This autumn, one of the pioneers of Italian goldsmiths, the Forlenza family will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its activity with a great event. We at Italian Traditions, who told their story some time ago, are pleased to announce this important goal with them and take you with us to discover the history of this wonderful art.
Window shopping does not just mean browsing through the items on display or admiring their beauty, but sometimes feeding and ritually increasing one’s desires. This is even more true when jewels and precious stones are displayed behind crystal clear windows, handmade for us as unique pieces just like the goldsmith Forlenza does. We have gone one step further and entered into the heart of this activity: the laboratory where, from a simple sketch on a piece of paper, the jewel gradually takes shape materializing in the hands of these skilled craftsmen.
A good 50 years have passed since the day Gianfranco Forlenza opened his “salon” of goldsmith craftsmanship in Via Tagliamento in Rome, near the historic Coppedè district, and today the reins have been passed on to his sons Michele and Alessandro. However, it is still the father Gianfranco who supervises the laboratory and maintains the roots on which the originality, personality and style of a Forlenza jewel are based. It is to him that we ask our first question, driven by the desire to understand how it has been possible to follow trends, resist time and the various economic crises that his country has gone through during these last fifty years.
So, what are the qualities, or talent, that Gianfranco Forlenza recognises most in himself?
“Most of all, I would say stubbornness and curiosity. If I set myself a goal, I will not give up until I have reached it. It is mainly these two qualities that I have gained, during the course of my life, that really matter to me. Also travelling has been very useful; it has enriched me both as a human and professionally. The experiences that I gradually accumulated were brought back somehow to my activity. I still have a vivid memory, for example, of the magnificence of the stones of India, of the hundreds of craft shops in Bangkok, famous for processing of gold and silver. In the 1970s in Italy, I remember how decisive the flourishing period of the fairs of Vicenza was and the emerging realities of their laboratories. Visiting them, I quickly acquired new production techniques and new technologies. The second decade had just begun when the industry was beginning to create the first large-scale production of semi-finished products, which before then were only made by hand. ”
“The greatest ability that my father has is his perspicacity,” echoes Alessandro, nodding at his words. “He has always anticipated trends and fashions even before they happened. He is also meticulous, and this leads him to take extreme care in every detail, an aspect that is fundamental in our work. He is rather solitary, introspective, and when he studies something, he always tries to contextualize it, to get an overall vision. I would say that this is another quality that can make the difference”.
For Michele, instead, his father Gianfranco has always been an inspiration. “I would show him a simple sketch of a jewel that I vaguely had in mind and he immediately sensed where I wanted to go with my idea. He knew it even before I understood it myself.
Michele started out as a designer; he graduated in architecture, and specialized in design but he is also aware that these days the soul of success consists in having a winning commercial strategy. “What always moves me is passion, even though we mainly do work on commission. The area in which I indulge the most are the silver creations, which allow me to create beautiful objects at a low cost. Moreover, I am convinced that quality remains high thanks to the uniqueness of imperfection.
Each jewel is unique and unrepeatable and fortunately there are people who recognize all the commitment we put into it. In this historical period of social media, even our dear old books have retired. Today our production passes almost entirely through Instagram. ”
The passing on of a tradition often occurs without any discontinuity, almost unconsciously, as it was for you. What do you wish for the next Forlenza generation as Italian goldsmiths?
“Personally, I try to convey to my daughter Matilde above all the acquisition of a method, but without ever being schematic” – Alessandro tells me – “You can reach the solution to a problem through more ways than one. Matilde is a sociable, outgoing girl who is passionate about music and art. Together we enjoy taking on many small projects, like making objects, in fact we are currently learning the ancient art of origami which is very useful also for our work. ”
Michele, on the other hand, with his two sons often goes to art shows, which he and his wife are passionate about. “The word art – he explains – in Japanese coincides with the word game. I believe that everything can be learned more willingly by playing, especially when you are still small, but maybe not just as children.”
While we are talking their dad Gianfranco is intent on leafing through some books and shows me two collaborations that everyone is proud of: the restoration of the glyptic collection of carved stones of 1800 commissioned by Emperor Francis I of Austria for Pope Pius VII entrusted to him by the Superintendent to the cultural assets of the Vatican, and a collaboration with the Astrophysics laboratory of the La Sapienza University of Rome which saw them engaged in the production of pure gold balls used for a satellite in orbit in order to allow the measurement of meteorological variations.
We leave them and their Italian goldsmiths lab in via Tagliamento with our hearts and minds full of beauty. A beauty embellished by the harmony of teamwork. Happy anniversary from all of us