You might not be a huge history buff, but staying in Florence will definitely turn you into one, as long as you’re a hoper of far-flung hopes. On a field trip to a goldsmiths’ laboratory, which we were visiting to find out about the traditional Florentine jewellery-making processes, we also discovered a new passion for all things history! Here’s how it happened.
Our swift tour through history starts as early as 3500 years ago, when the Etruscan tribes lived on the hills that surround Florence. They crafted a simple design of interlinked metal circles, that is still popular today. When the Romans invaded Tuscany and conquered the Etruscan tribes, they simply fell in love with this charming design. Like all great conquerors do, they incorporated this design into their own fashions, accidentally preserving it for humanity.
The next stop on our timetravels is the Renaissance – this is when the Medici family gathered all goldsmiths in the building we are in. We are shown all the steps involved in the making of a very intricate gold cuff encrusted with jewels. This is what the rich Florentine ladies wore back in the day, and still do today! A private client brought in her antique pearls to have the design of her necklace freshened up… The final design relied heavily on the very technique used by the goldsmiths of the Medici era.
Finally, we admire the modern designs, and the Fiorino coin made into a ring catches our eye. Riding high on our enthusiasm for all things shiny, we accidentally learn about the importance of the Medici bank, which provided Europe with its first shared currency – the fiorino – before the discovery of the Americas. Today, it is used as a symbol of Florence and a reminder of the city’s glorious past, as well as a lucky charm.
Nerdi Orafi’s philosophy is to preserve the traditional methods used in the local area since the Iron Age, so when the goldsmith shows us the process of making the interlinked circles of the Etruscan necklace, we actually witness something that the Etruscan tribes thought of all these millenia ago. I don’t know about you, but to us it felt like a 900-years-of-time-and-space kind of moment.
Alexis Manes hails from Kansas State University where she majors in Art Education and is pursuing a minor in Classical Studies as well as a Coaching Endorsement. She is passionate about helping people find their creativity and pursue their own passions. After graduation she hopes to teach art to middle- or high-school students. You can find more of her photographs here.