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The Antonini jewels: design, fine craftsmanship and art in the palaces of Milan

The showroom is in the playroom of the historic Palazzo Borromeo

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”: these are the lyrics of the song sung by Marilyn Monroe in a famous film from the 1950s. Today, jewellery, especially high-end, one-of-a-kind custom-made is not only an object to display, it is also an investment.

And Italy is one of the world leaders in the jeweller’s art, with 30,000 employees, 7,000 companies and exports for a total of 8 billion euro, according to the latest data presented at VicenzaOro, one of the most important trade fairs in the field, which just recently closed with attendance figures at nearly pre-pandemic levels.

One of the many brands that distinguish Italian jewellery here and abroad is Antonini, a brand of distinction from Milan chosen by stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Halle Berry and Taylor Swift to walk the red carpet. For over three generations, the company has created collections with an innovative design, “made exclusively in Milan”. At the head of the family-run company is Sergio Antonini, who after graduating from the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, attending the Gemmological Institute of America in New York, and winning a number of international acknowledgments for his creations, is now the creative director of the maison. Italy itself is the inspiration for many of his collections, which range from Siracusa to Vulcano to Matera, as witnessed by the names of the various collections of jewels.

«The creative process is the result of research and teamwork – explains Antonini to Pantografo Magazine. I usually start with a theme, a subject, a specific historical era or a form. Afterwards the team and I look further into the research, selecting pertinent images and forms, to slowly reveal what is most consonant with the preliminary research and most consistent with the Antonini style and with our values». Every piece of jewellery is distinguished by the exclusive use of 18-carat gold, and by the distinctive design of the brand, as in the case of the Extraordinaire Collection, the haute couture line: one-of-a-kind pieces, numbered and certified, which every year are made with stones of particular beauty and value, and with a specific design created by Antonini.

A “tailor-made” collection addressed to a select clientele in Italy and abroad.

But Antonini’s history is closely linked to the history of Milan (the brand was founded in 1919 to trade diamonds and precious stones in the city). Bearing witness is today’s showroom, hosted in the playroom of the historic Palazzo Borromeo, with its original fifteenth-century frescoes. A bond with the city that the designer describes as follows: «Milan has always been a great source of inspiration, from art to design, from music to architecture. Milan, and the arts in general, cross-pollinates, develops, emphasizes, underscores and influences the creative vision for me and everyone else. Knowing the Borromeo family, we were given the possibility of using the playroom as the headquarters for our maison».

An exceptional location, which is also a space for events and art exhibitions, the most recent of which was “The notebooks of Hannah Arendt” by artist Sabrina Mazzaqui from Bologna, promoted by LCA Studio Legale, Galleria Minini, Galleria Continua, Axa XL and Apice on the occasion of Miart 2021. Yet another way to offer space to women artists who, as Antonini explains, «compared to their peers have always been given less space and less importance, though they have created works with great semantic depth, for example Carla Accardi, Dadamaino, Joana Escoval, Monica Bonvicini». On the relationship between art and fine craftsmanship, Antonini comments: «The boundary is increasingly blurred: where design stops art begins and where art stops design begins, even in contemporary jewellery».

«It all started thanks to the agreement with LCA, he continues, which made us think about further enhancing the beautiful spaces of our showroom in Palazzo Borromeo. Then with the collaboration of Apice and Axa, we made our debut at Miart 2016 with the first site-specific exhibition created by Letizia Cariello, who is represented by Galleria Massimo Minini; another beautiful piece was by Michele Gido, represented by the Galleria Lia Rumma».

«Miart, concludes Antonini, is addressed to a wider international public, a specific database of art lovers, and we are always pleased to present only Italian artists. Year round, we organize more restricted events with other galleries to present selected works. In November we are hosting an event dedicated to jewellery that will involve the clients of the showroom. We believe these activities can continue, though definitely with more intimate events and private showings to give our clients a more personal experience of the works» and the one-of-a-kind pieces from their collections.

Cover photo: Anniversary 100 collection © Aldo Agnelli

Translated by: Olga Barmine 


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