INTERVIEW – Jewelers should join forces to raise Venice’s profile as a high jewelry shopping hub, St Mark’s Square jeweler says


Venice would draw great benefits for its jewelry businesses if a new association of high jewelers were established to showcase the city’s jewelry traditions and excellence, Alberto Basagni, who heads the retail business of Roberto Bravo Venezia on St Mark’s Square, tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough. 

How has demand for jewelry on Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and what is the outlook?

Even in the painful situation of a city that has not yet risen from the exceptional high water at the end of 2019, with commercial activities in serious difficulty, and even in the very challenging post-pandemic period, Venice keeps trying and smiles!

Customers are for now Italian and European, which partly compensates for the lack of Americans, Russians and Chinese who had accounted for most of the sales.

Do you think the jewelers of Piazza San Marco should organise themselves into an association representing the jewelry quarter?

The history of the city justifies this aspiration to be recognized as a center of excellence in jewelry.

The local goldsmith tradition dates back to the mists of time and is characterized by the production of a chain still known today as Veneziana and by the “Moretti” representing indigenous populations in ebony and mounted as brooches, earrings etc.

In 1773, there were 415 goldsmiths and jewelers in Venice, and about 100 “diamanteri” (cutters), the work of whom met the needs of refined clients.

How can we fail to underline the romantic value of a jewel bought and given in Venice?

The shops in the Piazza and in the area are already united in the Piazza San Marco Association ( which has been working for the enhancement of this unique place for some years.

Among these there are more than 20 associated companies, like Tiffany, Bulgari, Cartier etc.

I believe this number would justify a specific promotional effort to highlight Venice’s luxury jewelry district.

Linking goldsmith production to a powerful brand like Venice could benefit the entire Veneto jewelry sector.

What could such an association achieve? Could it stage events?

There would be many possible objectives but above all it would be important to highlight the Venice City of Jewels Brand in the mindset of consumers.

Here are a few ideas:

Strengthening the link between jewelry and art in the city that has hosted the Biennale of Contemporary Art from 1930.

The districts of Arezzo and Vicenza understood some time ago the transformation of the jewel from an artisanal craft to a work of art by equipping themselves with museums or collections.

Roberto Bravo Venezia tanzanite jewels
Roberto Bravo Venezia tanzanite jewels


Other events could be imagined — for example, simultaneously with the Vicenza Fair. Many operators participating in the fair take the opportunity to visit Venice and it would be nice to create a specific event.

In terms of design trends, what pieces are in most demand on Piazza San Marco, in your view?

The offer is the most varied: from the historic CODOGNATO and NARDI independent jewelry retailers — loved by the international jet set — to the top brands that have contributed to the history of jewelry such as BULGARI and CARTIER.

Very interesting is the offer of the newer brands such as ROBERTO BRAVO, MARCO BICEGO, ROBERTO COIN, FOPE etc.

These companies, generally having started as artisanal workshops in the Vicenza area, are more or less recently engaged in expanding their distribution to the retail channel.

Roberto Bravo Venezia
Roberto Bravo Venezia


It is a sign of the new, developing relationship between the consumer and the producer, often mixing the “physical” store with a digital platform of online sales.

If and when a vaccine is developed and distributed, what impact will this have on the jewelry trade on Piazza San Marco?

We are all waiting for this good news, just as our fathers and grandfathers waited for the end of the war. It will be like being freed from a terrible threat.

Especially to stop the terrible spiral of suffering that the pandemic has created all over the world.

Then the good times will return — a new age of hope and enthusiasm.

I believe COVID-19 will have changed us all forever and I want to believe in a better future.

Values like the protection of the environment and care of all living beings, will have a new definitive impulse.

I believe that we will see more conscious consumer behavior, which will look even more at the unique value of human creativity and sustainability.

Travelers will soon return from New York and Moscow, Shanghai and Tokyo — and will find Venice more beautiful and unique than ever.