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Leslie Kay Lim
Urban, The Straits Times
Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014

Star bright

Urban, The Straits Times | Leslie Kay Lim | Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014

American actress Eva Longoria, the brand ambassador for Italian jewellery label Damiani, speaking at the press conference for the opening of the second Damiani store in Singapore, at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

Diamonds, perhaps more so than any other gemstone, are known and prized for their sparkle and shine. But for Italian jewellery brand Damiani, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, its brand ambassadors are just as dazzling.

Since the 1990s, the diamond jewellery brand has used celebrities as part of its marketing efforts. Damiani president and chief executive Guido Grassi Damiani claims that the company was one of the first to do so.

"Celebrities help people become closer to the brand," he says in an interview.

The 46-year-old Italian was in town to open the second Damiani store in Singapore, at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and as part of a series of events around the world celebrating the 90th anniversary milestone.

Actress Isabella Rossellini was a face of the brand in the 1990s, as were household names such as Sophia Loren, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sharon Stone later on.

Eva Longoria of TV show Desperate Housewives fame, who was also in town for the opening, is the latest star to lend her star power to the brand.

Mr Damiani, who is married with three children, emphasises that the partnerships are organic in nature, saying "we don't just 'hire' them. We strike up friendships and, sometimes, they are customers first".

This year, the brand is planning to announce an Asian male celebrity as the latest face of the brand, but Mr Damiani declines to say who it is.

Some, such as Loren and Stone, go on to co-design collections for the brand as well.

"They are artists," says Mr Damiani, who has been at the head of the label since 1996.

Actor Brad Pitt also co-designed collections for the Italian brand, though the collaboration began with a bit of controversy.

According to a report by the BBC, the American actor and his then wife, Jennifer Aniston, sued the jewellery label for US$50 million (S$63 million) for reproducing and selling their wedding rings he had designed with Damiani.

But the parties reached a settlement agreement and Pitt went on to design for Damiani and Aniston to model Damiani jewellery.

Building brand awareness in Asia

Mr Damiani, along with his older sister Silvia and younger brother Giorgio, are the third generation of the family to take over the reigns of the business. His grandfather, Mr Enrico Grassi Damiani, founded the brand in 1924.

Mr Damiani, who gives off a slight rock and roll vibe with his unusually shaggy hair and wristful of diamond bracelets, grew up in Valenza, Italy, the jewellery capital of Italy and where the Damiani company is still based.

The city is full of jewellers and artisans, to the point where if children left secondary school to work, the question would be "goldwork or setter?", he recalls of his time in school.

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