Appreciation for Art, Antiques Leads to Love of Jewellery
December 9, 2013
April Matteini’s passion for the decorative arts has propelled her from European museums to Miami showrooms.
Matteini, the regional director for Skinner, Inc. in Florida, says her love of art and antiques took hold at an early age, so she studied furniture, paintings, sculpture and silver in Florence, Italy after earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts from St. Lawrence University in New York.
Her skills in circa dating and cataloguing paved the way to her first job with Skinner, Inc. in Boston, where she catalogued antique and estate jewellery for four annual auctions. Next, she joined the Northeastern powerhouse J & SS DeYoung, a fifth-generation family firm specialising in rare, unique jewellery and gemstones.
“Handling so many incredible pieces was what sparked my love for diamonds and gemstones – I knew then I wanted to earn a Graduate Gemmologist (GG) diploma to make those foundations stronger and enhance my career opportunities,” says Matteini, a Massachusetts native.
She found a kindred spirit in Joe Samuel, a former member of the GIA Board of Governors, as she began to work toward her GG diploma to take her career “to a higher level.”
“I was mentored by Mr. Samuel, who was incredibly supportive and encouraged my gemmological studies,” she says. “I was a distance education student before the Internet and he encouraged me to attend lab classes in New York and Boston, and use all of the office laboratory equipment for my homework.”
Though “diamond grading and its terminology felt like mastering a new language,” Matteini persisted and earned her GG diploma in 2000. She soon saw that the benefits of her education extended further than she expected.
“I find GIA is not only an industry standard, but recognised by consumers as a name they can trust,” she says.
Matteini and her family – her husband, Francesco, and their two children – relocated to South Florida in 2005, and the self-avowed “New Englander at heart” discovered that as an independent appraiser, her new clients’ jewellery collections had a different flair.
“Miami is a vibrant, multicultural city,” she says. “Big, colourful, statement pieces are everywhere. I don’t see as much small, antique jewellery in Miami as in the Northeast. That said, big or small, I find the same sentimental attachment and love of jewellery everywhere.”
Matteini embraced the “fantastic weather” and big personality of her new home and joined her local GIA Alumni chapter. In 2011, she began her tenure as president of the GIA Alumni of South Florida.
The group has “joined forces” with the local AGS Guild, she says, and together they “form one organisation that serves local industry professionals with high-level educational meetings and networking events.” Recently, for example, they brought Cigdem Lule and Stuart Robertson – fellow GG’s, and experts from GemWorld – from Chicago to present the group with their workshops on corundum and cultured pearls treatments and pricing.
“Continuing education is the best way to ensure a competitive edge in this industry – access to current information is critical,” Matteini stresses. “Beyond classroom education, the relationships that develop from a GIA affiliation are an invaluable asset for building a successful business.”
In addition to increasing professional development opportunities for GIA and AGS alumni in her area and her work with Skinner, she still enjoys the beauty and mystique that drew her to jewellery appraisal in the first place.
Not long ago, a client brought her entire jewellery collection for Matteini to appraise, including a flea-market cuff bracelet that was “just along for the ride.”
The $25 bracelet turned out to be a valuable piece signed by Art Smith, a leading mid-20th century modernist jeweller. It was very similar to a bracelet on the cover of the Brooklyn Museum’s retrospective exhibit on the New York City-based jeweller, and Matteini says the piece was “quite a nice return on her (client’s) investment.”
This kind of find reminds Matteini of a key reason she pursued a career in antique and estate jewellery in the first place.
“I have a tremendous appreciation for diamonds and gemstones, but I still love a jewellery mystery,” Matteini says. “If I can successfully research a hallmark or identify a signature for a client and let them know that their jewellery is not just special to them, but it’s valuable as well ... I love that.”
South Florida Alumni Chapter members with recent presenters and fellow Graduate Gemmologists, Cigdem Lule and Stuart Robertson of Gem World. (Back row: Luke Moorman, John Moorman; Front row: Debra LeVasseur, Joe Kientzy, Amy Walter, April Matteini, Cigdem Lule, Stuart Robertson) Courtesy of April Matteini.