A line of jewelry inspired by the heritage of a family of designers

For more than three decades, the Italian designer Ilaria Icardi resisted following in the footsteps of his father, Umberto Icardi, by becoming a jeweler. He and his brothers, Giuseppe and Piero, established their family fine jewelry business, Emmeti, in Valenza in the late 1960s and crafted precious gold pieces for private clients and eventually larger brands such as Tiffany & Co. Valenza, a small industrial town in northern Italy surrounded by rolling green terrain that the region promotes as Little Tuscany, has been renowned for its silversmithing for centuries, but the house had little attraction for Icardi. “My father tried to entice me into the business, but I instinctively refused,” she says. “I wanted to go out and escape.”

She escaped: to study fashion design in Milan, and an impressive 25-year career in women’s fashion – with positions at Yves Saint Laurent under Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati, then at Celine with Phoebe Philo – followed. Since 2013, she has been design director at Victoria Beckham in London, where she lives with her 8-year-old daughter, Theodora. Although she sometimes imagined jewelry in these roles, it was not until her father died four years ago that Icardi really felt drawn to her craft. “It ignited a flame in me,” she says of his death, which ultimately prompted her to launch her namesake line this year. “Everything was already there. I just had to bring it to life.

Icardi’s debut collection is a concise and deeply personal offering inspired by her own mix, including jewelry her father made for himself, pieces from the Emmeti archives and trinkets she collected on her travels. in Japan, India and North and South America. “The idea is that these are like family heirlooms acquired over many years,” she says of the seven commissioned designs, which she produced with the help of her younger brother, Lorenzo Icardi, a gemologist. who lives and works in Valenza. .

At the heart of the collection is a reproduction of her father’s beloved gold chain necklace, which she inherited. A sharp dresser who favored made-to-measure suits, Umberto designed and made the piece himself and never deprived himself of it. “Now I wear it every day,” she says. She likes to associate it with another of her creations which she has also reproduced for her line: a rectangular gold talisman pendant engraved with a pattern of ears of wheat – “for luck and prosperity”, she says. — with a brilliant-cut diamond. located in the upper right corner that evokes a sun. There are also ’70s-inspired 18-karat gold signet rings – one of which is encrusted with a striking lapis lazuli center – of his own design and more playful elements, such as an astronaut-shaped pendant in intricately detailed gold whose shape nods to a piece of jewelry, inspired by a pair of spacesuit legs, which she found at a New York flea market a few years ago.

The eclectic designs are united by a heavy, retro feel – Icardi sees the 70s as the peak of his father’s career – as well as gleaming 18k yellow gold. Gemstones are used sparingly – just lapis lazuli on the signet ring and brilliant-cut diamonds on the pendant and an engagement band – but subtle hand-engraved guilloché adds texture to many of the more solid shapes. Some memories were harder to replicate than others, however, including the uniquely shaped mineral green diopside pendant encased in a heavy gold setting that his father gave his mother as an engagement gift in 1969.” It’s hard to match that green, and it drove my brother crazy,” Icardi said.

Working so much with the permanence of precious metals was a new experience for the designer – and in fact a cause for light sibling bickering. “If a dress doesn’t look good, you can redo it, but with fine jewelry, the sketch should be precise,” she says. “I’m learning that when I say yes and my brother pushes the button, there can be no change.”

Moreover, Icardi and Lorenzo had to largely polish their collaboration remotely, using video calls and WhatsApp. Last summer, however, after months of separation, the siblings, their mother and Theodora managed to meet for a family vacation on the Ligurian coast, near Portofino. “Lorenzo arrived wearing all the prototypes like an Italian mobster,” laughs Icardi. Her father, however, always feels present. “I never sat and cried when he died, but when I work with these pieces I have ripples of memory,” she says. “It’s as if he was looking at me. I can feel it.”