Friendship (Bracelets) Forever

Fourtané Jeweler’s expansive new flagship includes the first U.S. retail outpost for Florentine designer Carolina Bucci. 
PUBLISHED ON
March 26, 2024

Words by Anh-Minh Le

Photos by Kelsey Wisdom

Video by Grant Kinsey

Carolina Bucci distinctly remembers her maiden visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

About six years ago, she drove up the coast from Los Angeles with her family. “First impressions were of a small town, not pretentious, but with a love of quality,” the Italian-born, London-based jewelry designer says via email. Qualities that “rang true as a good destination” for her brand. 

Once she arrived in Carmel, “I was in love with the idea of making something work there,” she recalls. That something was realized last fall when Fourtané Jewelers debuted its new flagship on Ocean Avenue, between Dolores and Lincoln streets—3,600 sparkling square feet, across two stories, dedicated to jewelry. The ground floor holds Bucci’s first and only shop-in-shop in the U.S., joining her retail spots in London and Florence, Italy.

“We didn’t want just another jewelry store, we wanted a jewelry experience.”

<div class="quote-attribute">John Bonifas</div>

The interior of the Fourtané boutique, designed by Switzerland-based Studio Tonic, evokes a Parisian apartment (think: Calacatta marble and herringbone parquet flooring). The Carolina Bucci brand imbues a bit of Italy into the venue—not only with its jewelry, but also the brand’s collaborations with Venetian glassmaker Laguna~B and Florentine stationer Pineider. “It feels like its own special world,” says Bucci, noting that “the large photograph of the Ponte Vecchio should immediately transport clients across the world to Florence.”

The flagship is the culmination of a yearlong renovation, according to Fourtané proprietor John Bonifas. He and his wife, Sandy Bonifas, acquired Fourtané in 1985. The brand was established by artist and jewelry designer Loyola Fourtané in the 1950s and, by the time the Bonifases took ownership, it had become known for its antique and estate jewelry offerings. Today, in addition to Carolina Bucci—which John Bonifas describes as “wearable, beautiful jewelry”—contemporary designers such as Roberto Coin, Mikimoto, Simon G., Robert Procop, Geoffrey Good and Messika are represented as well. 

John, who serves as president of Fourtané, is a presence in the Carmel stores seven days a week, while Sandy handles the bookkeeping. Sons Josh Bonifas and Kris Bonifas, both in their 40s, each entered the family business after college. Josh’s passion for timepieces led to the growth of the watch department. Vintage and new watches now occupy two neighboring spaces, including the original 400 square feet at Pine Inn that belonged to Loyola Fourtané. (The Fourtané Rolex Boutique in San Diego bowed in 2018 and also expanded earlier this year.)

Like Fourtané, Carolina Bucci is a family affair. Its namesake is a fourth-generation jeweler, whose great-grandfather started an atelier in Florence in 1885. Bucci’s creations—among them, the Woven collection that uses a centuries-old textile loom adapted for gold and silk threads—are still made in her family’s workshops. “The jewelry world traditionally has always worked very much on personal trust and relationships,” she says, reflecting on her linkup with the Bonifases. “So, meeting another family running their business with strong morals and getting to know them on a personal level was the clinching decision.” 

A must-have for Bucci's shop-in-shop: a FORTE Beads bar—its apothecary-style glass jars filled with beads awaiting customers’ creativity. “FORTE Beads is an addictive collection,” Bucci says. “People love to make and remake their bracelets, so I am hoping that Carmel clients react in the same way. You can create anything you want using the semi-precious stone beads.” 

The interactive bar furthers a Fourtané goal. “We didn’t want just another jewelry store,” John Bonifas says. “We wanted a jewelry experience.” Upstairs at the flagship is in-house master jeweler Juan Da Silva’s workshop, where custom design and restoration happens, plus a VIP lounge.

Back downstairs, Carolina Bucci exclusives also contribute to the boutique’s singularity. “The Carmel FORTE Beads bracelet is based around those magical colors of sea, sand and sky that I first encountered all those years ago,” the designer shares. “And the Carmel Lucky bracelet takes inspiration from the ocean as it features a charm that depicts a wave in our signature Florentine Finish gold—the same finish that we have worked on with Audemars Piguet collaborations.” 

To Bucci’s delight, the Carmel outpost provides her with another reason to visit the area. During her three-day stay in November to fete the Fourtané flagship’s opening, she enjoyed a couple of “incredible” meals at Stationæry; stocked up on gifts for her two sons at Malbon Golf; and checked out a fellow downtown newcomer, Japanese brand Visvim (“the merchandising was exquisite”). She likens her accommodations at Villa Mara to “a home away from home in every sense of the word. One of my favorite things was to walk from there into town to Fourtané everyday along the beach. One of the world’s great commutes!” <img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/6457f19f1c1e1601e2c9c3f6/6487a9355b63a6818c705cea_CC-Icon--20.svg"alt="CC"height="20" width="20">

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Anh-Minh Le is a Bay Area-based freelance writer and editor whose bylines have appeared in publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Nob Hill Gazette, WSJ. Magazine, CA Home+Design, Luxe Interiors + Design, Diablo and C Magazine.

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