VICENZA, Italy — Earlier this 12 months, the Italian gold jeweler Fope launched its new assortment of Flex’it necklaces by throwing an extravagant get together for about 300 company at a Seventeenth-century property on the outskirts of this metropolis within the Veneto area, a UNESCO World Heritage web site about 50 miles west of Venice.
To focus on the flexibleness of its patented 18-karat gold mesh chains, the model, based right here in 1929, had members of City Idea, a well-liked hip-hop dance troupe based mostly in Milan, carry out their signature tutting fashion — shifting their limbs in dramatic angular poses. The gold necklaces they used as props glinted within the candlelight.
“A good performance is like a good piece of jewelry,” stated Valentina Bertoldo, Fope’s content material advertising supervisor, above the din of the gang. “You say, ‘Wow,’ but behind it is all this research, skill, precision, technicality.”
You might say the identical factor concerning the jewellery business round Vicenza.
Dwelling to a goldsmithing custom courting again to the Center Ages, this metropolis of 110,000 is greatest identified amongst vacationers for its focus of buildings by the Sixteenth-century architect Andrea Palladio, to not point out its jewellery museum, situated within the palatial Basilica Palladiana that dominates the central piazza. It is also a hub for jewellery firms that proceed to advertise conventional handicrafts whilst they experiment with cutting-edge strategies reminiscent of powder metallurgy — decreasing treasured metals to powder for use in 3-D printing, or what the business calls additive manufacturing.
It’s the form of development that can enable jewelers to execute designs which can be unimaginable to realize by conventional casting strategies, guaranteeing each high quality and constant outcomes.
“Vicenza is, without any doubt, the technological core of the machinery production for the gold sector,” Giovanni Bersaglio, the chief operation officer at Berkem, a provider of plating gear and chemical options for the jewellery business, based mostly in close by Padua, wrote in an e-mail. “The center has grown thanks to close collaboration between jewelry companies and technology suppliers, cooperation that has always been seen as fundamental to the companies’ evolution and growth.”
That’s very true now, within the wake of the pandemic, which noticed demand for “Made in Italy” jewels soar in line with demand for wonderful jewellery generally. In 2022, exports of Italian gold and silver jewellery reached 9.8 billion euros (about $10.5 billion), a 22.5 p.c enhance over the identical interval in 2021, and a 40.8 p.c enhance over the identical interval in 2019, in accordance with Confindustria Federorafi, a nationwide affiliation representing firms in Italy’s jewellery manufacturing sector.
Damiano Zito, the chief government of Progold, which designs and manufactures jewellery in Trissino, a small city about 15 miles west of Vicenza, stated the pandemic highlighted a problem that has plagued the Italian business for the higher a part of the previous decade: its dwindling variety of expert employees.
“After Covid, the demand for jewelry production in Italy totally exploded and now the biggest issue is to find people and goldsmiths that can help you make the orders,” stated Mr. Zito, who is taken into account a pioneer in additive manufacturing. “This has not happened in Italy since the early 2000s.”
Vicenza is one among three cities in Italy famed for jewellery manufacturing. Valenza, within the Piedmont area southwest of Milan, is residence to a cluster of high-end makers who focus on gem-set jewels (together with Bulgari and Cartier, each of which function multimillion-dollar high-tech factories in Valenza and in close by Turin). Arezzo, in jap Tuscany, is greatest identified for its mass-produced gold and silver chains, many sure for the Center East.
What separates Vicenza from the opposite two facilities is the variety of equipment and gear suppliers based mostly in and across the metropolis, selling the wedding of expertise and custom that has helped homegrown firms survive many years of globalization.
“In the ’90s, there were so many people — not just in jewelry, but everywhere — who decided it was cheaper to produce in the Far East or Eastern Europe,” stated Ms. Bertoldo of Fope, which has its manufacturing unit simply two miles west of Vicenza’s central Piazza dei Signori.
“Some came back, some didn’t, but we stayed,” she added. “And by staying — production has always been here, craftsmen, machines, R&D, everything developed here.”
Roberto Coin, whose eponymous model produces its jewellery by a completely owned subsidiary, La Quinta Stagione, took an analogous method. Its manufacturing unit, established in Vicenza in 1998, adapts applied sciences from the automotive business to be used in making jewellery.
Carlo Coin, Roberto’s son and the president and chief government of La Quinta Stagione, declined to specify the strategies that the corporate makes use of. “We’re one of the most copied brands at the moment,” he stated. “We have lawyers blocking Instagram sites on a daily basis. I don’t need them to know how the jewelry is made.” However with out expertise, producing jewellery in volumes at a constant high quality degree could be all however unimaginable, he stated.
Nonetheless, he additionally emphasised that the model nonetheless finishes all of its items by hand. “Technology can be boring and cold,” Mr. Coin stated. “We want our jewelry to have life in it.”
That blend of innovation and custom is essential to the persevering with success of Italian-made jewels, stated Marco Carniello, the worldwide exhibition director of the Jewelry & Style Division of the Italian Exhibition Group. The enterprise organizes Vicenzaoro, a twice-yearly occasion that’s Italy’s largest gold and jewellery honest by the variety of each exhibitors and attendees.
“Now in Italy, we have 7,100 companies in the jewelry industry,” Mr. Carniello stated throughout an interview on the Vicenzaoro honest in January. “It was more or less double 10 to 15 years ago. So now it’s consolidating a lot, but the ones who are consolidating, they are full of creativity, they survive many shocks, they have strong ownership and they keep innovating.”
For instance, he cited the honest’s T-Gold pavilion, a 100,000-square-foot-hall that was housing practically 200 exhibitors promoting laser welders, 3-D printers for resins and metals, and chain-making machines, amongst different heavy equipment. “It’s the most powerful area we have,” Mr. Carniello stated.
Probably the most outstanding exhibitors in T-Gold was the Legor Group, a provider of steel alloys based mostly within the small city of Bressanvido, northeast of Vicenza.
Fabio Di Falco, Legor’s advertising and buyer help supervisor, stated the corporate established a strategic partnership with the printer producer HP 5 years in the past and is now experimenting with a prototype model of its new binder jet 3-D printer.
“A binder jet works like a normal ink jet but, instead of ink, we have a roller that spreads metal powders layer upon layer,” Mr. Di Falco stated. “This technology allows people to create something different than with existing technology. It helps them think in a different way and create different shapes.”
Mr. Di Falco stated the most important impediment for Italian firms intrigued by the chances of 3-D printing instantly in steel was the price of the steel powders. “These printers are really big and require a huge volume of powders: about 140 kilos,” or about 310 kilos, to function, Mr. Di Falco stated. “Imagine with gold, it’s not so cheap.”
Regardless of the advanced boundaries, Mr. Zito, the chief government of Progold, believes it’s only a matter of time earlier than additive manufacturing turns into mainstream within the jewellery business.
“Now we are close to V1 — when the aircraft is taking off, there is a speed after which the pilot cannot stop the plane and has to take off,” he stated. “Now additive manufacturing will grow more and more.”
Made by Hand
Holdouts, nonetheless, stay. Marco Bicego, a local of Vicenza, grew up within the business (“I was born with a bar of gold,” he stated). His father, Giuseppe, based a wholesale jewellery firm in Trissino in 1958. In 2000, the youthful Mr. Bicego took the teachings that he had realized engaged on a bench for his father, modernized the designs and based his personal eponymous model, now offered in upscale jewellery shops round the USA and Europe.
“We are taking advantage of new technologies like 3-D machines to make prototypes, laser machines to test diamonds, but still, 80 percent of our jewelry is made by hand,” Mr. Bicego stated.
He described a hand-engraving approach that depends on an historic instrument referred to as the bulino, which resembles an ice choose: “The artisan has to scratch the gold and create a line, and just to make a necklace it takes easily 5,000 movements of the hands.”
That many Italian jewelers like Mr. Bicego insist on emphasizing their devotion to the previous appears to recommend an inherent pressure with the chances of the longer term.
However Claudia Piaserico, the product improvement supervisor at Fope and president of the jewellery producers’ affiliation Confindustria Federorafi, disputed that characterization.
“It’s not tension; it’s opportunity,” Ms. Piaserico stated on the Vicenzaoro honest in January. “Because when you are able to mix technology and artisanry, you make something very unique.
“This is why Italian jewelry is different,” she added. “Because we have our heritage, we know what is really special from us, and we also have technology to perfect the quality. But the last touch is always human.”
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