By Lisa van de Geyn
There’s a remarkable place in northeastern Italy called Vicenza. Located between two iconic cities, Venice and Verona, the city has a deep, rich history in arts and culture — it’s known for exquisitely intricate buildings designed by famed 16th century architect Andrea Palladio. What was once a destination for nobles who vacationed in the countryside, today’s Vicenza is a must-visit locale for those travelling from both near and far.
Vicenza is also the home of FOPE, an Italian-born brand that dates back to 1929, when goldsmith Umberto Cazzola founded the company that today is a thriving jewellery empire. “At the beginning, his enterprise was one of several goldsmith workshops in Vicenza, a town with an incredibly rich tradition in the industry. Gold and jewellery seemed to offer great opportunities and the local know-how was astounding, hence his professional choice,” says Marilisa Cazzola, FOPE’s chief marketing officer. Back in those days, Umberto specialized in watchstraps, and he made a good living for himself and his burgeoning family. It wasn’t long before his son, Odino, followed in his father’s footsteps and asked Umberto to join the company. “Odino was the second generation of the founding family, and he joined his father around the beginning of the Second World War, helping to navigate the company through those difficult times,” says Cazzola. “He then took the reins after and led the company during the Italian economic boom.” Innovation was crucial to the Cazzola family and especially to Odino, who was said to push for new technological advances and solutions that would help the business grow and flourish. “He managed to introduce new machines and techniques, which proved successful in that competitive scenario,” she says.
By the time the third generation of Cazzolas became interested in jumping on the bandwagon and entering the family business, FOPE was focusing heavily on gold jewellery collections. “This is the generation who introduced the production of watch cases for Swiss haut horlogerie brands and eventually capitalized on the impressive know-how by creating what would later become the brand’s signature design.” Th e Novecento gold mesh — and the first collections that came from this brilliant piece — were launched in the early 1980s. “This represented the first fundamental steps of FOPE in the world of fine jewellery,” Cazzola says. “A true revolution for the family business.”
Today, FOPE is an iconic brand, not only in its homeland of Italy, but the world over. It has an incomparable sensibility and a level of unparalleled intrigue, expression and sophistication that’s not often seen in fine jewellery. “The unique blend of craftsmanship and technology is an original feature, which makes FOPE’s jewellery different from any other brand. Th e signature design is obviously part of it, but behind the beauty of each piece, there is an incredible effort by research and development to guarantee the highest quality while offering precious, elegant pieces,” she says.
The brand has a long list of impressive offerings — including everything from seven collections featuring rings to necklaces — but it’s the Flex’it system that’s perhaps the most celebrated. “This patented system was invented in-house. FOPE is the only jewellery brand that can craft flexible, stretchable jewellery by 18-carat gold,” explains Cazzola. There are dozens of tiny gold springs hidden in the gold mesh that provide comfort and resilience in FOPE’s rings (the wearer can fit the ring on multiple fingers), earrings (which keep their shape) and bracelets (clasps are now a thing of the past). The genderless bracelets — complete with white and black diamonds — are one of the company’s bestselling pieces and they’re the epitome of the brand’s DNA. (The good news for FOPE admirers is this: Cazzola says Flex’it necklaces will be the next category to launch, coming later this year.) FOPE off rs the jewellery lover a piece that’s both extraordinarily comfortable and impeccably elegant. While the brand has stayed true to its humble beginnings nearly 100 years ago, it has dedicated decades to refining its process and has created the unsurpassed, well-loved treasures that are so very coveted today. For more information on FOPE visit Fope.com, and for Canadian inquiries, discover Knar Jewellery at Knar.com.