Students in SACI’s Jewelry Class visit Fratelli Piccini, the last goldsmith on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
Fratelli Piccini, still a family-run shop after four generations, was founded by goldsmith artisan Pirro Piccini in 1903. The shop is located in the middle of the Ponte Vecchio, almost directly across from the monument to Benvenuto Cellini, a renowned Italian sculptor and goldsmith. From 1442 to 1593, the bridge housed butcher shops, from which waste was tossed into the river. To clean up the area, they were ordered to vacate, and the spaces were subsequently occupied by goldsmith shops, of which only Fratelli Piccini remains.
During the visit, our students had the opportunity to meet the Fratelli Piccini staff and view pieces from the vault in the ground-floor showroom, as well as prized pieces from the family collection housed on the second level. On the third floor, they were led to a room with original design drawings on the walls, a private balcony overlooking the Arno River, and the last active goldsmith workshop left on the Ponte Vecchio, where they met jewelry designer and goldsmith Carlotta Gambineri.
The workshop, full of tools, antique machinery, and molds from Piccini’s archive, is located directly below the famous, yet secretive, Vasari Corridor. Though creations are made by hand, most of the Piccini collections are produced off-site due to space constraints and fire codes.
Fratelli Piccini: A Florentine Gem
Fratelli Piccini has excelled and endured much throughout its history. The family business was awarded first prize at the Biennale di Venezia of 1936; survived the World War II bombs that spared only the Ponte Vecchio; won the International Diamond Award of 1958 in New York and 1959 in Buenos Aires; combated the flood of 1966 when the Arno river rose into the shop; exhibited a retrospective in 1993 with the donation of 14 hand-carved stones to the city of Florence, today housed in the Tesoro dei Granduchi silver museum at the Pitti Palace; restored the famous painting La Carità by Antonio del Pollaiolo in 2003; and exhibited collectors’ watches in the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio in 2013.
Continuing the family’s goldsmith tradition of craftsmanship and creativity is founder Pirro Piccini's great-granddaughter and G.I.A. gemologist, Elisa Tozzi Piccini, now the CEO of Fratelli Piccini. Keeping contemporary and active in the community, Elisa leads the company in collaborations with different foundations and associations on a regular basis. In 2018, the first edition of a young jewelers’ competition, the Armando Piccini – Heritage for the Future scholarship award (named after the uncle of Elisa Tozzi Piccini), was launched to support up-and-coming jewelry designers.
Discover more about Fratelli Piccini in this interview with Elisa Tozzi Piccini by Firenze Yes Please.
Learn more about the Jewelry Design course at SACI.