Starting 1980, Filippo Villa has been following the family path founded by the outstanding master goldsmith and excellence craftsman Benvenuto Villa in 1876. The tradition is now being continued through the exclusive models created by the very best team of craftsmen in town. In 1995, Filippo Villa decided to become the first goldsmith reintroducing the use of cufflinks, which had first enteredthe history of costume in the 18th century and had been forgotten along the last 20 years. Thanks to his skills, passion and undeniable savoir-faire, in 2018 Villa has been awarded the Fondazione Cologni’s Prize MAM-Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere.
Please, tell us your story.
When I was just a little boy, a tram driver asked me what I wanted to become once I would grow up. In those years, the most popular reply was “to be a cosmonaut”. I was obviously an outsider and replied I wanted to be a jeweller. I was quite a lively child and a wild teenager, so, when I was 16, I was expelled from college and sent to Canada to learn English. When I came back from my “exile” I started working in the laboratory as an apprentice and as a delivery boy for the jewellery shop. I attended the GIA-Gemological Institute of America and, in 1978, I became the first Italian gemmologist. When I came back home, I proved to be a knowledgeable jeweller, well aware of the market price outside Milan and provided with the necessary savoir-faire for this trade which brought me in touch with our clients.
When it comes to Nature or craftsmanship, we are always talking about something original: each piece we create in our laboratory is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece.
Most of our clients have been with us for a long time. Generations are changing, but we are always here, we have been in this place for nearly 50 years.
Which is your source of inspiration?
I have collected, perused, studied, memorised, and absorbed all the major auction catalogues from the 1950s on. Since then, they have been my library, and represent my historical memory. I was inspired by objects from the past: Louis Cartier was my reference, in fact the first book I devoured was his biography by Hans Nadelhoffer. Like anyone else, at first I did not have a style of my own, I admired Bulgari and designed on the basis of my father’s projects. I went on travelling to imbibe different styles, trends and techniques: now, I can say I have refined my technique and the Filippo Villa “line” is now recognised and appreciated.
What are the steps for designing, planning and realising a jewel?
Quite often, the stones themselves suggest the way the jewel will be born: we are guided by our hearts, by the emotion inspired by its colour, special cut and depth. Only rarely do we have a precise idea of what we are going to create. Sometimes, the gems need to “settle” in a safe until ideas are ripe, on other occasions, the urge of designing prevails and a mere sketch is enough for our trained laboratory to create exactly what I aimed at. A stone’s soft cut suggests a sinuous frame, a squared one recalls something geometric. On other occasions, instead, inspiration comes from nature, architecture, fashion, from objects at an auction, or a mere glance into our drawers of historical patterns, which are then revisited in a modern key. In this case we look for the right stone, apt to become the protagonist of the idea and our laboratory will do the rest and deliver the magic.
What is originality for you? What are the requirements of an original jewel?
When it comes to Nature or craftsmanship, we are always talking about something original: each piece we create in our laboratory is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece. No two identical stones are found in Nature nor will an identical pattern crafted by two different goldsmiths ever be the same. The work of an artisan is unique and unrepeatable. A jewel created by a man’s hand, just because it is not perfect, can arouse a totally different emotion, and will always be less cold than a replicable, flawless industrial object.
What kind of clients do you cater for?
Most of our clients have been with us for a long time. Generations are changing, but we are always here, we have been in this place for nearly 50 years. I think this comforts people, makes them feel at home. They know they can find an emotion, create their own jewel from scratch as if they were in a tailor’s shop. Milan’s clients are evolving, now the children of clients who were talking to me years ago ask about my granddaughters, who take care of the shop. There’s a connection that transcends the buying experience and, quite often, even if they are just passing by, they come in just to say hello and have a few words. We also have foreign clients who are attracted by fashion, by design, art, confirming that Made in Italy is always alluring.