There are two types of women in this world - the one who follows a recipe to the T, measuring each and every ingredient! Then there are those who make it up as they go along… trying it with more or less salt, throwing in a dash of wine… ending up with a dish that is their very own, unique creation! Both dishes of course are delicious… but it takes a certain type of woman who is daring enough to adapt the recipe according to her personal tastes. The same applies to jewelry… some woman wear a necklace in one way, all their lives. Others add a charm. Layer it with other necklaces. Find a way to adapt the jewelry to suit their style… this is the Nanis woman! A woman who loves playing with her jewels, mixing and matching, crafting a unique look that represents her taste and style.
It is no coincidence that one of the very first jewels that Laura conceived was the iconic "Trasformista", the bracelet that completely changes shape with a touch, almost by magic. Back in 1995, for Laura and Nanis the time had already come for the jewel to start adapting to women, and no longer the other way around.
My journey as TheDiamondsGirl has been filled with memorable moments, but some stand out with such clarity that it feel like yesterday! My very first encounter with Italian jewelry brand Nanis is one such memory. I was in Las Vegas when my business partner and bestie Bebe came excitedly to find me, telling me that she has seen something which she knows I will love! I dropped what I was doing and followed her, to Nanis jewels. Once there, Nanis showed me some of their designs, including their iconic REVERSE ring, made with a genius mechanism that allows you to rotate the ring and thus wear it in two completely different ways. That was it for me - I was hooked on the beauty of the of their jewelry, as well as the creativity and craftsmanship behind every collection.
Above - the REVERSE Ring which cleverly flips over to reveal a whole new face to the ring!
A few years later, while in Italy, Bebe and I had the opportunity to visit the Nanis factory in Vicenza, and to sit down with Laura Bicego, who together with her husband Piero, are the founders of the brand. Enjoy reading Laura’s passionate thoughts - and trying reading her responses with a beautiful Italian accent in your mind, to really get the feel for her words!
Let’s start just with telling us a little bit about the history. How did Nanis begin?
I'm second generation, I have breathed jewellery since I was born - that's always been my passion. I had my own idea of jewelry, which was a more contemporary way of wearing a piece of jewelry. We started Nanis 32 years ago in 1990, me and my husband Piero. And we interact very well together because he's very well organized and an engineer and I'm very funky and kind of like to change the pieces around. We are all about the fusion of our high level of craftsmanship, together with a more contemporary way of seeing the piece of jewelry. We have a lot of pieces that you can interact with, and they change completely. That's something I love. My dream is that a woman buys a piece of jewelry by herself. She enjoys it all day long. You know, sometimes you go out in the morning and at night, you go out to dinner, and you can change your outfit, and then adapt the same Nanis piece of jewelry to work with your outfit, no matter if you wear a nice long dress or a nice pair of jeans with a white t shirt. That's the concept, what is behind that is really passion because we are very passionate about craftsmanship in fact. Later, I will show you the factory where you can see how much it takes to create every single piece. Another very important thing is that there is a trend now towards enjoying food that has taken a while to prepare and cook... think of it as "slow" food as opposed to fast food! What does it means? It means that you you care about the ingredients, and the methods used to make the meal. I think of Nanis as "slow" jewelry, because we care about craftsmanship and values. For example, to create a necklace like IVY Necklace takes a long time - to make it, to engrave it, to complete the work, and that's something I want to emphasize.
Do you remember our first meeting, in Las Vegas, I think in 2016? Bebe bought me to your booth, and she said “show Tracey the ring”. It was the REVERSE ring, and then you showed me the TRASFORMISTA bracelet, and we ended up having the most wonderful time together - it was the very first time I had ever heard of Nanis, and you opened my eyes to the joy of jewelry that’s adaptable… able to be worn in multiple ways. If you look at my Instagram page, I show a lot of jewelry that transforms and that changes. I love the fact that you can get more value, that you can wear it this way today, but that way tomorrow. Our moods change, and we want to be able to change our jewelry, in the same way. At that time, Nanis was pretty much one of the very first brands I knew of that was doing it, you were really leading the way!
Thank you for saying that, because this was the DNA of the company since we have been doing this since more than 25 years. So this tells you a lot about the soul and the vision of the brand. Right now everybody is jumping on it.
Very true! Do you feel pressure to continually think about what to innovate next?
No, not really, because to me, creativity is a natural part of the process. I'm very extravagant in my thinking, oftentimes to much so, as I love to imagine jewels that are innovative and beautiful, but it is not always practical. Thank to Piero, no matter how extravagant my ideas, we always jointly arrive at something that combines creativity, engineering, and is also capable of touching many women, thanks to the versatility of all of
Do you ever think about protecting your manufacturing and your technology techniques?
Yes, we try to protect it as much as we can with international Patents, but the most effective protection is the fact that it's really complicated to copy them!
We have seen other brands create flip rings, similar to your REVERSE ring..
Yes, but other rings normally people flip it. Ours is really different, it has a mechanism inside. Why? Because we wanted to wear it as a pendant as well. If you have a mechanism that makes it stable, then you will be able to wear it properly. We are always working towards improving what we do. There is a pair of earrings that you can wear multiple ways - the Cashmere Earrings. They can be worn three different ways, and we made the mechanism for them three times because I was wearing them but after certain amount of time they became loose and so we did it another time and another time. In the end we were able to have a perfect mechanism and they are fantastic!
Tell us about your customers. If you had to, you know just close your eyes and picture a woman and she was wearing Nanis, What does she look like? What is her spirit?
Do you have someone in mind, a muse, that you design for?
I love all women! That really shapes my mission. So through my experience directly with the consumer, which is fantastic and I'm doing it all over the world, I see many different attitudes. When I put on a piece of jewelry, I am able to reach each woman, and I'm able to understand what could be the piece perfect for her. And when I put it on her, and we go look in the mirror, she sees and realizes how beautiful she is. That’s what is fantastic! I'm going tell you an experience that was amazing. I went to Arizona, we had begun a relationship in Scottsdale with an art gallery that was exploring selling jewelry as well as art. Nanis was the first jewelry brand that she introduced in her art gallery. I love the concept, because jewelry is, by the way, also art. I went there to do a trunk show and it was the grand opening of this store, and we had many customers, it was beautiful event. At a certain point a lady with gray hair, a short, adorable lady, about seventy five years old, came in. I gave her a pair of aquamarine earrings to try on. We went to take a look in the mirror, and she fell in love with the earrings. I was happy too, as I knew it was the right jewel for her. The next day the owner of the gallery called me and she said, I have very bad news to tell you. The husband of the lady had called the gallery owner, and told her that his wife died during the night. He called the gallery owner because he wanted her to call me and thank me for the amazing experience I gave to his wife. Oh my God, I was how, you know, how painful was it for this husband to loose his wife, and he took the time to call to thank me. That's fantastic. And it was not because of the piece of jewelry, it was because of the experience of joy. That's what I really love. And that's how it was. I remember I cried because it was really painful, but really beautiful at the same time.
That is so intimate, it really, really is. Because she went home and she spoke to her husband, she told him about her day and how special it was. She had such an wonderful day. Of course none of us want to think about these things. But to think about my last day on earth, I want it to be happy, I don’t to be sick in a hospital, I would want it to be happy filled with the joy of trying on jewelry and then going home to my loved ones.
it was really unbelievable. Especially because, you know, he took the time. Can you imagine he took the time to call. And, and that's the joy that the right jewelry can bring. It is the pleasure of seeing women that once they buy something, they return to buy again, because they fall in love with the brand and how it makes them feel. It’s also always about the value of a handcrafted, handmade piece, and the passion that you will see people put into that's something that lasts, and then you want more. I remember I was in Verona once, and a beautiful woman came in. But she was wound tight, like a closed fist! We spoke, and I told her how beautiful she was. I put on her the Ivy necklace which looked fantastic. We carried on talking and she told me she used to do theater: her hidden part was coming out! She bought the Ivy necklace, and by the time she left, she was like a panther! This is so special, a piece of jewelry that empowers you!
So the fact is that you are not just transforming the piece of jewelry, you are also transforming the woman into her better version. Very often, jewelers will put something in front of me to photograph and I'll say, No, that's not my style. That's not my taste. And they'll say, Come on, just try it on. And then sometimes you just try it on. And you are like… wow, this is so beautiful. You can’t always see the beauty. Because jewelry is made to be worn, it comes alive when it is worn.
Above - the many faces of The IVY Necklace - a fully versatile jewel!
The possibilities of IVY are endless, and they change depending on the woman who wears it, her look, her mood, what she wants to express. Interpret it as you wish - tightening it around the neck in several laps of pearls, letting it float softly, or...even wearing it as a belt! Have have fun finding the right look for your favorite version of Ivy. Whether it's a black sheath dress, a soft gown, a pair of jeans and a shirt, it doesn't matter: your necklace will follow you and make you shine!
Let's talk about your materials. A lot of our followers are always asking us questions about responsibly sourced gold. Do you have any position on that or any thoughts on share with us.
Honestly, we only work with partners whose work is ethically certified and our materials always come from conflict free areas. For us, it is also important our partners invest in their employees, and create positive working environments that are committed to ongoing development of their staff. At Nanis, we want all our employees to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from creating something beautiful with your hands, something that will last a lifetime, and will be enjoyed by many generations of women.
Laura, Do you have a favorite collection, is there one that you think of as your baby that you just love and or, do you love them all equally?
I will pick Trasformista, it's our DNA, it perfectly represents our idea of jewelry even if it was designed decades ago!
Above - The Trasformista! The Trasfomista changes shape in the blink of an eye, with only a simple gesture transform your Trasformista into a completely new design concept. Necklaces become bracelets, short choker style necklaces become long necklaces, and sleek hand brushed links open up to show off new funky shapes. Click here to watch me playing with a Trasformista bracelet to fully understand what I mean!
The US market and your E commerce platform…let's talk about that, it is so exciting!
Absolutely. It is growing! We started less than a year ago, and we have had great results so far, even if we still have a lot of work to do!
After our conversation with Laura, Bebe and I were treated to a tour of the factory. This really opened our eyes to the meaning of “Handmade In Italy”. Every part of the process is done by hand - the gold is melted, the many shapes of the various links are cut out of the gold, the links are soldered together, and gemstones are set. All by hand, under the most stringent quality control imaginable. So many times I’ve worn a piece from Nanis… and never given consideration to how the actual chain link is made. Who made it? How did they make it? It was thrilling to see Italian craftsmanship in action as skilled artisans dedicated themselves to each part of the process. What are the expertise that set Nanis apart?
The surfaces of Nanis jewels are made unique thanks to a special, and very ancient, artisanal workmanship: the hand engraving made with a burin tool. With this instrument, and with a great experience capable of combining strength and delicacy at the same time, Nanis engravers draw deep grooves to Nanis jewels, giving them a soft appearance, similar to that of silk. . BRUSH POLISHING
The golden surfaces of NANIS jewellery are always perfectly finished. Obtaining these magical surfaces takes skillful and delicate hands. Hands that can perfectly control the finger pressure to polish with light and precise touches the tiny surfaces of Nanis jewellery. This is a delicate operation, made by skillful, delicate hands, achieved by the uses of 20 different brushes and seven different types of abrasive pastes in order to reach the best finishing results.
Every process brings with it different challenges. Differences due to the shape of the jewels. Difficulties increased by the presence of edges, molding, soft spirals or perfectly level surfaces, by inaccessible crevices and by particularly delicate elements…This is where it sometimes becomes impossible to brush polish, as commonly occurs, pieces with hidden and apparently unreachable corners. Therefore, Nanis turned to the centuries-old tradition of the trade, recovering the ancient method of thread polishing. A simple and effective method of polishing otherwise inaccessible concavities. An elementary process that consists of repeatedly sliding a cotton thread forwards and backwards in the cavity to be polished, applying slight pressure until achieving the desired result.
I’m wearing the Nanis Cashemire Necklace, an embracing creation in 18kt gold and diamonds which captures the beauty of Paisley. A wearable work of art, made entirely by hand by Nanis artisans. I wore it out for dinner in Las Vegas, and I was stopped by countless strangers asking me about the piece!
MY THREE PICKS FROM THE NANIS ONLINE BOUTIQUE:
I love the new Nanis AMULETI (“amulets”) Collection! They are so cool and chic - I'll definitely be adding a piece from this collection to my jewelry box soon. Starting at US$440 for the small pendants (they come in small, medium, and large sizes) , it's a great way to start your Nanis collection. The collection has necklaces, rings, and earrings, and brings a burst of beautiful color to your life.
Yellow gold remains the most sought after metal, and having witnessed ( and made!) it myself while at the factory, I am obsessed with the versatility of the LIBERA Collection, an unconventional, dynamic, elegant and casual collection, open to any interpretation. A “liberated” jewel, a chain that just waits to suit your personality. A chain that becomes personal expression, setting free your creativity and imagination.
And finally....I would have to select the REVERSE collection, after all, it is the very first Nanis piece I ever saw, and has begun what I believe will be a lifelong love affair with this special Italian jewelry house! As with all Nanis collection, the Reverse collection has necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets, and comes in a wide sections of gemstones. Below is the REVERSE gold, sapphire, tsavorite, amethyst, green labradorite and rock crystal Y necklace, which has to be one of the most versatile necklaces I've ever seem!