SET IN STONE
A tribute to rare gems and Italian craftsmanship
Cesare Leonori has been making jewellery since he was 14 years old, when he started assisting his father, a jeweller. But he had begun learning long before that. As a young boy, he often rushed home from school to observe his father, Agostino, transforming boiling gold into rings, and using different coloured stones. What enamoured Cesare the most was the expression in his father’s eyes, “when he started to create something that was just unique, something that represented himself and his passion for jewellery making”.
Today, as CEO of the jewellery brand Leonori Gioielli, Cesare exhibits the same intensity and devotion that Agostino had towards the craft. “The love for jewellery and art, the creativity and the manual skill are part of my genetics. My father passed down the passion to me and I have also passed down the passion for this craft to my daughters,” he says. This focus on design and hand-making is complemented by an entrepreneurial drive that has allowed him, with the help of his daughters who also work for Leonori, to introduce his creations to the Southeast Asian market through the Singapore International Jewelry Expo 2017.
“It may seem surprising, but we think that our [Italian] values are the same with those that people in Southeast Asia have. Relationships, family, education, as well as elegance and discretion are of paramount importance when talking about jewellery and art in general,” says Cesare. Clients in Southeast Asia, he has found, also tend to be knowledgeable about jewellery.
The brand’s constant use of coloured stones may be another reason Leonori’s creations are gaining interest in Southeast Asia. This is another part of the brand’s heritage, another lesson Cesare learned from his father, who devoted time to researching rare stones. Even in the brand’s early years, when major jewellery schools in Europe focused on diamonds, Leonori has been using coloured gems in its designs. At the same time, Cesare maintains a focus on simplicity and elegance, with special attention to small details.
This aesthetic has marked most of Leonori’s collections over the decades, and continues to do so today. Sapphires, emeralds, and rubies are often used in the company’s creations, but one can also find coloured and white diamonds. Only the best stones, judged especially for their purity and colour, are used. Each piece is fully realised in Italy and made almost entirely by hand, from casting to polishing. It comes in a limited edition — if it’s not one-of-a-kind.
Leonori Peonia Collection
Natural pink sapphires and rubies are used to evoke ruffled peony petals in the Peonia ring, which also comes in a version with blue sapphires.
A cushion-cut tanzanite draws the eye in the Pure Harmony 18K rose gold ring — it is framed by two squares formed by rows of brilliant-cut white diamonds. The Color Trilogy 18K white gold rings — first created in 1990 — offer a choice of three emeralds, three sapphires, or three rubies.
Shimmering Beauty earrings feature 8.94ct oval-cut natural royal blue sapphires
Looking at Leonori creations, one realises that it is really the stone that drives the design of each piece. “I need to fall in love with a stone before I even start thinking about the final creation,” says Cesare. “This, unfortunately, happens with a very low percentage of all the stones that I examine. When I then find the right stone, I start thinking how to exalt its beauty and brightness. Sometimes, it happens that I see a ruby or a sapphire that immediately grabs my attention and I start thinking: ‘I cannot let that one go!’.”
A few years remain before Cesare celebrates his 50th year as a jeweller. He still remembers his first design — a ring with a cushion-cut sapphire from Ceylon. He still keeps one of the first ever rings that his father had created. Some might see this devotion to the past and to heritage as a hindrance in the post-modern world. But for Cesare, and for the Leonori brand, nostalgia pays off. The past becomes a fuel for the present, inspiring and guiding the brand’s style and spirit. Even as its designs evolve to remain relevant in the present, Leonori is able to achieve a timeless combination of elegance and boldness.