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Jeweler Fabio Salini on Vintage Watches, His 1970s Fiat and the Artwork That Got Away

The Rome-based creative perfectly blends tradition with Modernism.

Fabio Salini portrait Gianni Cipriano

Roman jewelry designer Fabio Salini has built a name for himself over the last two decades designing works of art for the ears, neck, wrist and fingers. He is known for combining unusual materials like copper, titanium, cord and carbon fiber with traditional gemstones in futuristic, sculptural-looking shapes that deliver a high-impact aesthetic. He honed his skills at revered houses like Cartier and Bulgari, before venturing out on his own in 1999 and establishing a visual code so unique that Phillips is dedicating an entire selling exhibition to his pieces, slated for some time next year. But when he’s not busy crafting exceptional jewelry, he spends his time relaxing at his calming Sicilian villa, which he designed from the ground up with an architect and decorated himself. The modernist structure is the perfect embodiment of Salini’s personality and sartorial style: forward-thinking, clean and geometric, with an underlying taste for refined traditionalism.

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

I drink a glass of water with lemon.

What advice do you wish you had followed?

I’m very happy with the mistakes I’ve made in my life. I don’t regret anything, because everything contributed to making me the person I am. When you make treasures of your mistakes, it is the best way to become a better person.

What do you do that’s still analog?

A lot of things, like telephones, weights and scales. I love vintage pieces. I’m a strange person because I have a very futuristic vision for my jewelry, but I’m very conservative.

What in your wardrobe do you wear most often?

I have a penchant for jackets. I have a formal and informal look, but I cannot go without a jacket. Most of mine are made-to-order by an Italian tailor.

Fabio Salini portrait

Fabio Salini’s Sicilian retreat.  Gianni Cipriano

What do you crave most at the end of your day?

I really like to enjoy my home, which is my refuge. But more specifically, it’s to taste some bread or crackers with drops of my Sicilian olive oil, which I produce. It’s more precious than Champagne.

How do you find calm?

There are two things that help me totally unplug my brain: one is designing, the other is gardening.

What is the most recent thing you have added to your collection?

Two paintings by Alessandro Twombly, the son of Cy Twombly. I don’t really collect anything, but those purchases were very instinctive. I fell in love with them and put them in my country house.

What do you regret not buying recently?

A [Alexander] Calder tapestry on raffia, a very exquisite and very unusual piece. But I thought about it too much, and when I decided to buy it, it was gone.

What is the most impressive dish you cook?

As an Italian, I cook many dishes, and during lockdown, I experimented with many new ones. But the one I’m very satisfied with is a primavera (“spring” in Italian), a local Roman dish, made of vegetables. It tastes exactly the same way my mother used to make it.

Fabio Salini portrait

Salini’s treasured Fiat 500 from the 1970s.  Gianni Cipriano

What is your exercise routine, and how often do you do it?

I mix yoga and working out. I alternate them and do it four times a week.

How do you get to sleep?

I actually like to imagine my new pieces. Most of the time my designs start from a picture that I have in my mind. Thinking of these images really occurs for me in those moments before sleeping.

What does success look like to you?

I don’t think there is just one form of success. To me, success is when you achieve your goals. You have to accept happiness like you accept bad moments of your life, because bad moments make you grow.

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?

I would love to learn all the languages of the world. I speak Italian, Spanish, French and English, and next I would like to learn Portuguese, Greek and Arabic.

Are you wearing a watch, and how many do you own?

I love watches. I don’t collect them, really, but I think I have a dozen, and most of them are vintage from the ’30s and ’40s. I have a very special rectangular Rolex, and a Movado with two little diamonds that move around to tell the time instead of hands, and I have an old Jaeger-LeCoultre. Right now I’m wearing a contemporary Jaeger-LeCoultre with a sporty strap.

Fabio Salini horse head

Salini’s Tuscan replica of a Greek horse head.  Gianni Cipriano

If you could stay one age, what would it be and why?

When I was a child, definitely—say, from three to seven. I love childhood. I think it’s a very instinctive moment when you don’t have filters.

When was the last time you completely unplugged?

It was last summer at the birthday party of a friend in Ibiza. It was a fantastic party with 30 people. It was very intimate in a beautiful house, and I completely unplugged, which doesn’t happen very often.

How would you describe your look?

Elegant.

Do you have a uniform for certain occasions?

For formal dinners, I always wear a blue suit with a white button-down shirt with a blue-and-white Hermès tie. It can be a tie with a different design, but always blue and white.

What is your favorite hotel?

My favorite hotel is in Siwa, Egypt, called Adrère Amellal. I went last November, and it’s very special, the ultimate luxury: a very simple eco-retreat with no electricity, just candlelight. Luxury is not expensive things. Luxury is time. Luxury is dedication.

What is the car you are most attached to?

I have an old Fiat 500 from the ’70s in Sicily. I treat it like a piece of jewelry.

Fabio Salini earrings

The designer’s emerald, diamond and carbon-fiber earrings  Fabio Salini

What is worth paying for?

Traveling. There is a richness in learning about people and new cultures. This is the way you learn to be in touch with the rest of the world. That is the biggest gift ever.

What was your last Netflix or streaming binge?

I’m finishing the whole series of The Crown.

What is your favorite neighborhood in your favorite city?

I think that my favorite city, even though I hate it for many reasons sometimes, is Rome. The best neighborhood is exactly where I decided to work, in Via di Monserrato, where I have my showroom and atelier, because I spend more time here than my home. It represents the beauty but also the tradition of Rome. It’s the ancient part of Rome but not the touristic one. It’s very authentic. It’s where the Romans live.

Bowie or Dylan?

Bowie.

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