Average Read Time: 5 minutes.

The Fashion Bridges Project, initiated by the efforts of Mrs. Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi, wife of the Ambassador of Italy in South Africa, Madam Ambassador, has outdone itself again by bringing the “Diva! Italian Glamour in Fashion Jewellery” exhibition to South Africa for everyone to enjoy. It was held up until the 9th of November at 2 Welgemeend Street Gardens, Cape Town.

The show was an Italian jewellery exhibition organised by Professor Alba Cappellieri, Tenured Professor of Jewellery and Accessory Design at the Milan Polytechnic and Director of the Vicenza Jewellery Museum. The exhibition showcased over 200 pieces of Italian jewellery, and was devoted to elegance, creative flair, production quality, and attention to materials and workmanship – all typical attributes of this field of unquestionable Italian brilliance.

Italian jewellery has historically been one of the products with the greatest demand on the international market and the attention to elegance and craftsmanship has truly created a unique trademark. It’s no surprise that an initiative such as the Fashion Bridges Project, with intentions to create a long-term, inclusive, strategic partnership, would highlight such a brilliant exhibition.

“God is unfair, so many rings and only ten fingers” – Marta Marzotto

The luxurious evening was opened by the Italian Ambassador, Paolo Cuculi and Mrs. Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi.

In his speech, he entertained us with light and welcoming humour, the significance of the events, and reminded us of the importance of appreciating the craftsmanship that drew from multiple sources of inspiration. He truly enticed and guided us into a journey we could not wait to experience.

He also acknowledged the presence of Italian fashion designer, Marianna Rosati of DROMe, who had exhibited her latest collection at South Africa Fashion Week as part of the Fashion Bridges Project. Read all about it here.

How will you interpret it?

Diva! introduced Italian fashion jewellery as the aesthetic mirror of an evolving society, illuminating the changes in style and the accomplishments of women. Livia Tenuta and Mrs. Oriana Mannaioli Cuculi gave us the full tour and we are so excited to share the journey with you!

The layout of the exhibition was inspired by the research done to discover and understand the different contexts of each piece, be it the era, origin, design or craftsmanship.

The exhibition opened with three pieces – each representing one of the three sections of the exhibition that interpret Italian jewellery – fashion, design and craftsmanship.

A journey through fashion, craftsmanship and design


The most interesting element of this section was not just the visual beauty of the piece, but that each selection reflected the story of the fashion brand behind it; from Versace, Prada, and all the way to Gucci. These brands have used jewellery to communicate style and identity, something that moves with the body and makes any look feel incomplete without it.

The pieces we saw displayed vibrancy, power, and just enough attitude to make a statement. From the bold 2013 Dolce & Gabbana Crown, which draws on religion and Italian history for inspiration, all the way to the lighthearted pop art broaches by Fiorucci, which the Madam Ambassador herself claimed to have fallen in love with during the 80s. It was a piece that just made her looks feel fresh and fun!

It’s clear that some fashion pieces in this section play on elements of power and sophistication, while others enjoy a more lighthearted approach to everyday life. It was a pleasure to see it all under one roof.


Dadini Amalfi Coast Collection porcelain bracelet. Made of enamels, gold and galvanised silver in 2016

The second room focused on the craftsmanship of Italy, sharing the stories of smaller brands and local companies who have absorbed Italian cultures, materials and techniques into their work. This included the ability to work with coral, cement and porcelain, transforming these materials into pieces of a contemporary language of their own. It truly reflected the uniqueness of each material in its natural context.

One piece that stood out to us particularly was a bracelet from the Amalfi Coast collection by Dadini. The porcelain gave us not only a unique material to visually enjoy, but the origin of the material shaped a story for the piece itself and the coastline from which it drew inspiration. A truly special piece; its bold colours and dainty finish gives it a universal and genderless appeal.


The last section of the exhibition showcased design stories of Italian independent designers where a common trait was the place of experimentation and research. (Experimentation in terms of material, technologies and a new fashion language with innovative shapes and structures). This includes jewellery made of paper, steel and glass. The section particularly reminded us that jewellery does not always need to be valued for its precious or eternal rarities, but also for its story and meaning.

Given the history, craftsmanship and fashion statements we have seen up until this point, leaving the design section for last makes for the perfect conclusion. Our appreciation at this stage of the exhibition extended beyond the finer things in life, such as rare gems and pure metals. We then leaned into a space that played with the idea of expression through jewellery. Some pieces that spoke to us included a hand-painted necklace made of linen (Carmen Scar), glass beaded necklaces (Marina e Susanna Sent) and modular titanium structures that can be arranged as earrings, a bracelet or a necklace.

An invitation to the next step

By the end of the evening, we had taken the time to thank everyone that took us on this exquisite journey, including the Italian Ambassador himself who shared his final thoughts with us:

“After two and a half years of hardship, I am really proud that Italian art and culture are finally back in South Africa. I dare to say, with one of its best expressions and I believe that this is the restart of interaction and exchanges between two of the richest cultures worldwide; the Italians and South Africans. And that may help to reinforce the ties between our two countries and our two people.” – Paolo Cuculi, Italian Ambassador.

Watch a snippet of the event here:


Words    |    Wilke-Mari Hamman
Photos    |    Courtesy Italian Embassy, and Paula Zapata

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