It’s a trade show with a conscience.

I was 13 years old in 1986 and living in a South Philadelphia row home when Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” video was released on MTV. I watched in all of my pubescent glory as Madge – wearing a black T-shirt with the words “Italians Do It Better” sprawled in white letters – caught the eye of a breathtaking young mechanic and remember thinking to myself, “That’s what I want in my life. I want the fairytale. I want someone to give me that look. I want – above all else – the pop song-worthy story, no matter how fleeting.”

Flash forward 31 years to today, and while my recent experiences with stunning, sparkly creations and attractive Italians doing all sorts of things “better” may not exactly be worthy of a Dantean poem, they’re certainly worthy of a recap, which is what you’re about to read below.

Vicenzaoro is known in the industry as “The Jewellery Boutique Show,” and with good cause. When I think of any gift or product I buy from a boutique, I associate the personalized experience that often comes along with it, and that’s precisely what I received from nearly everyone in Vicenza. The exhibitors were warm and welcoming (it didn’t hurt to be walking around with a name like “Palumbo” and informing everyone who asked, “Mio bisnonno era Napolitano.” [NAILED IT!]) And the show’s management and staff rolled out the proverbial red carpet for press and buyers alike, ending each day with a prosecco-packed cocktail hour complete with electric-drum-kit DJs and sunsets for the ages. But these were just a handful of the upsides to being at the show, because let’s face it, the reason we all went in the first place was obvious: the jewels.

Over 14,000 jewelry and watch buyers from 115 countries attended this year’s Vicenzaoro show, and their senses were kicked into overdrive the moment they moved beyond the turnstiles. On the western end of the fair, color was still queen in the form of pinks and blue-green gemstone combinations by design houses like Leo Pizzo, Sutra and Stefan Hafner, and high-karat Italian gold maintained its gloriousness with new works by Roberto Coin and snakelike patterns in crisp collections by Vendorafa.

Male jewelry buyers also had their day in the sun with designers like Marco Dal Maso getting playful with leather accents in vibrant hues. And diamond statement pieces were particularly present and prominent in the booths of Coronet, Picchiotti and Zydo Italy.

On the eastern side of the show, something extraordinary was happening.

However, on the eastern side of the show, something extraordinary was happening. A movement of sorts, where affordable fashion jewelry was suddenly the popular kid in town. Notable alternative brands like Pesavento and Luca Lorenzini were packing in buyers like I’d never witnessed, and in a section called “The Glam Room,” artists from various countries were showcasing contemporary jewelry made with a variety of innovative textiles and materials.

Also at the show was a select number of independent watch brands exhibiting their wares in an area called N.O.W., an acronym for Not Ordinary Watches. There, environmentally friendly watch brand WeWOOD showcased its first automatic watch and Swiss brands like Louis Erard and Maurice Lacroix were able to reach a slightly different buyer than those who might normally attend other timepiece-centric trade shows.

Vicenzaoro not only raised its attendance by over 20 percent from the previous year’s show, but did so with a severe focus on sustainability and ethical jewelry practices by having several of the fair’s discussions, conferences and exhibitions centered around its 2017 “Green Jewellery” theme. This was something that I felt raised the bar for Vicenzaoro, making it – in my opinion – the first major jewelry trade show in the world with a conscience.

It was an experience unlike one I’ve had up until now and I applaud the Italian Exhibition Group and the team at Vicenzaoro for a job well done. Some might even say they really did “do it better.”

 

IMAGE GALLERY (6 PHOTOS)