No one thought we would be celebrating Christmas in the midst of a pandemic, yet here we are. This year, things are a little different: We’re pulling our lens back to examine our year and shine the spotlight on little things over the next 12 days – both material and immaterial that one can either gift or savour now or in the next year. Here’s Day 3, for those looking for beauty with a human touch.

Think of Arte Oro’s atelier as Santa’s workshop. That is, if all the toys were gems, and Santa wore denim instead.

It’s housed on the sixth floor of Redhill Forum, a drab industrial building along Jalan Kilang Timor. This is where Danilo Giannoni creates.

He has had a lifetime of experience as a jeweller. His skills was forged from the fire of Valenza, the Italian capital of high jewellery. There, under the guidance of master craftsmen, an 18-year-old Giannoni learned to use his hands to make precious, artisanal jewels for the rich (think the Brunei royal family) and the famous (Isabella Rossellini, Monica Bellucci).

“I remember my boss having lunch and dinner with [our clients],” Giannoni told me when I first met him. “He would pick them up from their hotels, and drive them up to Milan himself.”

That sense of kinship is something that Giannoni wants to evoke decades later, in this era starved of in-the-flesh interactions, now that he has his own bespoke jewellery workshop.

Arte Oro opened its doors in 2017, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Those who were privy to the news had already met Giannoni along his career: when he was in Italy, working for Bulgari, Damiani, Crivelli and other marchi di gioielli; when he relocated to New York, where he ran a jewellery service business; and when he set up a bespoke jewellery workshop, much like Arte Oro, in Hong Kong.

Danilo Giannoni, founder of Arte Oro. (Photo credit: Arte Oro)
Danilo Giannoni, founder of Arte Oro. (Photo credit: Arte Oro)

All those roads led to Singapore, where, as Giannoni observed, many of his clients seemed to come from.

And still more will find him now. Forget about formalities; when you sit down with Giannoni to discuss your dream jewellery piece, it will likely be over a meal or a cup of coffee. By the end of that meeting, you would have made a new friend.

That friend just happens to know exactly how to cut a precious gemstone, or manipulate metal into jewellery pieces conventional or complex. “We are a full-scale production,” shared Giannoni. “We can basically do everything we need. We don’t need to outsource anything.”

By “we”, he means the Arte Oro team, an unlikely gathering of seasoned craftsmen and fresh graduates who bring their expertise in 3D prototyping and printing to the table. The age difference doesn’t matter here; the team shares the kind of synergy that would make the Ministry of Manpower swoon. It’s with this team that Giannoni hopes to establish “the best gem workshop in the world”.

He has the means. He also has the resources. Giannoni works directly with gem suppliers around the world to procure stones for his clients. Rubies, diamonds, tourmalines, spinels, emeralds, sapphires — all of these, in every shade imaginable, will be presented to you like a box of chocolates for your picking.

Not without details, of course. Giannoni will tell you about cut, colour and clarity; he’ll tell you about their provenance, and you’ll be comforted knowing that each gem was ethically mined. He’ll also tell you about their prices, but that’s not something for you to worry about.

At Arte Oro, they keep an open mind about gems; there’s none of that snobbish scrutiny of where a gem comes from, or how much it’s worth. Giannoni looks only for beauty. He once fell sway to the allure of a 10-carat, blue-green gemstone that resembled a tourmaline or a spinel. Later, it was revealed to be a grandidierite — one of the rarest gems in the world.

Stories like that are woven into the fabric of Arte Oro. Giannoni charmingly calls what he does “heart work, rather than a business”. You see his passion in everything, from the way he talks about gems to the pride he shows for his team. Most of all, you see it in how tenderly he speaks about his clients.

“Most of my clients are very, very close to us,” he shared. “We are basically like a family, and whenever they come here, they really feel like they’re at home.”

It’s something worth thinking about this holiday season, as you look around for a sparkling little something to treat your loved one to. Forget about those stuffy jewellery boutiques; why not make that trip to Arte Oro? To use the words of Holly Golightly, nothing very bad can happen to you there.

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Header photo credit: Arte Oro

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.