How To Wear Jewels Like An Italian

19 July 2013  by Susie Stenmark


Photograph by Gilles Bensimon for Elle, styled by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele

Buona sera, fashion lovers! Style students agree that there are many enviably-cool elements to the Italian Way of Dressing that can be dissected and emulated. Let’s face it, Italian style is probably copied more than that of the ever-chic French, because it has a sportiness and ease that’s simpler to achieve.

And when it comes to how Italians wear their jewellery, pulling off the trick of how to put it on is also easy, if you follow these simple tips.

Confidence & Nonchalance - or as the Italians would say, fiducia e disinvoltura. Okay, so she may be wearing only four triangles of fabric and a matching pedicure, but the beach is as much a fashion opportunity for an Italian as the passeggiate and dinner at a restaurant. A girl still likes to wear her diamond hoop earrings (so amusing, non?), her many gold bracelets (they’re sentimental, I can’t take them off) multi necklaces and rings (glints of metal look wonderful highlighted against wet skin) even though she’s casual. An Italian woman is confident in knowing that when you contrast high-style glamour (read: lots of jewels and accessories) with the usual pared-down aquatic style, you make a fashion statement that’s all your own.

Back on dry land, an Italian woman will haphazardly push up the sleeves of that crisp white cotton shirt to reveal a collector’s item vintage Rolex, maybe worn with an Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet. Not too neatly with the cuffs… she’ll never look as if she’s trying to show it off.

An Italian woman feels completely natural wearing eight carats of gorgeous D-flawlessness: she may own a ring with a large and magnificent diamond that’s hard to ignore and probably comes with its own Brinks detail, but she’ll never draw attention to it.

Lesson No. 1: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And then sometimes, just because you do have it, don’t flaunt it. Just wear it.

Colour is Natural – Italians are the greatest colourists, bold with their choices and daring to combine when others pull back. That goes for their fashion, their décor, architecture, cars – and their jewellery. Think bracelets of amethyst and turquoise combined, necklaces with citrine and cognac diamonds, rings combining red coral with yellow sapphires. Plain metals or white diamonds are beautiful, of course, but to an Italian, wear them and you’re missing a chance to express yourself with the exuberance of colour!

Lesson No. 2: The right colour is flattering and gives a little lift and most of us could use a little lift.

Don’t Be Afraid to Pile It On – One pearl strand can be a little, um, safe; five pearl necklaces, of different lengths, pearl size and colour, perhaps with attached pendants = baroque splendour.

Mix Heirlooms With Non-Precious – Contrast can be key to an arresting jewellery look: grandmother’s magnificent gemstone necklace is so statement, but perhaps more so when it’s worn unexpectedly. I know a very stylish Roman girl who has inherited some eye-popping jewels, but the difference between rocking some serious heirloom pieces or having them look stuffy is to downplay them. This she does very well, wearing an important ruby, diamond and platinum necklace from the 20s from a major jewellery house, with her multitude of friendship bracelets, a stainless steel Timex, jeans and a striped button down. The only link, keep pieces all in the same metal colour.

Most of us don’t have occasions for black tie dressing every day, so the benefit of learning how to wear your serious jewels on less-than-dressy days is that you’ll get to enjoy a thing of beauty often.

Lesson No. 3: Beautiful jewels don’t give you any pleasure when they’re sitting in the safe.

Men Wearing Jewellery, or Gianni Agnelli is My Style Mentor – A great watch or two, check, a small but high-quality collection of cuff links, yes, got that, perhaps a wedding ring if appropriate, not yet, but when the time comes, yes.

That’s the conservative checklist. Not too many opportunities for the male of the species to adorn himself, you might say. I say: I love a man wearing a classic, heavy curb chain ID bracelet. And call me a risk-taker, encouraging a dangerously retro act, but why not a gold zodiac medallion on a long chain , if the pecs are good? There’s no better way to get your Portofino-in-the-60s on. And a pearl tie pin can look extraordinarily luxe.

I’m not talking about casual men’s jewellery here, such as leather or bead necklaces or a silver cuff. That’s another blog post.

The late great tycoon and style mentor Gianni Agnelli personalised his sartorial elegance with a distinctive signature – he wore his watch on the outside of his shirt cuff, not underneath and could often be seen with his jacket sleeves pushed up to reveal a handsome timepiece.  He had the confidence to wear his watch the way he wanted to wear it … but I’m guessing he knew he was making a style statement at the same time.

Lesson No. 4: Men deserve jewels, too. Why should women have all the fun when it comes to adornment?

What ways do you wear your jewels that are different, bold, unexpected, Italian?


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