THE EXPLORER OF BEAUTY

January 24, 2022

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“Italy is the best, most wonderful theater in the world —an open-air theater where everybody can decide what role to play.”

Roberto stands by Castelvecchio, a fortress built by Verona’s Scaliger dynasty in the 14th century.

Roberto Coin has traveled the world in search of beautiful inspirations for the jewelry that bears his name. “I find beauty everywhere,” he says, “in nature, in people, in architecture, in art and in food.” And his collections bear that out: since starting the brand in 1996, he’s taken inspiration from a wide variety of sources, from the natural world in Animalier, to the stars, with his Zodiac Medallions.

Still, few places inspire Coin like his native Italy. When you’re walking through Verona—or any Italian city—with Roberto Coin, you can’t expect to get anywhere fast. Every couple steps he stops to point out another beautiful thing—the design of the rosoni medallions on a building’s facade, or the red brick merlons of Castelvecchio.

Now he’s paused to admire the Ponte Pietra, a Roman bridge completed around 100 BC and still in use today. “Even when I’m by myself, I am never alone,” says Roberto. “Walking through this city is like watching a film for me, I can go back in my mind and see what it used to be in those days.”

Today, he’s in Italy’s città dell’amore, Verona, where he spoke about his process, his philosophy of life, and the origins of his new “Love in Verona” collection.

Verona, Italy as seen from Castel San Pietro.

YOU’VE TRAVELED THE WORLD—AND YET YOU KEEP RETURNING TO YOUR HOME, ITALY. WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PLACES?

For me Italy is the best, most wonderful theater in the world—an open-air theater where everybody can decide what role to play. And I have decided to play the Explorer of Beauty.

As Italians, beauty is in our DNA. We have the good fortune to be born in a place where we are surrounded by art. Maybe we just get used to the beauty immediately and then we can’t live without it.

“I find beauty everywhere,” he says, “in nature, in people, in architecture, in art and in food.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TURN THAT APPRECIATION FOR BEAUTY INTO YOUR LIFE’S WORK? WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER DESIGNING JEWELRY?

As a child, I spent every summer with my grandmother in the countryside near Venice. It’s a beautiful area where the houses have been built along the banks of the Brenta Riviera. Where nature dictates the pace, typical of life in the countryside.

Every day, as I was running around with the other children, I used to stop and look at this little workshop—Elsa’s Atelier. Inside, I could see colored fabrics, women absorbed in their work, creating fashion, pinning and unpinning, sewing and tailoring. It looked like an incredible world to me and I was extremely curious. I learned a lot. I saw how to create an object from a wish, how to sketch, how to choose fabrics and about the harmony of colors and shapes. All of this inspired me deeply.

I fell in love, and, as I was very strong-minded, found a way to enter this world and become part of it.

AND TO DO THAT YOU HAD TO TRAVEL THE WORLD?

To learn properly the trade, I had to travel around the world. I visited over a thousand factories, some Italian, some foreign, and met many different maestros. They were extremely interesting to me. But in the end, it was clear that I had to be different. I had to be myself. I had to be Roberto.

INSPIRED BY BEAUTY

As a self-styled ‘beauty explorer,’ Roberto asserts that the most important experiences of beauty cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. That sentiment imbues every piece of jewelry he creates.

ROBERTO COIN ADMIRES THE FACADE OF THE LOGGIA DEL CONSIGLIO. THE BUILDING, BUILT IN 1476, IS A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF VERONA’S UNIQUE VENETIAN RENAISSANCE ARCHITECTURE.

WHAT DREW YOU TO SEEK INSPIRATION IN VERONA?

Well, I like Verona and its 2000 years of incredible history. And I go to the Verona vineyards often to meet my close friends. [Ed. Note: It’s just an hour’s drive from Roberto’s atelier in Vicenza.]

But every collection begins with a story. And it is the love story that drew me to Verona. It is a sad story, Romeo and Juliet.

Let’s be quite honest about it, it is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy of intense emotions, which are missing today, worldwide. Real emotions. A story of two people who went against the world, their families, because they were in love. And in the end, they were together only when they died. So, it is an unforgettable tragedy about strong sentiments. For them, love is everything.

“Flowers represent romanticism, they are a symbol of love.”

A FLOWER DESIGN IS AT THE HEART OF THE LOVE IN VERONA COLLECTION. WHAT INSPIRED THE COLLECTION’S FLORAL MOTIF?

In the medieval period, the time of Romeo and Juliet, can you imagine the hills of Verona? It was all natural flowers. And in the Renaissance, the time of Shakespeare, flowers are everywhere and they represent romanticism, they are a symbol of love. I decided to take all this and put it in a bracelet, decorated with the renaissance flowers, and representing the perfect love.

HOW DO YOU TURN THAT IDEA OF THE FLOWER INTO A SKETCH? A SKETCH INTO A JEWELRY DESIGN?

It starts when I see something out in the world that appeals to my eyes. Say, a beautiful flower or the rose pattern so common in Renaissance buildings here in Verona. So, I make a mental note, and use that note to convey, to create, something new. Just like Shakespeare, who transformed a real, 200-year old story into a unique play, I took a 600-year-old design and transformed it into a contemporary jewelry design.

Roberto discussing new designs with his team of maestros. From left: Fernando Toledo, Factory Manager, Roberto Coin, Carlo Coin, Roberto’s son and President of Factories and Vice President at Roberto Coin, Davide Bertuzzo, head designer at Roberto Coin.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOUR VISION COMES THROUGH WHILE TELLING SUCH A FAMOUS STORY?

I never copy what exists—I always make, from a concept, another concept. In my imagination I changed the end of the Romeo and Juliet story. In my imagination there is a happy wedding at the end.

And so, we created the Love in Verona collection. The bracelet came first, but now the collection has grown to include an engagement ring and a wedding set. After all, creativity is endless.

Carlo Coin, Roberto’s son and President of Factories and Vice President at Roberto Coin.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU ALWAYS CREATE SOMETHING NEW?

I don’t like standardization and I have always wanted my jewels to be unique. The design can be complicated, can be simple. You can make a prototype in two days, or it can take a month if it is complicated. Continuous innovation is essential, it means to go forward. And it is not only about jewels—it is about giving a future to culture.

I am very fortunate to work with a team of maestros who understand my vision, and who are always innovating new ways to make my designs a reality. They are so capable here, it is incredible. Every person working in our factory is an extremely talented artisan. Their talent allows us to quickly change production and create new and innovative styles of jewelry.

WHY IS THE STORY BEHIND YOUR JEWELRY IMPORTANT?

Storytelling is at the heart of everything we do, from inspiration and design to fabrication. Storytelling is how we communicate with our customers. For example, every piece of Roberto Coin jewelry features a single ruby hidden inside, and that ruby is a message of goodwill to our clients.

But even before it becomes my signature, the ruby itself has a story to tell. In fact, every single one of our jewels and materials has a story, and it is our mission to make sure that story is a positive one. That’s why we have a zero-tolerance policy towards conflict diamonds. That’s why we’re committed to keeping gold furnished by unethical producers out of our supply chains. We’ve been committed to ethical sourcing since day one. I’m very proud to tell that story with every piece of jewelry we create.

“I find beauty everywhere,” he says, “in nature, in people, in architecture, in art and in food.”

LEGEND OF THE RUBY

Roberto Coin places a ruby on the inside of every piece of jewelry he designs. Inspired by the myths the ruby has engendered in cultures around the world, Roberto imbues each gem with the power of his own story and those that came before.

WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE LOVE IN VERONA COLLECTION?

I sincerely hope Love in Verona represents true love. I sincerely hope that it lasts forever. And I sincerely hope that I create happiness. I hope that it can be a forever piece—many things go out of fashion, but it’s the kind of jewelry you can pass down to your granddaughter.

“Beauty is really everywhere. We are surrounded by it. It has always been my mission to search continuously for beauty. And to share it.”

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