In Italy, Using Modern Jewelry Machinery for New Creations

Vicenza, Italy — Earlier this year, Italian gold jeweler Fope unveiled its new collection of Flex’it necklaces at a lavish party for nearly 300 guests in its 17th-century building. estate on the outskirts of this city in the Veneto region, UNESCO World Heritage Site About 80 miles west of Venice.

Founded here in 1929 to emphasize the flexibility of its patented 18 carat gold mesh chain, the brand has urban theoryis a popular Milan-based hip-hop dance group that showcases their signature tatting style, moving their limbs in dramatic angular poses. The gold necklace I used as a prop was shining in the candle light.

“A good performance is like a good jewel,” said Valentina Bertold, Fope’s content marketing manager, minding the noise of the crowd. “It may sound ‘wow’, but behind it all is research, skill, precision and expertise.”

The same can be said for the jewelery industry around Vicenza.

Home to a goldsmithing tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, the city of 110,000 is best known among tourists for its concentration of buildings by 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio. Not to mention the Gem Museum, housed in the palatial Palladiana Cathedral. central square. It’s also a hub for jewelery companies that continue to promote traditional handicrafts while experimenting with cutting-edge technologies such as powder metallurgy, which turns precious metals into powders and uses them for 3D printing, or what the industry calls additive manufacturing. I have.

This is the kind of advancement that allows jewelers to execute designs that are not possible with traditional casting methods, ensuring both quality and consistent results.

“Vicenza is definitely the technical center of machine production for the gold sector,” says Giovanni, chief operating officer of nearby Padua-based supplier of plating equipment and chemical solutions for the jewelery industry, Berkem. Bersaglio writes. on mail. “The center has grown thanks to the close cooperation between jewelery companies and technology suppliers. This cooperation has always been considered a cornerstone of the evolution and growth of the company.”

This is especially true now, post-pandemic, with demand for ‘Made in Italy’ jewelery soaring in line with demand for fine jewelery in general. According to state-owned Confindustria Federorafi, Italy’s gold and silver jewelery exports will reach €9.8 billion (about $10.5 billion) in 2022, a 22.5% increase over the same period in 2021 and 2019. It increased by 40.8% compared to the same period of the year. Association representing companies in the Italian jewelery manufacturing sector.

Damiano Zito, CEO of ProGold, a jewelery designer and manufacturer in Trissino, a small town about 25 miles west of Vicenza, said the pandemic had decimated Italian industry for much of the past decade. He said it highlighted a problem that has plagued him: the decline of the industry. Number of skilled workers.

Zito, who is considered a pioneer of additive manufacturing, said: “The demand for jewelery production in Italy has completely exploded since COVID-19. or find a goldsmith.” “We haven’t seen anything like this in Italy since the early 2000s.”

Vicenza is one of three Italian cities famous for jewelery manufacturing. Valenza, in Piedmont, southwest of Milan, is home to a concentration of luxury manufacturers specializing in gem-set gemstones (including Bvlgari and Cartier, both of which operate in Valenza and nearby Turin, with multi-million dollar operates a high-tech factory in ) ). Arezzo in eastern Tuscany is best known for its mass-produced gold and silver chains, many destined for the Middle East.

What distinguishes Vicenza from the other two centers is the number of suppliers of machinery and equipment based in and around the city, facilitating a fusion of technology and tradition, where local businesses have benefited from decades of globalization. has helped survive the

“In the ’90s, there were so many people, not just in the jewelry industry but everywhere, who decided it would be cheaper to produce in the Far East or Eastern Europe,” said Bertold of Forpe, whose factory is only two miles away. West side of Piazza dei Signori in the center of Vicenza.

“Some came back, some didn’t, but we stayed,” she added. “And by staying here, production was always here, craftsmanship, machinery, research and development, everything was developed here.”

The eponymous brand Roberto Coyne, which produces jewelry through its wholly-owned subsidiary La Quinta Stagione, has taken a similar approach. Founded in Vicenza in 1998, the factory adapt technology It is used in the manufacture of jewelry from the automotive industry.

Carlo Coyne, Roberto’s son and president and CEO of La Quinta Stagione, declined to specify the technology the company uses. “We are one of the most copied brands right now,” he said. “We have lawyers who block Instagram sites every day. We don’t need them to know how jewelry is made.” It would be nearly impossible, he said.

However, the brand also emphasized that all items are still hand-finished. “Technology can be boring and cold,” says Coyne. “We want to breathe life into our jewelry.”

Marco Carniello, Global Exhibition Director of the Italian Exhibition Group’s Jewelery & Fashion Division, said this combination of innovation and tradition is key to the continued success of Italian jewellery. The company hosts the biannual event Vicenzaolo, Italy’s largest gold and jewelery trade fair in terms of both exhibitors and attendees.

“Today there are 7,100 companies in the jewelery industry in Italy,” Carniello said in an interview at the Vicenzaolo trade fair in January. “10-15 years ago it was almost double. We keep innovating.”

He cited the T-Gold pavilion at the same trade fair as an example. The pavilion was his 100,000-square-foot hall, which attracted about 200 exhibitors selling heavy equipment such as laser welders, his 3D printers for resins and metals, and chain-making machines. . “This is the strongest area we have,” Carniello said.

One of the most prominent exhibitors at T-Gold was Legor Group, a metal alloy supplier based in Bresanved, a small town northeast of Vicenza.

Fabio Di Falco, marketing and customer support manager at Legor, said the company established a strategic partnership with printer maker HP five years ago and is currently testing a prototype version of its new BinderJet 3D printer. Told.

“The binder jet works just like a regular inkjet, but instead of ink it has a roller that spreads the metal powder layer by layer,” Di Falco said. “With this technology, you can create something different than existing technology. It helps them think differently and create different shapes.”

Di Falco said the biggest obstacle for Italian companies interested in the possibility of direct 3D printing on metal is the cost of the metal powder. “These printers are very large and require a lot of powder, about 140 kilograms, or about 310 pounds, to operate,” Di Falco said. “Imagine gold. It’s not that cheap.”

Despite the complex hurdles, ProGold CEO Zito believes it’s only a matter of time before additive manufacturing becomes mainstream in the jewelry industry.

“Now we’re approaching V1. When the plane takes off, there’s a speed at which the pilot can’t stop the plane and has to take off,” he said. “Additive manufacturing will continue to grow.”

However, the holdout still remains. A native of Vicenza, Marco Bichego grew up in the industry (“I was born with gold bars,” he said). His father Giuseppe founded a jewelry wholesale company in Trissino in 1958. In 2000, the young Mr. Bichego used the lessons he learned working on his father’s bench, modernizing his designs and establishing his own eponymous brand, which is now sold. It is sold in high-end jewelry stores in the United States and Europe.

“Even though we use new technologies like 3D machines for prototyping and laser machines for diamond testing, 80% of our jewelry is still handmade,” Bisego said.

He described the hand-carving technique using an ancient tool known as a burino, which resembles an ice pick: “A craftsman has to cut gold to create a line, and just to make a necklace is as light as he needs 5,000 gold movements.” Hand. “

The persistence of many Italian jewelers like Mr. Bichego in emphasizing their devotion to the past seems to suggest an inherent tension with the possibilities of the future.

But Claudia Piaserico, Fope’s product development manager and president of the jewelry manufacturers association Confindustria Federorafi, disputes that characterization.

“It’s not a strain. It’s an opportunity,” said Piacerico at the Vicenzaolo trade fair in January. “Because if you can combine technology and craftsmanship, you can create something very unique.

“This is what makes Italian jewelry different,” she added. “We have a tradition, so we know what is really special, and we have the technology to perfect the quality. But the final touch is always human.”

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