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Handmade costume jewellery company Ornella Bijoux was founded in 1944 by Piera Albani and is proof of the power of Italian ingenuity.

During WWII, a shortage of gold and alcohol caused many jewellery and perfume businesses to fall upon hard times, which prompted cosmetics company Gi.Vi.Emme and jewellery company Calderoni to create a costume jewellery joint venture. When the restrictions on gold and alcohol were lifted in 1944, the two companies returned to their original businesses, Gi.Vi.Emme artistic director Dino Villani suggested that his secretary, Piera Albani – a widowed mother of two – take over costume jewellery production.

Italy was under post-war reconstruction, this didn’t stop the bold mother-daughter duo

She began running the business with three workers and her daughter Maria Vittoria, who was only 14 years old at the time but already demonstrated great talent and would go on to make a name for herself, even designing collections for Dolce&Gabbana and Swarowski and other prestigious brands. In the beginning, mother and daughter made many sacrifices, investing their finances, time, and energy into the business. And although much of Italy was under reconstruction following the war, this didn’t stop the bold mother-daughter duo from venturing even to the south of Italy, hitchhiking with truck drivers.

During one of these journeys, Maria Vittoria encountered Mario, her future husband, who was a soldier. Still, it soon after joined the business as commercial director, which he held throughout his lifetime.

Throughout the decades, the company has continued to produce exceptional pieces of costume jewellery. In 2000, Ornella Bijoux was recognised as a historical Milanese enterprise, or Bottega Storica Milanese, in recognition of its importance both historically and commercially. Each of the brand’s pieces is vibrant, alive, and contemporary, demonstrating courage in experimentation and innovation over the decades.

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