[su_highlight background="#A26741" color="#FFFFFF"]HANDICRAFT[/su_highlight] The jewellery culture: history, creativity and tradition. Within the small town of Valenza, in Piedmont, beats the heart of Italian goldsmithing tradition. Two hundred years of history – where art and craftsmanship encapsulate the appeal of the jewellery culture.
Text by Roberta Vanore
The Valenza goldsmithing district, where Alessandria, Turin and Asti converge, extends as far as Valenza and eight other adjoining municipalities, and also includes three municipalities in Lombardy. Unlike other goldsmithing districts in Italy, which are focal points for industrial goldsmithing and the use of machinery, Valenza is characterised by the production of hand-crafted jewellery: exclusive, unmistakable one-off pieces made using fine techniques, meticulous attention to detail, premium-level design and prestigious materials. All this makes the Valenza district unique on a global level: not even world centres such as Providence (the United States), Toledo and Barcellona (Spain) and Pforzheim (Germany) can compete with the Valenza district. In fact, Valenza’s aesthetic and success is the result of two hundred years of tradition and evolution in which a consolidated past combines with a flair for technological and stylistic innovation to make this city emblematic of unique artistic craftsmanship.
The history of the goldsmithing-jewellery district in Alessandria stretches way back. In 1817 Francesco Caramora, a goldsmith from Pavia, moved to Valenza and opened a small workshop. Business soon flourished, so much so, that in 1825 he deposited his goldsmith’s hallmark, (the city’s first) at Alessandria’s Assay Office. Between 1827 and 1860 more workshops were opened, but on a relatively modest scale. The beginning of Valenza’s great artisanal and goldsmithing industry began in 1845, when goldsmith Vincenzo Morosetti, boosted by his experience as an emigrant, opened his first workshop and employed two workers from Alessandria, Francesco Zacchetti and Carlo Bigatti. Production was prestigious thanks to the refined techniques. In 1873 another of Morosetti’s apprentices, Vincenzo Melchiorre also from Valenza, following a training period with the best jeweller’s in Turin, Paris, Florence and Rome, returned to his hometown to open a goldsmith’s workshop and start goldsmithing production of a higher level compared to average businesses in Valenza, thanks to the use of oriental precious stones. In 1911"Melchiorre & C." employed 86 workers and was the first example of industrial production and international opportunities for Valenza, which thus became one of the most important centres in Italy for the artisanal crafting of gold and jewellery. Hereafter, Melchiorre’s apprentices set up their own businesses and paved the way for a proliferation of goldsmithing companies which are still in business today, they were joined by other companies such as Raselli Nicola (1875), Cunioli e Repossi (1880), Marchese e Gaudino (1882); while in 1902 the "Cooperativa di Produttori di Generi di Oreficeria" was founded, whose members were all specialised workers.
In 1910, there were 40 goldsmithing companies, but the economic boom came after the war, when the national demand for jewellery rose and during the Twenties Valenza goldsmithing specialised in limited editions of jewellery. On 22 March 1935 the Law of regulation of hallmarks and titles was approved and between ‘35 and ‘44 239 hallmarks were deposited in the province of Alessandria. In 1945 there were over 300 companies and some goldsmiths founded the "Association of Goldsmiths in Valenza " (AOV), which still protects the interests of the sector today and represents some 500 companies. The Sixties and Seventies was a time of technical and economic developement which determined an increase in exported goods (60%), whose sales charges were divided by the "Sales company" established in 1960. This was followed by a counter trend which also involved the luxury sector causing the 1200 Valenza goldsmithing companies around in the Sixties to drop to 800 during the Eighties. In recent decades, fierce competition from new producers (India, China, Turkey and Thailand), the onslaught of international brands and heavy customs duties have threatened business in the Valenza district; as a reaction to these issues the "DiValenza" brand was created to set Valenza production apart on the global market.
Today, Valenza has international recognition and is a focal point for innovation in terms of new technology and the use of computers in 3D goldsmithing design and creation. Currently, there are over 1500 goldsmith manufacturing companies (over 7300 workers) who work with 80% of the precious stones imported into Italy and account for a quarter of national production. 65% of production from Valenza is exported abroad to over 150 countries (particularly the US, Japan, the European Union and the Middle East). An astounding 650 thousand carats of diamonds (out of 800 thousand present in Italy) end their journey in Valenza, where 30 tonnes of gold is also crafted. In business terms this means a turnover of at least 3 billion euros per year. No wonder many of the most prestigious brands of global high jewellery, such as Cartier, Chopard, Bulgari, Damiani and Rolex, chose this area for their production of fine, elitist creations: thye are all connoisseurs of the prestige and aesthetic perfection to be found in artistic masterpieces by DiValenza.
Giorgio Visconti. The Giorgio Visconti brand has been a world famous name since 1946, renowned for its innovative jewellery design and processing quality. A creative force is what the founder, Giorgio Visconti, has imprinted on the brand that bears his name. A brand that still aims at conquering the global market.
DI.GO. is one of the most famous and respected high jewellery companies in Valenza. Thanks to a long-lasting success gained through over thirty years' experience, the company is the sole supplier of collections for leading Italian and international brands. Furthermore, it produces and distributes its own jewellery lines.
Giovanni Ferraris. After having lovingly embarked on his goldsmith profession, in 1985 Giovanni Ferraris founded the company that bears his name. Nowadays, thanks to a perfect combination of advance technology and skilled craftsmanship, the most prestigious customers from all over the world recognise the high added value that Giovanni Ferraris' jewellery and watches encompass.
Pasquale Bruni. At a very young age, Pasquale Bruni started his career in the world of jewellery at the workshops in Valenza. In 1976 he founded Gioielmoda, a small handicraft company that became Pasquale Bruni SpA in 1997.
Nowadays, the company controls the Pasquale Bruni brand, which is synonymous the world over of luxury and superior Made-in-Italy quality.
F.A. Gioielli. Mario Alliori founded F.A. in 1960. A significant and successful story that is still ongoing and looking confidently at the future thanks to the efforts of Mario's daughter, Alessandra, who is guided by a mutual love for creativity and the self-same desire as her father to evoke emotions through jewellery.
Crieri. Is the Italian leader in the production of tennis chain. With its innovative and unique patented mesh-making system, the company creates extremely resistant bracelets, reducing the metal weight by up to 30% and increasing the volume and light of the diamonds. It recently launched its new Cashmere collection with coloured diamonds.
Santagostino. Driven by an overwhelming passion for style and elegance, in 1969 Leonardo and Angela Santagostino founded the company that bears their name. Nowadays, the brand is famous for its unique pieces - like the "Bouquets Unici di Santagostino" – brimming with striking artistic printing and endowed with an impressionist-style charm.
DIVALENZA. A registered trademark in 45 countries which groups together an artisan consortium of goldsmith companies from Valenza and the associate commercial company that promotes their exclusive production worldwide, DIVALENZA is a unique organisation that offers an avant-garde example of the strength and potential of Made-in-Italy know-how and experience.
Vendorafa Lombardi. Creativity, Italian style, traditional craftsmanship, technological development, productive organisation and a product quality policy are Vendorafa Lombardi's patrimony. Established in Valenza in 1951, the company not only produces and distributes its own jewellery collections but also exclusively creates for leading international trademarks.
Petramundi. Is entirely dedicated to those who work and utilise gems. The company has accumulated and continues to develop the inherited experience and style of the Gay family which, for four generations now, has been studying, evaluating and offering raw and processed gems, whose quality and origin are competently and transparently ascertained.
Crivelli. The Crivelli company was established in the 1970s in Valenza when Bruno Crivelli decided to transform his skills and abilities gained in the world of gold and jewellery craftsmanship into a business enterprise. Refined creativity and incomparable handmade quality are now the company's winning cards on the Italian and international market.
Damiani. Damiani S.p.A. is a historical leader on the Italian market in the production and trade of high range jewellery and watches. Founded in 1924, the brand distinguishes itself on both the Italian and international market as the ambassador of Made in Italy and is synonymous of excellence and the best Italian jewellery-making tradition.
Piero Milano. For over half a century Piero Milano Gioielli has been playing a leading role in the high quality jewellery field. The brand specialises in the creation of refined jewellery where gold, the very best diamonds and accurately selected precious or semi-precious stones come together.
Angry. A family of jewellery artists with innate creativity and manufacturing ability, Angry is synonymous of productive excellence. Sculptors of shape and lovers of the most refined expression of femininity, Angry's high-jewellery collections stand out for their sparkling and unmistakable personality.