There is something about authentic Milanese style that makes it near impossible for non-natives to master. It can be elusive, yet it is all over the city, and always recognisable in spite of its subtle and minimalist aesthetic. “Everyone knows Milano. Milano is a very unique city in Italy with a very special personality,” says Alba Cappellieri, head of jewellery and accessory design at Milan Polytechnic University. Speaking at the Pomellato design and patrimony exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, she sums it up in three key phrases: “Milanese elegance is never screaming, it is never opulent, and it is never too evident.”
Mirroring Milan’s narrow streets and austere buildings, sober doorways that open up into the prettiest courtyards and lush hidden gardens—a fact known only by those who take the time to understand the city—Pomellato is a jeweller of remarkable contrasts and hidden surprises. It’s a young brand, founded in 1967 by goldsmithing scion Pino Rabolini, who envisioned a new style of fine jewellery imbued with a fashion-forward identity intended for the modern independent woman.
Its trend-led, prêt-à-porter philosophy flourished in the Milanese fashion and design scene, which was booming during the ’60s, and classical jewellers then had not been quick enough to catch up. Pomellato provided a refreshing change from the traditional approach to jewellery design, bringing “a new style, new design languages, and a new way to look at jewellery,” Cappellieri describes.
“Milanese elegance is never screaming, it is never opulent, and it is never too evident”
“During the 1960s, there was mainly traditional high jewellery, which tended to be created as investment pieces rather than objects of modern beauty. With Pomellato, Pino Rabolini introduced the first aesthetical innovation for jewellery.” This was the first of many ways that Pomellato proved itself as an industry disruptor with a uniquely creative point of view.
Where traditional jewellers continued to produce dainty pieces set with classical precious gemstones, Pomellato conjured bold, voluminous designs meant to accentuate and dress the body to express the Milanese woman’s quintessential style. Even for jewellery staples such as chain jewellery which is an Italian style signature, Pomellato found ways to design new links and ingeniously complete them with hidden clasps.
“Milanese style is based on three major values,” says Cappellieri, “The first one is creativity, as the source of design and art. Then we have mastery in terms of craftsmanship, which is a very important link to the past. In Italy we have glorious techniques and traditions. Finally, we have elegance, and that is a kind of whispered elegance.”
Indeed, there is always a quiet elegance to Pomellato jewellery even when it is being disruptive. Consider its joyful Nudo collection, which is unmistakably Pomellato, where coloured and precious gemstones of all kinds are celebrated in their full glory. CEO of Pomellato Sabina Belli shares: “’Nudo’ in Italian means ‘naked’, which is a metaphor for this ring that is completely without griffes, not caged up in gold, just a very simple setting that looks very minimal but is in fact quite complex to design and hold the stone set.”
Despite the subtle shimmer of Nudo sugarloaf-cut gems, there are exactly 57 facets cut onto the surfaces, the same number you’ll find on a typical diamond. This is just one of the many silent innovations Pomellato had introduced to modern jewellery design, embodying and enriching the language of Milanese style one distinctive creation at a time.
Constantly spurred by the Milanese spirit and culture of design, Pomellato finds itself tightly intertwined with numerous iconic design houses of other universes. Parallels occur naturally between its creations and those of other Milanese creators, as Cappellieri narrates while strolling through the exhibition’s open halls themed on the golden age of Italian design. “The Superleggera Chair designed by Gio Ponti for Cassina in 1957 is the birth of Italian-made design. It is a revolutionary chair and started a new way of considering furniture.”
Ponti’s design was deceptively simple, without any immediate evidence of revolutionary innovation. Yet its structure and lightweight construction exuded modernity and extreme elegance. Just as Pomellato’s Iconica collection introduced a new approach to gold chains, with clasps entirely concealed and you never know where the chain begins and where it ends.
Vibrant and colourful, Nudo finds similarities with the Proust Chair by Alessandro Mendini, who reinterpreted an object of the 19th century using the pointillism technique, itself a branch of impressionism. Looking at colour from a different perspective, Italian masters of design in the ’70s and ’80s introduced new ways to incorporate fresh hues into the house. States Cappellieri: “I consider the Nudo collection one of the most innovative collections of the 20th century.”
Likewise, the Catene line can be compared to the Arrangements Lamp for Flos by Michael Anastassiades. Designed in 2017, this modular lighting system cascades from the ceiling in geometrical shapes, dressing the space just as Catene chain jewellery dresses the body in different ways. Pomellato’s innovative approach to design also extends to La Gioia, its high jewellery collection, here ensconced in an intimate space covered in lush red velvet and gilt fittings reminiscent of Milan’s famed La Scala Theatre. Once again, convention gives way to a bold inventive spirit that wouldn’t blink twice at using extra-large uncut moonstones, playing with over-the-top gold chains, pushing the limits of micro-pavé, or dangling a 107.8-carat uncut aquamarine at the end of a necklace rather than positioning it front and centre as might be expected.
Says Belli of the brand’s unique creative vision: “This is the best example of how disruptive the Pomellato interpretation of high jewellery is. Because no other brand would have treated high jewellery in such a contemporary and at the same time carefully crafted and elegant way.”