Legend has it that some country folk found bits of gold along the banks of River Pô in Italy. These gold panners were to give birth to a generation of goldsmiths, who continue to practise and expand their craft to this day.
We are in Valenza, a small municipality in the Piedmont region, equidistant from Milan, Genes and Turni. The town has nothing picturesque or touristic. Everyone only comes to know, that too by chance, that the Florentine Benvenuto Cellini worked here. One has to look for someone knowledgeable to take you around to discover the ateliers. At first glance, it appears to be nothing more than a classic residential building. Since Valenza is the city of gold, the hands that sculpt this fine metal are found here, the metal is beaten, spun, shredded, polished, melted, chiselled, engraved, and cut with love by alchemists discreetly.
Don’t think for a second that the captivating power of this expert tradition prevents the local artisans from embracing the future with an appetite. On the contrary, this centre of production is proof of the artisans’ formidable capacity for technical and stylistic innovation, primarily when it comes to the exploration of new materials. Gold was their first love, but it doesn’t just stop there.
It is precisely in this town that the jewels of Vhernier are fashioned. The House was found within those very walls in 1984 by Angela Camurati. It is she who welcomed us into the building that houses the design studios and the conference rooms of the brand. Bright eyed, a warm and friendly smile, Angela—we get the sense immediately—likes an open and honest conversation. “I cannot say that I loved jewels before. I simply created Vhernier as an atelier for goldsmiths because I wanted to bring different creations, less extravagant, less over the top. More in tune with the modernity of our times,” Angela says.
It is true that the jewellery by Vhernier resembles none other, in them one can clearly see the influences of Barncusi, his sense of minimalism and abstraction, along with the work of Lucio Fontana, his powerful and majestic strokes. While the Volta Celeste collection is very striking, thanks to its graceful bends and meticulous setting, the essence of the stars and the magic of their contemplation has been expressed beautifully. The Venezia necklaces, Aladino rings, the Freccia collection and the limited edition series of animal themed brooches offer an absolutely new exploration of colour and transparency. Valenza is not only a city of goldsmiths but also a laboratory where exceptional treasures of jewellery are refined. A maestro played the piano for us when we were saying out goodbyes, surrounded by his polishers (here, men do the setting and women the polishing).
Much like Ali Baba’s cave, we saw sparkle like we’ve never seen before, enhanced by hypnotic colours. The jewellery changes hues, a technique where opaque stones and rock crystals are superimposed. This is how an exquisite shellfish brooch was made of diamonds and rock crystal set over a layer of turquoise, resurrecting the paintings of David Hockney. “We can do everything in Valenza,” say Angela.
The House was bought, in 2001, by Carlo Traglio, who as a collector of art, wanted to give this label, which he had for long admired immensely, new and vigorous image and carry out expansion. Carlo and Angela work hand in hand, taking daily trips between Valenza and Milan. Each creation now carries the stamp of their approval.
The Calla collection, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is an extraordinary example of the craftsmanship of this House. To revisit this famous necklace, the slender motif of which seems to consist a succession of bullets, the creative director exalted the union of ebony and diamond in this piece. He also brought to the fore aluminium and nanoceramics which bring about a rejuvenating chromatic explosion. And every time, this delicate work of numerous hands gives each jewel its own ergonomic characteristic, this smooth velvety finish creates the sensation of a caress every time the piece of jewellery comes in contact with the skin.
Particularly because he loves Vhernier creations, Carlo did not want to change the essence of the house, neither modify its spirit. “If there is one thing that I am certain of, it is that Vhernier jewellery will always be made in Italy, no matter how much that costs,” he confirmed. And after visiting the ateliers of Valenza, we now understand the interest, the goal and the value of Carlo’s decision.