Expertise in goldsmithing, craftsmanship, inspiration and design are synonymous with the term Made in Italy, but Florentine brand Nomination Italy took that up a few notches when they launched the first composable “precious bracelets for everyone” in the 80s.
The concept, to build a precious, meaningful modern charm bracelet, launched the company into the international jewellery arena where it now has a presence in 40 countries via 3 000 independent retailers and more than 100 boutiques. Nomination Italy recently expanded its African footprint, opening a new boutique at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, adding to the existing store in Fourways Malls in Johannesburg.
The brainchild of founder Paolo Gensini, now 81 years young and still active in the company, Nomination was born out of another Italian speciality – gelato! The former metalworker branched into ice cream-making more than four decades ago, setting up shop with his brother on the chic Ponte Vecchio, the medieval stone bridge that arches over the Arno River in Florence.
In Cape Town for the boutique opening this week, Paolo’s son and Nomination Italy marketing director Alessandro shared more of his family’s jewellery journey: In their small gelato bar tucked away amidst the numerous jewellery stores and others lining the characterful walkway, Paolo noticed that among the women buying his gelato – the richest ones wore a lot of jewellery, but there were many others who were “naked in accessories”. Yet everyone was buying the ice cream. Why? Because they could choose their flavour, it was handmade, good quality and there was variety.
It was this realisation that sparked the idea to create artisan, handmade bracelets made in Italy with as much personalisation as the ice cream. “My father had no experience in jewellery, which was just as well because he could see something new and create a revolution in the market. He was the first to introduce steel to the jewellery industry – in the 80s nobody used steel – and he said that when he was travelling and showing the first samples, the jewellery stores didn’t want them. They said it was ‘cold… for the kitchen, not for us’,” says Alessandro.
It is this unique material that has differentiated Nomination Italy as well as their combination of steel with precious materials and gemstones in the bracelet, handcrafted in Italy by local artisans. But it is their foundations as a family business that brings the magic. Alessandro’s mother heads up Italian customer service, his brother is CEO and his niece works in the legal department. “It’s a family-run business. We want to keep it like that,” says Alessandro.
The beauty of the Nomination bracelet design is its composable links that are easily inserted, removed and joined via an innovative spring mechanism, which enables the wearer to express themselves by creating a unique jewellery piece that tells their story. “Everything you see on top of the links is handmade in Florence by Italian artisans. The design is simple, modern, and good for everybody regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or socio-economic background. A bracelet with no limits. We say my father created the first social bracelet,” says Alessandro.
The steel component ensures that this contemporary symbol of Italian excellence and artisanal craftsmanship is affordable to begin with; its value increases depending on the links you add. Some are adorned with sterling silver, 9ct rose gold or 18ct gold motifs and lettering as well as natural hard stones, precious and semi-precious gemstones. There are 3000 links to choose from and those displaying letters, numbers, signs of the Zodiac, luck and love are the most popular.