I am in Ravenna, the city of Byzantine mosaics. The place where Dante Alighieri ‘s remains rest and where, because of its great beauty, the Romans have built the Imperial Headquarter in 402.
Today I meet Marco Gerbella, famous jeweler for having created the most sought-after pieces of fine jewelry for the ladies of the city, but not only. Marco Gerbella over the years has managed to intercept a trend, a silent need expressed by many people, but that had not yet been understood: the gold jewel, starting from a thread, which conveys an emotion. The story of Marco Gerbella is not an ordinary one, it is the story of a professional navigator who applied the logic of the sea to his way of doing business and being a leader. He has been able, with more than forty years of experience in the goldsmith sector, to distribute, in few years, from his laboratory to the most prestigious jewelers in all parts of Italy. Quoting Leonardo Da Vinci, excellence this time strips itself of the superfluous and becomes the highest refinement.
How was your passion born?
First of all, I am very lucky because I had the gift of curiosity and passion. I have never wanted to do anything other than what I have always done and what I do. My passion was born when I was a child at school, observing the jewels of the teachers, I dreamed of being able to realize them one day. So, when I was 14, I started working in a goldsmith’s shop where I learned the basics, everything that allows you to bend a wire, weld it, shape a slab or a piece of gold. Growing up, passions were becoming greater. I madly loved the fine jewelry and the great masters. My lab is full of books dedicated to them. The goal was to work in a large atelier and so it was. I worked for very important companies as a pattern maker, until one day I thought I could create my own workshop. Given my passion for the sea, which I could not give up, I chose Ravenna as my city. This is where the laboratory was born in 1994. In this laboratory we initially made high-end jewelry for private customers. Then in 2007 we opened a jewelry store in the center, because the flow of the public began to hinder the routine of the laboratory. Inside that jewelry, the sensations, that in 2014 made us take the path of “Piccole Gioie”, were born. There was a gap between the jeweler and the young audience, scarcely involved. Humbly, we sought a solution to respond to this desire for our city. Furthermore, this experience made us realize that this gap also existed outside our city.
In this way “Piccole Gioie” was born, the line of gold jewelry made with the Heart. A small precious gold thread, which creates an emotion.
Yes, the idea of “Piccole Gioie” was born without a managerial plan or a project, just a dream: at the base of this project there was simply what goes in the opposite direction to the business. After 40 years of work at the counter, I was excited by the ring with the heart made through a golden thread rather than the big jewel, because I felt the need to excite an audience who was getting excited and loved, young people. Even today it is still the same for me.
Why did you choose young people as the target audience?
I like young people because they are curious and able to get excited. “Piccole Gioie” wants to convey to them that emotion they are looking for. When we started making beautiful jewelry for the ladies of the city, I realized that we were neglecting a young, curious and lively audience, which, instead, together with the existence of a different desire, was already understood by the clothing sector. Sometimes, the pressure of the business tries to get us away from emotions, but instead we need to speak the language of these young people, trying to understand what they like. There is a strong need for this emotion. Thus, “Piccole Gioie” became not only the answer to the search for an emotion, but also the response to the curiosity of young people. In fact, the purpose of “Piccole Gioie” is also to educate this young audience to beauty. A young girl who buys a “Piccole Gioie” ring will develop a taste that, perhaps, one day, will also lead her to collect diamonds. “Piccole Gioie” becomes an initiation into the world of jewelry, for those who get excited.
The emotion in the atelier is evident. It is not a coincidence that Marco Gerbella chose the heart as a symbol. Why?
We are the heart. It is first of all a line that has always existed and that we have reinterpreted giving it a form. To me, the heart is a symbol of generosity. To me, it also represents a desire for emancipation from luxurious things. It is more difficult to convey an emotion with a small thing, small but precious. To us, making a heart is an emotion every time, and it is that emotion that we want to convey to people.
I personally think that Marco Gerbella’s greatness is expressed not only by his very unique vision as an entrepreneur, but also by his sense of gratitude to the people who had surrounded him and who still surround him: his collaborators and his teachers. When I ask Marco’s collaborators what it means to work in the atelier, they tell me that they feel proudly part of a team, focused on the work and the emotion.
At work we spend 70% of our lives – Marco tells me – it was unthinkable for me to face the open sea without a crew of which I could trust blindly and who shared with me the idea of going together to the other side of the sea. Some girls work with me from the beginning, others have joined our crew. When they arrive in the atelier, they immediately feel this vein. I think this is a great value, because it allows us to work not in a simple way, but in a beautiful way, if we love each other.
Everything we have done and what we do would not be possible if we were not all together. I produce ideas, but all the others follow me, and this is the most beautiful thing. There are ten girls in my team and my brother who has always supported me. I have a sense of gratitude that I always show towards them. Like in a sailboat, even in a company, all the roles are fundamental. I’m at the helm because I know where the boat has to go, but reaching the goal is only possible if everyone contributes with his/her own role.
What do you remember about your Masters?
The most valuable memory of my first Master, with whom I worked for eleven years, is the day he told me that I could no longer work with him, that I had to hoist the sails and sail further. He realized that I had qualities and attitudes too high for his small laboratory. He was the one preparing me for the large companies. For this reason, even after many years, I feel a sense of deep gratitude towards him. I also remember the great companies in Valenza where I worked and where they left me the space to express myself. Another memory goes to Giuseppe Marotto. I worked in his atelier in Casale Monferrato after years of experience in the great Valencian companies. Giuseppe Marotto was also a true Master for me. His atelier was a beautiful place. He was a musician, painter, goldsmith, built violins, loved photography. He taught me to always look for beauty. From him I learned that the goldsmith’s workshop had to be beautiful, it had to be a real atelier, enriched by your history and the history of your jewels. Beauty is what surrounds us and if we do not surround ourselves with beauty it is unthinkable to create beautiful things. Today, I think that looking for beauty in everything we do is the engine.
What does excellence represent to you?
Excellence is sometimes confused with luxury, sometimes the two things coincide, but sometimes they do not. Luxury jewelry, for example, is often produced in an industrial way. Excellence, on the other hand, is what we do every day, with dedication and skills, with our hands, ideas and time, after many years of research, study and passion.
Marco, your story is an example for many young entrepreneurs. You had the courage to launch yourself into this very successful business project.
What were your fears?
My history is a story of work and dedication, like me there are, perhaps, thousands of artisans who know how to make amazing things, but they may have missed the chance to make many people aware of their initiative. I have started this dream very cautiously; I was terrified even though I had a decade of experience. I have always been afraid, I have never stopped having fears, I wonder if I will always have good ideas, if I will be able to do what I have always done. To me, anxiety and chaos are an ideal condition. They are fundamental. They allow me to ask myself every day if what I did is something I could have done better. Everyday.
Marco creates a heart in gold starting from a thread, with an exceptional mastery. The movements of his hands during the creation process are elegant and clean. They are movements of a master. Without asking me the size of my fingers, he puts the ring in my right ring finger: the measure is perfect: “This is a Little Joy for you”. Suddenly, I understand and live that emotion he told me about. This ring will remain for me a symbol of that dream that drives us to seek beauty, to pursue our ideas without the fear of being passionate about and excited once again.
Before leaving, I ask Marco what role the passion had in his story. « Passion is the engine. It is the passion that animates everything I do; without passion you cannot dream. Passion and dreams are the engine for creation. »
Marco Gerbella gave me the true sense of passion. That thing that is born inside you but to whom you do not know how to give a certain answer: having passion is like loving something, seeing it with the eyes of a child, imagining even what others do not see, something that your inner sensitivity leads you to materialize. Passion means transforming dreams into reality, beauty into harmony and above all giving oneself, with that sense of total involvement, which leads you to feel one thing with the expression of your sensitivity and creativity: unique, always illuminated by a thin gold thread.
Thank you Marco Gerbella.