It’s a common refrain: successful business models are defined by their agility – being able to adapt to industry disruption and rapidly changing consumer trends is key to longevity.
Does this apply to the world of fine jewellery? A world where pieces are crafted to last for generations, core aesthetic sensibilities haven’t changed for centuries and timelessness is a byword for beauty?
Giuseppe Picchiotti, founder of the eponymous Italian atelier, believes in finding a balance between tradition and modernity. His sophisticated designs are inspired by the refined architecture of his native Valenza and carried out by masterful craftsmen using conventional techniques and the latest innovative technologies.
Picchiotti points to his family as the company’s greatest asset. Each family member plays a unique and integral role in day-to-day operations.
His entrepreneurial story is defined by hard work and strategic planning. After studying at a local jewellery school as a young man, he moved to London for eight months to study English. This turned out to be a substantial competitive advantage in a time of rapid internationalisation – he became the only jeweller in Valenza who could speak English at the time.
Picchiotti took a job with a company focused entirely on export and began travelling extensively, an acute observer of the way people did business. A year later, in 1967, he launched his own venture with the help of his sister. After more than half a century of success, Picchiotti has become a globally regarded jewellery brands.
Recently, Tharawat Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Giuseppe Picchiotti to discuss his journey and the jewellery design industry.
Did you and your sister approach the Picchiotti venture as a family business from the first day?
We began this journey with very few expectations – we had no idea what it would become. Currently, we have seven family members who are all actively involved in the business. Never did I think we would get this far but thanks in large part to my family, Picchiotti has flourished, and we are incredibly grateful for what we have been able to achieve.
Do you feel that family involvement has been a competitive advantage?
Absolutely. Look at my colleagues all over the world. No other jewellery business boasts seven family members. It’s the reason for our success!
When I envision the future of Picchiotti, the involvement of the second generation is imperative. My sons, Filippo and Umberto, have been travelling with me since they were very young. Now, they’re negotiating with gem merchants, and they’re responsible for the day-to-day operations of our design studio, Atelier. My daughter, Maria Carola, is the director of marketing and communications. We depend on her to organise all of our tradeshows and speciality events. It’s with great pride that I can say, ‘I am surrounded by my children and we work together for the greater good of the family business.’
What makes Picchiotti jewellery unique?
We are able to merge traditional aesthetics with modern sensibilities – we’re not just asleep at the wheel. Our designs are inspired by the beauty of Valenza itself.
Also, we’re surrounded by craftsmen of the utmost quality. We’ve worked with the same goldsmiths for almost half a century and now their sons and daughters have come to Picchiotti as well. This gives us an incredible advantage when it comes to quality.
Do you think that many young people are interested in learning the craft or is this something that worries you?
For the time being, we have a team of young people who are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. As for the interest level of the next generation, it’s tough to say. We’ve built a robust model for success, that’s for sure – we can only hope it continues to serve us.
We are living through a time of fast-paced change. How does Picchiotti deal with the emergence of new technology and digitalisation?
We keep up to date with the latest technologies by continually investing in innovative solutions. The CAD system, for example, has been instrumental in our incredibly successful Xpandable collection, all of a sudden there’s no need for clasps or ring sizes. We’ve also introduced tools for goldsmiths and setters to keep improving their performance.
Small ateliers like ours need to stay ahead of the technology curve or face redundancy. There’s a delicate balance between staying true to our roots while at the same time, incorporating the latest design technology in what we offer. Right now, I feel like we’ve found that balance. Before we had access to some of these technologies, our pieces weren’t as perfect as they are today, and perfection is what we have to keep striving towards.
Have you noticed your client base change over the years?
I’ve definitely seen a change in attitude – our customers relate to their jewellery in a different way than they used to. They tend to be less traditional, less conservative. Generally, people dress more casually and wear their jewellery in different contexts. The grandiose necklaces of the 60s and 70s, ubiquitous in places like London and New York, just aren’t important anymore. When you go out, you don’t see as much formal jewellery as you did in the old days. Nevertheless, young, fashionable people are interested in seeing fresh, new things that innovative technologies are able to provide. This is why our XPANDABLE™ ring collection has been revolutionary as its invisible technology allows the ring to expand and contract to solve a myriad of comfort challenges.
Beauty will never go out of fashion, and just as we draw inspiration from the stunning historic architecture that surrounds us in Italy, people will still be wearing beautiful pieces of jewellery hundreds of years from now.
Why do you think family businesses struggle with succession? Why are there so few second-generation firms in your industry?
I’m sorry to say that there just aren’t a lot of family businesses in our industry and in general, there are very few second-generation family businesses in Valenza. We don’t have many examples of families who have successfully made the transition and this is just an unfortunate reality. It’s hard for me to say exactly why this is the case. I know that our success has been due to good communication and that we have always emphasised a family-first mentality. It is a great point of pride to us that we are able to work together so well across generations.
Is that the key to Picchiotti’s success?
I honestly believe the biggest reason for our success is the Picchiotti family itself. My wife, of course, is an integral part of the business as she is the pillar of our family. Maria Carola, my daughter, has been instrumental in PR and in marketing the Picchiotti brand to a larger audience than we ever thought possible. My sons, Filippo and Umberto’s work procuring gemstones from around the world is another key part of operations. Our business model relies on the individual aptitudes of each family member and the role they play within the context of Picchiotti as a whole.
What do you wish to see when it comes to Picchiotti’s future?
I hope that Picchiotti continues to stay true to its roots. Of course, designs need to change – fashions change, but Picchiotti jewellery should always incorporate an element of the traditional aesthetic that was integral to our original vision. We can do both of these things without chasing ephemeral trends. Again, it’s about balance, and lasting beauty is key. This model has been working for us for more than half a century. With it, we’ve become a global success story and we’re incredibly grateful. I can only hope we continue to adhere to this philosophy moving forward.