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In Italy, Using Modern Jewelry Machinery for New Creations

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VICENZA, Italy — Earlier this yr, the Italian gold jeweler Fope launched its new assortment of Flex’it necklaces by throwing an extravagant social gathering for about 300 visitors at a Seventeenth-century estate on the outskirts of this metropolis within the Veneto area, a UNESCO World Heritage 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 Urban Theory, a well-liked hip-hop dance troupe based mostly in Milan, carry out their signature tutting type — transferring their limbs in dramatic angular poses. The gold necklaces they used as props glinted within the candlelight.

“ efficiency is sort of a good piece of jewellery,” mentioned Valentina Bertoldo, Fope’s content material advertising supervisor, above the din of the group. “You say, ‘Wow,’ however behind it’s all this analysis, ability, precision, technicality.”

You would say the identical factor concerning the jewellery trade round Vicenza.

Residence to a goldsmithing custom relationship again to the Center Ages, this metropolis of 110,000 is greatest recognized 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 corporations that proceed to advertise conventional handicrafts whilst they experiment with cutting-edge strategies reminiscent of powder metallurgy — lowering valuable metals to powder for use in 3-D printing, or what the trade calls additive manufacturing.

It’s the sort of development that can enable jewelers to execute designs which might be unattainable to attain by means of conventional casting strategies, guaranteeing each high quality and constant outcomes.

“Vicenza is, with none doubt, the technological core of the equipment manufacturing for the gold sector,” Giovanni Bersaglio, the chief operation officer at Berkem, a provider of plating gear and chemical options for the jewellery trade, based mostly in close by Padua, wrote in an e-mail. “The middle has grown thanks to shut collaboration between jewellery corporations and expertise suppliers, cooperation that has at all times been seen as elementary to the businesses’ evolution and development.”

That’s very true now, within the wake of the pandemic, which noticed demand for “Made in Italy” jewels soar in keeping with demand for tremendous 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 keeping with Confindustria Federorafi, a nationwide affiliation representing corporations in Italy’s jewellery manufacturing sector.

Damiano Zito, the chief govt of Progold, which designs and manufactures jewellery in Trissino, a small city about 15 miles west of Vicenza, mentioned the pandemic highlighted a difficulty that has plagued the Italian trade for the higher a part of the previous decade: its dwindling variety of expert employees.

“After Covid, the demand for jewellery manufacturing in Italy completely exploded and now the largest subject is to seek out individuals and goldsmiths that may allow you to make the orders,” mentioned Mr. Zito, who is taken into account a pioneer in additive manufacturing. “This has not occurred in Italy for the reason that early 2000s.”

Vicenza is certainly one of 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 concentrate 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 japanese Tuscany, is greatest recognized 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 corporations survive a long time of globalization.

“In the ’90s, there have been so many individuals — not simply in jewellery, however all over the place — who determined it was cheaper to supply within the Far East or Japanese Europe,” mentioned Ms. Bertoldo of Fope, which has its manufacturing unit simply two miles west of Vicenza’s central Piazza dei Signori.

“Some got here again, some didn’t, however we stayed,” she added. “And by staying — manufacturing has at all times been right here, craftsmen, machines, R&D, every little thing developed right here.”

Roberto Coin, whose eponymous model produces its jewellery by means of an entirely owned subsidiary, La Quinta Stagione, took an identical method. Its manufacturing unit, established in Vicenza in 1998, adapts technologies from the automotive trade to be used in making jewellery.

Carlo Coin, Roberto’s son and the president and chief govt of La Quinta Stagione, declined to specify the strategies that the corporate makes use of. “We’re one of the copied manufacturers for the time being,” he mentioned. “We’ve got attorneys blocking Instagram websites each day. I don’t want them to understand how the jewellery is made.” However with out expertise, producing jewellery in volumes at a constant high quality stage can be all however unattainable, he mentioned.

Nevertheless, he additionally emphasised that the model nonetheless finishes all of its items by hand. “Know-how may be boring and chilly,” Mr. Coin mentioned. “We would like our jewellery to have life in it.”

That blend of innovation and custom is vital to the persevering with success of Italian-made jewels, mentioned Marco Carniello, the worldwide exhibition director of the Jewelry & Vogue Division of the Italian Exhibition Group. The enterprise organizes Vicenzaoro, a twice-yearly occasion that’s Italy’s largest gold and jewellery truthful by the variety of each exhibitors and attendees.

“Now in Italy, now we have 7,100 corporations within the jewellery trade,” Mr. Carniello mentioned throughout an interview on the Vicenzaoro truthful in January. “It was roughly double 10 to fifteen years in the past. So now it’s consolidating so much, however the ones who’re consolidating, they’re stuffed with creativity, they survive many shocks, they’ve robust possession and so they preserve innovating.”

For example, he cited the truthful’s T-Gold pavilion, a 100,000-square-foot-hall that was housing almost 200 exhibitors promoting laser welders, 3-D printers for resins and metals, and chain-making machines, amongst different heavy equipment. “It’s essentially the most highly effective space now we have,” Mr. Carniello mentioned.

Some of the distinguished 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, mentioned 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 standard ink jet however, as an alternative of ink, now we have a curler that spreads steel powders layer upon layer,” Mr. Di Falco mentioned. “This expertise permits individuals to create one thing totally different than with present expertise. It helps them suppose otherwise and create totally different shapes.”

Mr. Di Falco mentioned the largest impediment for Italian corporations intrigued by the chances of 3-D printing instantly in steel was the price of the steel powders. “These printers are actually massive and require an enormous quantity of powders: about 140 kilos,” or about 310 kilos, to function, Mr. Di Falco mentioned. “Think about with gold, it’s not so low-cost.”

Regardless of the advanced boundaries, Mr. Zito, the chief govt of Progold, believes it is just a matter of time earlier than additive manufacturing turns into mainstream within the jewellery trade.

“Now we’re near V1 — when the plane is taking off, there’s a velocity after which the pilot can’t cease the airplane and has to take off,” he mentioned. “Now additive manufacturing will develop increasingly.”

Holdouts, nevertheless, stay. Marco Bicego, a local of Vicenza, grew up within the trade (“I used to be born with a bar of gold,” he mentioned). 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 US and Europe.

“We’re profiting from new applied sciences like 3-D machines to make prototypes, laser machines to check diamonds, however nonetheless, 80 p.c of our jewellery is made by hand,” Mr. Bicego mentioned.

He described a hand-engraving approach that depends on an historic software generally known as the bulino, which resembles an ice decide: “The artisan has to scratch the gold and create a line, and simply to make a necklace it takes simply 5,000 actions of the palms.”

That many Italian jewelers like Mr. Bicego insist on emphasizing their devotion to the previous appears to recommend an inherent stress 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 stress; it’s alternative,” Ms. Piaserico mentioned on the Vicenzaoro truthful in January. “As a result of when you’ll be able to combine expertise and artisanry, you make one thing very distinctive.

“For this reason Italian jewellery is totally different,” she added. “As a result of now we have our heritage, we all know what is actually particular from us, and we even have expertise to good the standard. However the final contact is at all times human.”



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