It is 10 am and I have just arrived in Florence.
The shops on Ponte Vecchio start opening the windows.
The tourists on the band look at windows, stop on Ponte Vecchio and walk again, taking pictures with the selfie sticks. I am motionless on the bridge and people pass by me quickly without seeing me. There is an incredible haste all around and I wonder what is left of the bridge that the Medici had made the golden bridge, the most precious in the world. I stop in front of Benvenuto Cellini’s bust, I wonder where that poetry, that feeling, that mastery and the noise of the diamond setter, who is going to set the diamonds for the ladies of Florence, are.
In the end, I realize it. This is the story of my meeting with Fratelli Piccini.
Fratelli Piccini was born in 1903 on Ponte Vecchio, it is the story of a family that over the years has honored and transmitted the savoir-faire of Pirro, the founder, and Armando, the creative genius of the Maison, winner, in just over twenty years, of the first prize at the Venice Biennale in 1936, and the highest recognition at the International Diamond Award in New York in 1958 and in Buenos Aires in 1959.
Fratelli Piccini has been defined as the last jewelers of Ponte Vecchio by journalist Guy Trebay of the New York Times; today, this true story lives through the expert hands of Fratelli Piccini goldsmiths, the pure sentiment towards beauty, the strong link with the history of the family and the female leaders, Laura and Elisa, the third and fourth generation who, while keeping a connection with the historical savoir-faire of the Maison, look at the present and the future with a visionary gaze.
The meeting with them has provided me a profound inspiration. I not only re-discovered the magic of Ponte Vecchio, but I realized that stories are true when people are authentic. When I ask the House’s CEO, Elisa Tozzi Piccini, about her family’s history, she tells me about her relationship with Armando, the brother of her grandfather, called ‘uncle’ by her. “Armando has created jewelry from the heart and this is what we keep doing. Therefore, I found myself part of a natural path. The work that allows to give life to inanimate forms, that results in an emotion and finally, something that continues to live in the wearer. For us, it is important to create a relationship with our customers whether they are Italian or foreign, which is the reason why many of our customers are third generations. Furthermore, for us the relationship with them is something exclusive, when we sell a jewel, we hope that the emotion we felt in creating it will be transmitted to the wearer”. Elisa concludes by comparing the jewel to a child, “just as the love for a child, there is love behind all our jewels and, for this reason, we really want this love to make its path through someone else”.
The generosity of this thought strikes me. We are no longer talking about jewelry but something that goes far beyond. Elisa tells me: “I like to give back to others what I received”. On the occasion of the 115th anniversary of the foundation of the Company, it has been established a prestigious award, the Armando Piccini award Heritage for The Future, for young designers who want to get in contact with this world. “To me, young people represent the future, in all sectors, not just ours. The belief in young people is something that has always been part of us. Uncle Armando had an external laboratory where he taught goldsmith techniques to young boys, thus passing on his profession. I set up this award not only to give continuity to this heritage, craftsmanship and mastery, but also to give young people the opportunity to get closer to this world. I personally believe that this job can give them the opportunity, if they approach it with passion, to pull out a job that can fill the eyes and the soul, beyond that doing something beautiful, not only for their selves but also for others”.
I ask Elisa how Fratelli Piccini keeps on doing the creation process. She replied that the inputs come from Laura and Elisa, “but each of us puts his/her own idea. We all have a different way of feeling and interpreting a jewel. Thanks to the combination our feelings and our passion, every jewel was born “. This is leadership for me, a quote from Saint Exupery comes to my mind “if you want to build a boat, do not gather men to cut wood, divide the tasks and give orders, but teach them the longing for the nostalgia and infinite sea”. Right after this thought, I met Carlotta, a professional goldsmith, who grew up in the Fratelli Piccini atelier, where she learned the most refined goldsmith techniques. I ask her what it means to work for Fratelli Piccini, on Ponte Vecchio, in front of the Arno river. “Being surrounded by beauty is a source of every-day inspiration, works of art enter our collections because they are already perfect by their owns. Also, the proximity to the river, which is perceived both in the laboratory and in the atelier is important. The water that flows is in itself an inspiration, like the monuments that reflect on the river, creating indefinite forms”. Elisa supervises the creative process and shows me a brooch with an aquamarine that it seems it was found in nature. “We start from the stone; the preciosity depends on their uniqueness and the valuable frame we create to enhance it.” I take the brooch in my hand, the skills with which the frame was created are exceptional, I look at the color of the stone at the window with the background of the Arno, the jewel really becomes one with the flowing water. Chika, at the stones counter, is weighing diamonds and precious stones of all colors. The most beautiful for me, a very rare paraiba tourmaline on which Fratelli Piccini built a titanium floral ring that will soon be part of the Piccini One collection.
From the laboratory I move to the jewelry shop and I meet Mrs. Laura, an elegant, distinguished woman with a strong charisma, just like Elisa. Mrs. Laura Piccini is the only jeweler in the world to whom, during the international exhibitions of the most important stones and jewels, suppliers give the possibility to keep the stones until the following day, in order to allow Mrs. Laura Piccini to look at them in the sunlight and then decide if they will be part of the Fratelli Piccini collection. These stones will be set in the jewels, which will soon become unique pieces.
I ask Mrs. Laura where her passion for the jewelry world was born.
“The passion was transmitted to me by my grandfather, the seventh of seven brothers, who grew up in the Settepassi atelier in Florence. After many years spent in the laboratory, where he had been watching the techniques, his teacher asked him to demonstrate what he had learned. He had created the diadem for Queen Elena and then, when he was 23, he decided to go on his own. My passion also comes from uncle Armando: he was a great expert of precious stones and he always took me with him when he was choosing them. Uncle Armando had no children and the relationship I had with him was a very special and unique one. – this is the gift he gave me for my wedding”. Mrs. Laura shows me a necklace with an emerald engraved by hand by Armando. A piece of art, unique, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, whose description would be reductive.
Our meeting ends with a beautiful image, Mrs. Laura is sitting at her desk, the diamonds she wears shine like her eyes, and she puts a precious necklace on the future of Fratelli Piccini: Elisa.
Today, Fratelli Piccini has a central importance in the world of the true excellence in fine jewelry, that is increasingly sought after as it has become extremely rare. In an industry dominated by numbers, schemes and driven by the business laws, Fratelli Piccini keeps seeking beauty, protecting techniques capable of bringing high jewelry closer to art and passing it on to young people. There is not only history, know-how, but something deeper that generations have passed through from the founder to date. A fine thread, a golden thread that joins the beauty in the soul and in the passion.
Thank you Fratelli Piccini.