We spent two days at Bvlgari’s new state-of-the-art Manifattura—the most significant jewelry making workshop in Europe—located between Milan and Turin in Valenza, one of Italy’s largest and most historical gold-making capitals. On a property once owned by Francesco Caramora (who in the 1800s developed the foundation for the city’s gold-making tradition), the property includes Caramora’s original farmhouse “Cascina dell’Orefice,” which anchors the compound. Fully renovated, it now serves as offices and meeting spaces and is complemented by a new glass atrium. The Cascina connects to the rest of the 14,000 square meter Manifaturra, which features 18 jewelry-making workshops, two training workshops, along with everything else needed to turn raw materials into fine jewelry—all handmade by talented Italian artisans.
Bvlgari uses the “lost wax” method to make their jewelry. Each component of every product starts out from a mold, which is filled with plastic. The plastic components are cleaned, prepared and assembled on a “tree” with as many fitting as possible in the cylinder, which is then filled with a plaster and hardened in a kiln. When cooled, the cylinders are placed into the casting machine into which gold or other metal pellets are inserted, melted and cast—the metal replacing the plastic to form the component for each jewelry item. The cylinder is than placed in a water bath and the plaster is removed, leaving the now solid gold tree. Then each piece is clipped off and sent to be organized into trays containing all of the components—jewels, metal, etc—which are delivered to one of the studios. There, the jewelry-makers, stone-setters, polishers and other artisans create each piece by hand. Afterwards, each piece receives its markings with a laser-etching machine, and the workshop’s quality control manager inspects each creation to ensure it’s been perfectly made.
Creating the new facility not only allowed Bvlgari to bring together the activities and people from many separate facilities, it also allowed them to install the best and most efficient equipment, to integrate solar power, water filtration and reclamation and other CSR initiatives. In fact, the Manifattura will be LEED certified. It’s unique outer “skin” protects the building both literally but also from the region’s sunny days, helping keep it cool. A large interior courtyard provides welcome sunlight into the offices and workshops.
As process nerds we love seeing how things are made, and spending some time with the remarkable artisans and workshop staff was not only informative, but also inspiring.
Photos by Evan Orensten