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.
“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,” says Fioravanti, who has been part of Circle Craft for seven years. The Italian-born jeweller 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 jewellery 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.”
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!”
Amidst ever-faster production, Fioravanti dubs his approach “slow jewellery.” He talks of 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.”