You can take founder Danilo Giannoni out of Italy, but you can’t take Italy out of Giannoni

Danilo Giannoni has business trips that would probably put many people’s vacations to shame. Take this one, for example: “It was 2019. I was with my daughter and son in Saudi Arabia, spending time in the tents with some members of the Saudi royal family,” he recalls. “We received confirmation for an important wedding set.”

But it was during the year-end festive period, so Giannoni heard nothing from them for a few months. Then, the approval came unexpectedly in March 2020.  

“In 20 days, we collected rubies from Myanmar and Thailand, sorted through them for colour and shape, made the design, and sent the photos to the client. The day before Covid-19-related lockdowns were put into place, we shipped everything to Italy to be mounted. The final piece arrived in Saudi Arabia in June.”

Giannoni and his team had managed to complete a royal wedding jewellery suite, comprising a necklace, ring, earrings and bracelet, set with 180 carats of rubies and more than 100 carats of diamonds, in four months.

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Above The Stardust Brooch shines with yellow diamonds, more than 24 carats of custom-cut tapered baguette tourmalines, and sapphires set in 18k gold

In a very different reality, Giannoni’s work trips would probably be spent in the wilderness of Italy, and on regular days, he’d likely be wielding a gun instead of welding gold. “I come from a military family,” laughs the veteran jeweller. “Everyone I knew was in the military.”

It was a bold declaration he made to his father when he was six or seven that changed the course of his future. “I told him that I wanted to be a jewellery designer. I will never forget the look on his face when he heard that.”

Giannoni Senior clearly wasn’t a man to stand in the way of a child’s dream. Soon, Giannoni found himself enrolled in FOR.AL—Scuola Orafa di Valenza (FOR.AL—Goldsmith School of Valenza), located 45 minutes away by public transport from his family home. “I woke up at 5 am every day to go to school,” Giannoni recalls. “I was not from a wealthy family and did not have the luxury of second-guessing my choices.” He graduated at the top of his class at 17.

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Above A stunning aquamarine measuring over 16 carats takes centerstage in this ring, surrounded by a halo of pavé diamonds
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Above A cornflower blue sapphire set in 18k white gold is framed by white and pink diamonds

Valenza, widely considered the jewellery production capital of Italy, was great training ground for Giannoni as a newcomer to the trade. However, he began to feel the creative limitations of being in a small town as his experience grew. When a serendipitous meeting with a stone dealer from New York City presented a chance to move to the Big Apple, Giannoni jumped.

“The idea of working and learning in New York felt exciting, so I agreed to go if he could help me find a place to work.”

With just US$3,000 to his name, Giannoni left his hometown in 1996 for a journey that he didn’t yet know was going to take him around the world.

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Above Clockwise from top: a cushion-cut Muzo no oil emerald, a minor oil pear-shaped emerald, a cushion-cut sapphire, and an emerald-cut teal sapphire

He quickly found his footing in New York, thriving in the city’s flourishing diamond market, which was partly fed by demand from its glamorous high society. “New York is probably one of the three most important markets for loose gems,” Giannoni attests. “It was where I learnt how to work with big stones. It was a beautiful experience.”

All this came to an abrupt halt in 2001, when 9/11 happened. “I was trying to grow my business then, but it was too emotional so I decided to move to the Middle East.” There, he did consultancy work for some jewellery brands, before moving to Hong Kong, and then Singapore, after meeting his Singaporean wife.

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Above Spectacular stones, like this minor oil emerald of over 2 carats, will always remain the starting point of every design by Arte Oro

Today, Giannoni holds the reins as founder of local jewellery brand Arte Oro. Spectacular bespoke designs like the one he created for the Saudi royal family remain his forte.

For him, every creation begins with a stone. “To me, every piece of jewellery has to have a gem,” he says. “The centre stone is like the soul of the piece—the design is created around it to be complementary to it.”

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Above The more the merrier, when it's something as stunning as the Stardust Brooch
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Above Demonstrating Giannoni's extensive connections in the industry is this ring featuring two custom-cut diamonds on both sides of the teal sapphire centre stone

The bespoke experience always begins with a conversation with the client. “When I get to know her personality, I can imagine the stone she may choose,” says Giannoni. “Let’s use a big diamond as an example. We start by understanding what it is about diamonds that the client likes—is it the sparkle, shape, or something else? Then we take her on a journey, usually also showing her something unusual to take her out of her comfort zone.”

Once the client has made a decision on the type of stone she wants, the sourcing begins. Arte Oro doesn’t limit itself to ready-cut stones; drawing on the connections he has made in the industry, Giannoni is often able to find rough diamonds that can be cut to requirements.

“You can’t impress anyone more than by showing her a diamond that has been specially cut for her,” he affirms. “Bespoke isn’t just about the service. It’s also about the reach I have as an insider—my reach among the mines and gem sellers. It’s about the relationships I have.”

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Above A lot of skill and craftsmanship goes into every little detail in Arte Oro's jewellery

Although making his clients’ dreams reality with bespoke designs will always remain a core part of the business for Arte Oro, Giannoni has recently set his sights on starting a new ready-to-wear line. “I’m an artist no matter what, and I have a need to express myself. There’s always a little voice in my head telling me to work on my own designs.”

“The ready-to-wear line will help showcase what Arte Oro is capable of and give new clients, who may want to get a feel for what we do before entering bespoke, an entry point. It will comprise unique pieces that are just as fine as the bespoke ones.”

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Above Embrace traditions with the Butterfly Pendant, Sapphire Stud Earrings and Ru Yi Pendant, all featuring type-A jade

Whether bespoke or ready-to-wear, it’s clear that one-of-a-kind creations will always be Arte Oro’s calling card. “When you enter a shop and see something available in every size and colour, how special does it feel? For the people who can afford everything, privacy and experience are more important. The future of jewellery is more personal and tasteful, and isn’t about showing off.”

Arte Oro is part of the Best of Singapore 2022 guide.


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