13 Jun Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana
Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana
Today the Grand Tour brought me to a School of excellence: the Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana. The School was born in 1995 from the idea of its founder, Luca Solari, of creating a place of high education, linked to the world of gold and jewelry. Thus, in this way, the first goldsmith School in Milan was born, driven by Luca Solari’s foresight and interest in learning and then spreading the most important techniques of the jewelry. The School represents a story of excellence, a successful business case, that actually is still in the same place, in Milan, in Via Tadino 30, where it was born. Today, there are even other equally relevant sites: the one in Via Tortona 26, managed by Guido Solari and a branch office, the SOA (Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana) LAB & FACTORY, in Via Savona 20, which provides students and alumni with a co-working space with equipment and tools at economical prices. The Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana, from 1995 to date, has not only grown in Milan; the knowledge that it transmits to students, has made it international, attracting students from all the continents of the globe.
I have the pleasure to meet Luca Solari. Being able to interview him and get to know his vision more closely is a great learning opportunity.
What was the event that led you to the foundation of the School?
The School was founded in 1995 and it was born in these places, that today have almost double in terms of surface. At that time, in Milan there was no jewelry School, to me this was astounding, considering that Milan has been the cradle of great jewelers. It is also the home city of fashion, increasingly interconnected with accessories and jewelry. When I felt the curiosity to learn the most refined goldsmithing techniques, I decided to look for a school to enroll in, but, unfortunately, I discovered that there were no such schools in a city so important with more than one million inhabitants.
Where does your passion for the world of jewelry come from?
Since I was a boy, my favorite store was the hardware store. I have always loved bricolage, delighting myself with leather, wood, metals that could be worked without the use of large tools. For a person passionate of manual work, like me, a possible solution was to get in contact with places where the excellence of manual techniques is present. Hence, the jewelry represented, and certainly still represents, the tip of the iceberg among manual workings. In fact, not only it requires extremely sophisticated manufacturing, but it works with precious materials.
How does the educational offer of the School look like?
The School has two locations that offer goldsmith courses and one a co-working branch, offering students and alumni the opportunity to practice. The School has diverse offers of courses and aims at addressing different possible groups of people: people interested in knowing and learning the techniques related to the world of jewelry as a hobby, interested students who attend courses in view of a profession. The courses are inspired by the demand of large companies; created, therefore, based on the labor market requests. Every year, on average, one hundred people enroll to the School, while many other students, who attended the School the previous year or years, decide to rotate different courses.
What is the characteristic of the School that differentiates it from other schools?
The School invests heavily in training, safety and comfort. The rooms are spacious and airy. The idea is that only when you feel good you can give the best of yourselves. We choose our collaborators with great attention, based not only on their profound experience but also on their ability to pass it on to students. There are few students followed by each teacher, this allows to guarantee an excellent education.
I believe that the strength of the School is to offer practical laboratory courses. The School is not dedicated to speculative arts, it is purely practical. It is a great laboratory where you learn to work with your hands, working precious materials and ending with the production of goldsmith and jewelry objects. The greatest satisfaction is being able to follow the whole process: we start from the raw material to the finished piece to wear.
Where does students come from? Is there a predominant nationality?
The students of the School come from all continents. Over the years there have been oscillations between East, West and Center. Currently, Italian students represent the predominant nationality but, referring to foreign citizens, there is a strong attendance from the Far East, from China, Japan and then much from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union. The team that comes from South America is also important because of the great South American jewelry tradition. If you look at the map, we can see that the students come from all continents to New Zealand.
– I look at the map of the world that marks with flags the origin of each student. It is fantastic to think that what has been transmitted inside the School, where I am now, is spread all over the world. –
What is the characteristic you are looking for in a product of handcrafted jewelry?
Excellence. I always tell my students to seek excellence in any process they do. Sometimes it is thought that excellence is something that only few people can reach, that involves pain and fatigue; in reality, this research concerns only the first times. Certainly, at the beginning, it requires time, dedication, sacrifice, but then it begins to permeate our spirit. It is something that we acquire, and we will make it ours and we will grasp from everyone else.
It is 4 pm, suddenly the bell rings, the School becomes a crowd of students, every one of them runs to his desk. I observe the students who start working immediately with great dedication, as if each of them could not more wait to sit on the bench again.
I walk among them, supported by the professional teachers of the School. – “When you file you have to hold your body over the object, you are very good!” I hear the teacher instructing a new student during the filing process of a ring.
The air is crisp, the students are very concentrated, there is a great silence and the only sounds that can be heard are those of the hammer, the welding machine and the file.
A student is creating a bracelet entirely perforated by hand with oriental floral motifs. I ask her how many hours it will take before she finishes it and she replies: “it will take many hours, but I never asked myself how many, maybe because I really like doing it.”
Their curiosity is stimulating, I let them explain all the techniques. Each of them proudly tells me about the process he/she is completing.
Luca Solari moves among the desks looking at students’ works. Then he shows me the process that leads to the casting of the raw metal and the creation of an ingot. “It starts right from here, and this process is the same that was done since the ancient Egypt days.” It is exciting to see the raw metal that melts into an ingot that will soon give life to jewelry created by students’ hands, minds and hearts.
Before leaving, I asked Luca one last thing. – At the moment there is a growing demand for highly specialized figures in the sector. According to a recent study of Altagamma, the luxury industry and, in particular, the big Made in Italy brands are looking for highly specialized professionals. According to this analysis, from now until 2023 there will be around 236 thousand missing technicians in the different industries of the Made in Italy: food, automotive, nautical, hospitality, including design and jewelry. What do you think about it?
It is a very hot and highly debated topic. The manufacturing industry is increasingly looking for specialized workers who are very rare and difficult to find and, in proportion much lower than the demand. All large manufacturing companies complain about the lack of specialized young staff, and companies operating in the gold and jewelry field are even experiencing enormous increases in turnover.
It has always been thought that the world of work was something demeaning compared to the world of study, but today it is not so. A specialized boy must have skills similar to those of a graduate. Deciding to specialize in the gold and jewelry field today is like deciding to graduate from a university because the competences of a skilled artisan are comparable to those of a graduate. The demand for labor is very high and we cannot meet this demand. But you need to be well prepared and to have an excellent education. I personally invite all the students to consider the possibility of starting a high-level artisan training course because it can give very strong prospects to enter the world of work.
Luca Solari has opened a very important theme, according to which I present my brief reflection, being a millennial.
Short reflection – Young Italians today
As a millennial, I can tell you that we, young people, often hear that we have been very unlucky, because we are the generation most impacted by the biggest economic and financial crisis, after the one of 1929. But this is not what we want to hear.
We are young people of a present full of opportunities. We have energy and desire to learn, to improve, to express ourselves, to give our best and we do not intend to listen to those saying we are unlucky. We have the great opportunity to choose whether to study or work according to our interests, much more than our parents could. Back to some years ago it was demeaning not to have an academic degree, but today becoming a craftsman has the same educational and social value. We, young people, are ready to believe this, but are the society and the country ready to believe it?
The statistics of Altagamma, Italy compared with Germany and France
In Italy, only the 15% of the registered students choose, at the end of the secondary school, a technical institute, while more than half of the students, after middle school, opt for traditional high schools. Indeed, in Italy, the number of students enrolled in the higher technical institutes is only 10.000, a very small number compared to the students of the equivalent German institutions that reach 880.000, and the French ones that attract 240.000 students.
I believe that these numbers should lead us to reflect just as Luca Solari says and these numbers show. We need to convey to new generations the value and the beauty of the craftsman, the excellent training possibilities and the professional prospects.
If this does not happen, our country will lose its competitiveness and its expressive capacity. But, even more, all of us will have lost.
My desire is to move towards a future that no longer considers the difference between the two categories: graduated young people and skilled craftsmen. People should be only judged according to how they perform their activities, not considering what they are doing. We need to remove the social stereotypes acquired by our culture. However, we need more than this: we should provide information about job prospects that follow a high-level professional training, like the one offered by the Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana and, highly excellent contexts, such this school, should be developed in order to prepare skilled craftsmen who will create jewels in the most important Italian and international Maison.
Today, Luca and Guido offer me a source of great reflection. The Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana represents an excellence in Italy and in the world, not only for the excellence value that perpetuates with its mission and for the preparation it transmits to students, but because it creates an inestimable value for our country.
For this reason, I will not define what Luca, Guido and all the teachers of the School do as a profession, but, instead, as a noble mission.
Thank you Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana.