Italian jewelers used to dominate the world markets, but due to competitive low-cost rivals in China, India and Turkey, they have seen a downturn in their market share this past decade.
A few years ago, jeweler Lucio Prestini began to reproduce traditional Italian lace designs in gold, using lasers to create elaborate earrings and necklaces. His company, Neonero, sells the pieces priced at 2,000-5,000 euros. Today, his designs have captivated consumers from Hong Kong to Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where Neonero has exceeded the current production.
"We have managed to unite the tradition of lace, with the memories and emotion that it evokes, with technological innovation," Prestini said.
Others, like goldsmith Fratelli Bovo, use sintering laser melting to fuse layers of gold powder. And Tecnigold, the leading Italian producer of machine-makes gold chains, using the lasers to process automation to reduce cost.
"We have to follow the market," Paolo Piotto, chief executive of Tecnigold, told Reuters.
Since consumers have become more price-conscious, Tecnigold has halved the weight of its gold chains to 2.5 grams on average. Gold prices have been rising for the past 11 years and none of the goldsmiths expect them to decrease anytime soon.
Not all Italian jewelers have reached for innovative laser techniques for market gain; some have revised earlier styles and designs while others have started to use alternative metals, like steel and bronze.
[ Via Reuters]
Photo courtesy: Neonero