By Giorgio Moretti
Roberto Fioravanti’s training may have its roots in Italy, but the earthy rings, cuffs, and pendants laid out in his studio have little in common with the ornate, heavily embellished pieces associated with the country’s jewellery tradition — except for the
meticulous craftsmanship. His textured metals and rough gems appear almost primitive in their raw-edged simplicity — the imperfect, organic forms barely hinting at the touch of a human hand.
MARCO POLO You began working with jewellery fairly young; tell us how you got started and how you realized it was what you wanted to do.
Roberto Fioravanti I have been extremely lucky to have parents who had allowed and encouraged me follow an artisan career. I begun working at 14 as a summer job in the company where my mother was secretary. After that summer I had a talk with my parents and we decided for me to continue apprenticing with an old master, then aged 65, who was a jeweller all his life. It was an amazing opportunity to have had that privilege, to apprentice in Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga in Milano, the epicenter of Italian fashon with some incredibly skilled artisans.
MARCO POLO You say on your website that you use ancient techniques that are nearly extinct, can you tell us more about these, which techniques do you use and the history behind them?
Roberto Fioravanti Today there are very few artists left who still work the precious metals in the old traditional way, starting from the scratch and making their pieces from the beginning to the end, one at a time by sculpting the metal, assembling tiny pieces and detailing even the most intricate corners. This is a really important achievement for me and I strive to make all my pieces from the scratch with the methods I learned while apprenticing in Milan.
MARCO POLO What is slow jewelry?
Roberto Fioravanti In my case, being far from home I still pursue Slow Jewellery by making unique pieces that are hand finished, and as much as I can, by working with my clients and making pieces that are special and exclusive to them, those one-of-a-kind pieces that represent a memento in time, that they can enjoy all through their lives and have fond memories of, and to eventually pass on to your their children and even their grandchildren.
MARCO POLO How would you describe your style? How is your style today different from the classical school of jewellery making?
Roberto Fioravanti You see, when I arrived in Canada I tried to continue making the jewellery I made in Italy but I found it impossible. It was a time of crisis for me, as people were asking me to do create Italian-style jewellery and it really puzzled me that they had expectations for me to represent what Italy was for them. I had to reinvent myself completely. As an artist it was an extremely challenging and stimulating period, and it still is. Canada is such a multicultural country, and I like to attune this idea with each commission by bringing in my technical background but letting lead the emotional and conversational aspects direct my designs. Classical Italian jewellery is based on symmetry and highly polished shiny gold. I like to stray from this paradigm and challenge proportions, as well as by adding deep textures and depth to my pieces.
Maybe that centerpiece prefers to be on the side, maybe the gemstone will reveal her deep personality if it is set in pure gold over textured and darkened silver, and maybe a few small diamonds scattered on the surface will engage the viewer and stimulate their senses.
MARCO POLO How do you come up with your designs? What inspires you?
Roberto Fioravanti I like to start from the gem, I like to imagine listening to it as to how she would like to be presented. With commissions, I meet with the person and talk, and sometimes the idea comes right away, but other times I need some space until the design arises from the words we had exchanged.
MARCO POLO What’s the most challenging part of your work? What is the most rewarding?
Roberto Fioravanti Organization and keeping my workspace tidy are my biggest challenges. The best reward for me is when someone is happy with their new jewel.
MARCO POLO What are some of the materials you use and where do you source them? What do you look for when selecting materials?
Roberto Fioravanti I like to work with reputable gem dealers, good ‘Karma’ materials. I have used all types of precious metals and gems, and I like to make my signature gold colors in gray gold and orange gold, with only high carat of 18 and up. When I select my materials, I always choose durability but I also make pieces with soft stones, delicate gems and even wood, bone or hair.
MARCO POLO How do you balance art and wearability? Where does the future wearer and their style come in? Do you have a target style or customer?
Roberto Fioravanti Wearability and comfort are important to me, and I do my best to create pieces that are enjoyable. Some pieces are meant to be wear worn for a few hours, some for days, and some all the time, like a wedding ring, but all should leave you with a smile on your face, like a good pair of shoes or a contented spouse! Sometimes I make, especially rings, in a size and a design so defined it’s hard to make them without the wearer, but then after sometime the right person arrives and the piece fits perfectly and it is like I made it knowing the person beforehand. My style is quite eclectic – I like simple lines and essential designs that present strong substantial pieces even if they can be quite delicate. My jewels are for people who feel comfortable with themselves, and wearing something unique that is an intended privilege.
MARCO POLO How does Italy, your country of birth, influence your work? Tell us a bit about the country’s jewellery tradition, and where you see yourself within it.
Roberto Fioravanti I am completely Italian, and when I moved to Canada I was already 35, so it’s hard to shake off so much of myself. I was taught to make durable and wearable pieces that express beauty and surprise. I still prefer to keep it that way, and to this extent, I am faithful to that my birth country’s tradition. For the rest, I am like a little star lost in a galaxy, and it is for others to find me in the sky.
MARCO POLO How do you see the craft changing today, and in the future?
Roberto Fioravanti The world has never changed so rapidly as in the last 100 years, and we are losing our past inexorably. In spite of this, I am optimistic for the future of art and craft, as most people will always appreciate works of craft, and more of us want to make things with our hands.
To create with our hands is something magical and deeply rooted in our species. It is one of the things that make us human and we will never part from it because we need beauty in our lives.