Where goldsmiths are at home
There is a place in Florence where the little rooms of an old convent turned into microscopic studios of zealous goldsmiths. This place is called Casa dell’Orafo, the Goldsmith’s house! Let us visit it together!
Casa dell’Orafo – a convent changed into artisans’ laboratory
In 1593 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando de’ Medici, decided to change the destination of the shops on the market bridge in Florence. The butchers, who used to sell their meat there since the bridge was built in 1333, were kindly asked to move out and to leave the space for the goldsmiths. This is when Ponte Vecchio became what it is today, the most shining bridge in Europe!
Some time later, the old Augustinian monastery, at that time already abandoned by the monks, located just few steps from the bridge, was donated to the goldsmiths, who established there their workshops. Since then, generation after generation, in the cells of the monastery artisans manually produce unique pieces of jewellery. Part of their production is then sold on Ponte Vecchio.
Some of the artisans who work today at the Casa dell’Orafo follow a family tradition and run the activities established few generations before. Some others are ambitious young people who decided to follow their passion and to dedicate their life to the noble art of jewellery design and production. Together they create a community of creatives. They collaborate with each other because many of them work in just in one particular technique. At Casa dell’Orafo you can find goldsmiths, engravers and gem setters. As different steps in the production of a jewel require different abilities, often one ring or bracelet passes through the hands of few artisans. Somebody designs the piece and gives the form to the object. Then the gem setter decorates it with precious stones and in the end the engraver impresses on it unique words or letters that bond each jewel to its future owner. Collaboration, respect, affection and a big dose of sense of humour – I found it all at Casa dell’Orafo.
Let me introduce you some of the artisans who work there daily.
Entering Nerdi Orafi is like entering a laboratory of an alchemist or a magician. The soft lights shine on the golden surfaces of the jewels on display. Nerdi Orafi was established in 1948 and today is run by Daniela who carries on the family tradition. Nerdi’s jewels are strongly inspired by the Florentine Renaissance art. The laboratory is specialized in beaten gold and silver and uses some techniques dating back to the Etruscan past.
Davide Barbaro moved to Florence from Naples and he works in his laboratory at the Casa dell’Orafo as gem setter. When you sit down at his desk and look into the magnifying glass, you immediately understand how much precision and patience he must have. The precious stones he sets are often really tiny and they must to be inserted correctly. Gem by gem, stone by stone, Davide decorates bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces. At the same time, with the use of AutoCAD, Davide designs his custom jewels, created according to the customers’ needs.
You can follow Davide on Instagram here.
Ilaria Leccese is an architect, she also studied jewellery design and after her degree she decided to create her own brand. Ilaria’s style is really particular and I find it fascinating. Her designs are often geometrical and recall the idea of architectonic projects. Rings made of cubes, circles and pyramids. Despite their original form, all the jewels are very comfortable.
Thomas Lorenzoni received his training as goldsmith in Florence in one of the most important schools for young artisans who want to learn their skill. Unfortunately, soon after the economic crisis hit Europe and it was almost impossible to open an own activity at that time. However, Thomas decided to invest in further education and used the period of crisis to get a degree in History. His interest went obviously in the direction of jewellery history. In particular, Thomas is fascinated with ancient and medieval jewellery. Historical jewels inspire Thomas’ creations.
Ivan Barecca’s jewellery reflects incredible imagination and creativity of the designer. Dragons, lions, elephants and snakes populate Ivan’s world. His creations resemble sculptures. The artist often uses the technique of wax modelling, which allows him to cast his jewels in silver and gold. Ivan organizes also courses on various techniques and artisan jewellery production.
La Casa dell’Orafo
Vicolo Marzio, 2
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