pandemic began, “a lot of factories on Murano are down to a very core group of workers. They might have had 10 and now they are down to two or three.”

Many of the artisans Ms. Genninger works with are primarily based on the island of Murano, a middle of glass-blowing.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Some of her creations use a number of methods, just like the Cobalto Astratto Filigrana necklace (550 euros, or $649), made from glass beads that have been hand blown, flame labored and oven heated, rolled and pulled to create the traces. Colors are created by layering 24-karat yellow gold, white gold or silver leaf inside every bead “because we want different tonalities,” she stated.

Ms. Genninger started her profession in funding banking, however moved into glass jewellery in 1988, educating herself alongside the best way, and eventually opening her personal model in 1997 with cash she made by organizing the manufacturing of chandeliers, mirrors and related items for the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The enterprise, Genninger Studio, now depends on gross sales income, but it surely continues to be a small operation: It is simply her and one weekend worker, who was furloughed from March 2020 to June. Her costs vary from €25 to €2,000.

While she wouldn’t disclose its annual revenues, she estimated that 2020 gross sales dropped by 70 % yr over yr.

Ms. Genninger’s gallery within the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

She stated she survived by promoting to shoppers and collectors by means of Zoom. She additionally sells items by means of the web operations of locations just like the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., and the Montague Gallery in San Francisco.

Some of Venice’s youthful jewelers are embracing glass jewellery, too. Just not in the identical method.

Cosima Montavoci, 33, stated she determined to work with glass as its pop vibe “makes it, kind of, funnier, less formal and more everyday,” she stated.

Set in a former butcher’s store, the studio she opened to the general public in February 2019 has the same aesthetic. “I made a curtain that is bloody and hang the display on the meat hooks,” she stated. “I didn’t want something to be pretty. I wanted something that would hit people in the guts.” Her work is also offered on web sites like and in addition to in shops comparable to Die.busenfreundin in Vienna.

The enterprise is known as Sunset Yogurt as a result of “when glass is white-hot, it is the consistency of yogurt and the color of sunset,” she stated. “It’s the magic moment for me and why I fell in love with the material.”

Cosima Montavoci makes her personal glass for Sunset Yogurt.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

She pays for her enterprise by means of gross sales in addition to jobs that embrace waitressing and being a film stand-in. (Her studio appeared in Andrea Segre’s movie “Molecule,” which was screened earlier than the 2020 Venice Film Festival.)

Ms. Montavoci creates her personal glass, making the shapes and patterns underneath a flame that’s 1,200 levels Celsius (2,192 Fahrenheit) and assembling the steel elements. So “it’s quite easy to burn yourself,” she stated, “and some parts can explode.”

For now, she commissions a neighborhood goldsmith to make her steel components or finds them in flea markets, however her objective is to make the steel elements.

“You have to experiment a lot” with glass jewellery, she stated, even with the flat, patterned beads of the Margherita Ivory necklace, that are threaded with a leather-based string (€320). “Lying down it can look amazing, but it also needs to be related to the body so it needs to be something that when you move, moves with you,” she stated. “That is why every time I create a new piece I wear the first version for a couple of days or week, depending on the material.”

Earrings by Sunset Yogurt.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Now she is planning to find out about treasured and experimental supplies in a program at Alchimia Contemporary Jewelry School in Florence.

It is that type of planning that displays jewelers’ optimism concerning the metropolis’s future, despite the fact that Anna Teresa Palamara, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases on the National Health Institute, stated the Delta variant is spreading by means of the nation. And despite the fact that town has begun limiting cruise ships that weigh greater than 25,000 tons from crusing down the Giudecca canal to the historic middle, forcing the ships — and their passengers — to comparatively distant docks.

According to Ms. Genninger, town’s restoration goes to take one other couple of years. “We want it to come back with changes so that the city is respected more,” with much less overcrowding, she stated — maybe making jewellery buying extra interesting.