The New Minimal Wave

Art historian, journalist and curator, Alessandra Quattordio traces the new paradigms that contaminated jewelry between 1990 and 2000

«The 1990s began to the roar of the Gulf War cannons but were soon also stained in Italy by the Mani Pulite political corruption scandals. Rigor and understatement therefore set in for social classes with the purchasing power that jewelry imposes. Diktats which soon, however, spread with a “domino effect” to market areas not directly affected by the latest sensational events. But the minimalism with which this decade is identified – in terms of design choices and preciousness standards that were mindful of weights and measures – was, in reality, also and above all dictated by those ebbs and flows of the history of taste, which traditionally emerge through fashion, jewelry and socio-cultural attitudes. After the resounding and often pretentious '80s, we began to witness a new wave, something between mysticism and spirituality, that led to formal essentiality, often accompanied by the search for new values able to express precise ethical choices. The leit motiv of the cross, a symbol of ancient tradition, now freed from the religious legacies of the past, exploded. A return to nature, not only as a source of inspiration but also as an asset to be defended and valorized, influenced the production of leading brands as well as the research of independent authors. Multiculturalism and neo hippies conversed with an apparent simplicity of taste, and were also expressed in the looks of showbizandd catwalks icons. Jewelry tuned in to the new wavelengths - in Milan, Rome, Florence, Padua, Vicenza, Valenza – beckoning to the winning trends: rings with hyper-colored gemstones cut like mini sculptures went perfectly well with sneakers, jeans and pastel-colored slip-dresses; bracelets and pendants by Tiffany, Damiani, Pomellato, Antonini, Rinaldo Gavello, between ethno-chic and design, harmonized with the oriental look. Textile workmanship also barged in, interweaving the gold wires of bracelets or slender necklaces like fibers as supple as silk. Designer GianCarlo Montebello, one of the fathers of laser cutting, was a sensitive interpreter of this in his “Ornaments for Bradamante” collection. Precious metals – gold, platinum, silver - but also titanium and steel, maharajah stones, such as Cartier's, but also non-precious gems, such as obsidian – the main attraction of Angela Carrubba Pintaldi's creativity. So, both elitist and “poor” materials interacted between past and present. But there were those who did not forego the ancient. In fact, the reinterpretation of historical styles was not abandoned and, while tending towards essentiality of form and purity of line, never shied away from the charm of neoclassicism, baroque, romanticism or Art Nouveau. Everything and the opposite of everything. The New Millennium and its epochal challenges were just around the corner. And the lesson of the last decade of the “short century” – according to the definition by historian Eric Hobsbawm in 1994 – still sets the standard today, so much so that it shapes both contemporary production and the choices of the public, who draw heavily on the freedom of style typical of a decade that already encapsulated the future.»


Alessandra Quattordio 
Art historian and journalist, from 1987 to 1999 she was senior editor at Vogue Gioiello, and then at AD Architectural Digest from 1999 to 2015. Her teaching experiences include the Histor y of Jewelr y Design course for IED (2016-present). She writes for Corriere della Sera and Artribune. 

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