Anna Gaia, CEO of Italy-based Utopia, is making pearl jewellery an indispensable and essential part of women’s collections everywhere. The daughter of Paolo, one of the pioneers in the global pearl trading sector, Gaia is blazing a new trail in the family-owned company’s illustrious history with the launch of Utopia, a luxury brand that places the pearl at the very heart of its business. In an interview with JNA, Utopia’s CEO talks about the pearl jewellery brand’s recent accomplishments, highlights the company’s exceptional collections and shares her thoughts on the future of the pearl industry.
JNA: What were Utopia’s most recent milestones?
Gaia: In 2017, Utopia is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Looking back, I must say that the last two decades were filled with fantastic challenges and opportunities. Building a brand requires a lot of commitment and creative efforts. It requires attention to detail since everything – from style to distribution – has to be consistent with the brand’s DNA.
I think being able to open new markets has always been a very important achievement for me. Recently, we have entered the Chinese and Singaporean markets. It took us a lot of time and effort to understand the tastes and preferences of local consumers. Pearls are a big part of Asian culture, and what we have done is to combine our “Italian flair” with the beauty of Asian culture and fashion. We are doing private events in these countries, and we are surprised with the interest that Utopia collections have been getting.
JNA: What is Utopia’s strategy to expand its customer base and make pearl jewellery even more popular among younger consumers?
Gaia: What sets Utopia apart from other South Sea pearl jewellery lines is the “Italian flavour and flair” inherent in our collections, characterised by the combination of pearls and precious stones.
Since the brand was founded, we have always focused on innovative designs, which are modern and stylish. In my opinion, this is the key to our success. It is also the secret to making pearl jewellery even more popular among younger consumers. It is important to change the image of pearl jewellery from something that is representative of old-fashioned opulence to jewellery that is refreshingly modern.
JNA: Please tell us something about Utopia’s 2017 collections. What makes these collections stand out?
Gaia: To mark Utopia’s 20th anniversary, we have created a glamorous Anniversary set. In the past 20 years, by merging the avant-garde with traditional aesthetics, and having a deep knowledge of precious raw materials, we have been creating collections of fine jewellery using pearls, gold, diamonds and precious stones. The brand reinterprets South Sea and Tahitian pearls in a contemporary way. It is entirely made in Italy with an unmistakable identity. Utopia is elegant, sophisticated and has outstanding craftsmanship in the superlative expression of the centuries-old Italian goldsmith tradition. The Anniversary set highlights the two important elements in Utopia’s soul – diamonds and pearls. Each element is flexible and movable, proof of the superb quality of Italian craftsmanship and Utopia’s unmistakable style.
Secondly, we also created an important collection called Stardust. A cluster of stars is too distant to be seen individually with the naked eye. The collection conveys the same enchanting, dreamlike and romantic sentiment that one associates with stars. In terms of music, just think of the stardust-inspired numbers by Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. The Stardust Collection is made with rose-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds, which form star-shaped crowns that show off the pearls.
JNA: Why do you love working in the pearl industry?
Gaia: Many years ago, I had a great experience while working in a pearl farm in Darwin, Australia. My job then was to select pearls, which meant I was virtually touching thousands of pearls in different shapes, colours and sizes every day.
One day, I asked one of the Japanese pearl experts, “What is the ‘secret’ to our job?” He showed me two pearls, which looked similar, and asked: “Do you think these two pearls look alike? Apparently they do, but if you look at them carefully, each pearl is unique, with hidden shades and invisible blemishes. This is the most important thing that you should not forget. Each pearl is unique – from the time it grows in an oyster to the time it is harvested.”
This is one of the reasons why I love working in the pearl industry. I love these gems. Each of them is distinctive and natural, and a source of inspiration for creating exceptional pieces of jewellery.
JNA: What are your most memorable moments at Utopia?
Gaia: Years ago, I was in Dubai visiting our local partner in the UAE, and I had a conversation with a shop manager. I always find it very interesting to get opinions from salespeople.
Suddenly, a young lady walked into the shop and requested the manager to view a Utopia set, which she said she saw advertised in local magazines. She was not even local and we learned that she knew the brand from her country of origin.
Utopia was in its early stages at the time, and we had spent a lot of time and effort in its launch. I suddenly realised that Utopia was starting to gain awareness in the international market. We still have a long way to go but I believe that we have come a long way in 20 years.
JNA: Are you positive about the future of the pearl industry?
Gaia: The pearl industry is definitely challenging nowadays. There is a lot of confusion in the market between different kinds of pearls, such as South Sea and freshwater pearls.
Pearls are also facing a big threat today: Water pollution. Luckily, pearl farming techniques have improved significantly over the years, and pearl farmers are producing high-quality pearls.
However, opportunities remain. To me, pearls are still “an undiscovered world” compared to other gems. It is my dream that all of us in the pearl industry will be able to come together and promote this gem at the consumer level. We love diamonds and coloured gemstones but we have to remember that pearls are just as unique. How many consumers know that pearls are the only “natural” gems on the market? From the time they are extracted from oysters, they do not need any treatments. They are not facetted like coloured stones or polished like diamonds. Pearls only need to be washed in water, and they are perfect the way they are. JNA