Roberto Fioravanti on Precious Metals and Ancient Technique

Roberto Fioravanti 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 jewelry 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.

“There are very few artists left who still work the precious metals in the old traditional way, from scratch, and making their pieces from beginning to end.”

Fioravanti seeks to bring life, personality and individuality to each piece he creates. Making each piece symbiotic to the wearer’s own personality and uniqueness. It has been over 30 years since Fioravanti realized his love and fascination with the malleability of precious metals, and is constantly ‘lost in admiration’ as he forges unique creations. The techniques involved with the creation of each piece are ancient, the embodiment of craftsmanship, which are nearly extinct.

Roberto Fioravanti puts the finishing touches on one of his hand-forged pieces. (Michel Irvine)
Roberto Fioravanti puts the finishing touches on one of his hand-forged pieces. (Michel Irvine)

Fioravanti has been part of Circle Craft for seven years. The Italian-born jeweler has been hand-crafting, hammering, and hand-forging the pieces in his collection in his East Vancouver studio since 1987, but his love affair with the art of jewelry goes back much further — to a studio on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone, where he began his apprenticeship as an eager 15-year-old boy, learning the craft from seasoned old-school master Nonno Gigi.

“When I first arrived in Canada, people would ask me to create Italian-style jewellery, and it really puzzled me that they had expectations for me to represent what Italy was for them”, says Fioravanti. “Classical Italian jewellery is based on symmetry and highly polished shiny gold. I like to stray from this paradigm. Maybe that centrepiece 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”.

Fioravanti describes his work as “slow jewelry”, with each piece being crafted during the metal’s malleable state, using ancient methods with constant innovation in his craft, and inspiration derived from the world around him.

Working with everything from his signature 18k gray and orange gold, to soft stones, wood, even bone and hair, his primary inspiration is the gem, to whom he attributes a female persona. “I like to imagine listening to it, as to how she would like to be presented”, he says. Wearability and comfort are also key factors.

“Some pieces are meant to be 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!”

Roberto Fioravanti creates a polished gold ring as a nod to Italian-style jewelry, made novel with free-flowing forms. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Roberto Fioravanti creates a polished gold ring as a nod to Italian-style jewelry, made novel with free-flowing forms. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Roberto Fioravanti’s textured gold makes the perfect setting for a dramatic azure-hued stone. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Roberto Fioravanti’s textured gold makes the perfect setting for a dramatic azure-hued stone. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Rare gems are at the forefront of Roberto Fioravanti’s designs. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Rare gems are at the forefront of Roberto Fioravanti’s designs. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Delicate pearls meet rugged hammered metal in Roberto Fioravanti's signature twist on tradition. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)
Delicate pearls meet rugged hammered metal in Roberto Fioravanti’s signature twist on tradition. (Eydís Einarsdóttir)

Amidst ever-faster production, Fioravanti dubs his approach “slow jewelry”. He emphasizes his focus on taking the time to create something more than just a wearable accessory: a memento, a family heirloom to be passed down through generations.

“To create with our hands is something magical and deeply rooted in our species”, he says.

“It is one of the things that make us human, and we will never part from it because we need beauty in our lives.”

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