I would firstly like to underline one fact that I find quite significant: Italfimet has been operating for almost 30 years, and, in all that time, the company has never closed or suspended its activities, not even for one day. These three months have been rather difficult for everyone but I hope that it will be the only time we stop in our history. It was also the first time we have ever had to resort to social safety nets. Despite everything, we have renewed all the ongoing apprenticeships because our philosophy and mentality as entrepreneurs urge us to look beyond this moment. This demonstrates that we believe in training our collaborators even as a tool for a possible introduction into the company. On the whole, we can say that we are quite a young company because the average age of our employees, about forty people altogether, is 30-35 years. Most of them were trained in-house, both in terms of research activities and product usage consultancy.
Italfimet deals with intermediary work phases, not with finished products. What have you been focusing on during these weeks?
Italfimet specializes in chemical processes and targeted electroplating for the jewelry, fashion and gold sector. We do not make finished products. Our customers mainly ask us to optimize certain phases and steps and to achieve determined results. In other words, customers are always looking to save on resources, energy and raw materials and to reduce production, transportation, warehouse management and particular waste disposal costs. The latter has become the most pressing need in recent years because the item “waste disposal” can really have a big effect on a company’s balance at the end of the year. Reducing the environmental impact of galvanic processing can be done, you only have to have the right equipment which will lessen the danger of certain types of waste. Nowadays, the appropriate technologies can be found on the market. Obviously, they are considerably costly but those costs can be written off in time, with a year on year saving of thousands of euros. Part of these weeks were therefore dedicated to this type of research as well as to the development of new finishings for the jewelry world and, here too, the mainstream in recent years has been eco-sustainability. We have found new green solutions for palladium and rhodium plating that are able to cover different applications. A highly versatile product from an aesthetic viewpoint and with an extremely high-quality technical result.
Metal prices have shot to the stars. What has this meant for your sector?
Yes, it’s true. During these months, metal rates have recorded exceptionally fluctuating values. Gold has undergone important increases but, on close inspection, the rates now are almost the same as before Covid. Let’s say that this anomalous situation, with the global markets on hold, has forced us to look in other directions. In short, we are practically ready for all possible future scenarios. The studies we have carried out recently to improve the various finishings will allow us to launch a high-performance palladium bath onto the market, obviously when palladium prices return to normal, and so on. Rhodium and platinum are, on the other hand, the metals that come into a savings concept and here we have optimized platinum plating in order to substitute palladium, which is extremely expensive at the moment, and we have also developed a rhodium/platinum alloy that ensures the same results as rhodium plating but with greater margins. Unfortunately, other important sectors of global industry also absorb huge quantities of metals which affects the cost: palladium, for example, is a perfect catalyzer for pharmaceutical synthesis and is also the metal used in the car industry for catalytic converters. In January, the price per ounce was already 2,500 dollars, five times the value recorded in 2016