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The Jeweller's Craft District
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - An extraordinary concentration of businesses with a rate of productive specialisation which has few equals in Italy. These are the elements which immediately spring to mind when describing the industrial district of Valenza Po, in the province of Alessandria, where around 40 percent of the working population are employed in businesses operating in the gold and jewellery sector. It is, in fact, the most important Italian centre, and a worldwide leader in the production of hand-crafted jewellery. The tradition dates back to 1840, when Vincenzo Morosetti began working as a goldsmith. His legacy was taken over by one of his apprentices, Vincenzo Melchiorre, who perfected his craft in Turin and Paris, working under the best jewellers of the time. On his return to Valenza, Melchiorre began high-quality jewellery production, using precious stones from the East. His apprentices subsequently set up on their own, giving rise to an extraordinary proliferation of businesses. In 1850 there were only three companies producing gold jewellery in Valenza; in 1913 they had become 44, with 517 employees, out of a population of 5,000. In 1945 there were around 300. Today, most of the economy of the area of Valenza Po revolves around the production and sale of jewellery, with 1300 companies (of which around 900 dedicated to production and 400 to sales). The predominant type of business is the small company (around 85% of the total), run as craftsmen's workshops, which makes the local products full of creativity and ensures high added value. The overall turnover of the companies in the district is at present 1,550 million euros, of which around 50% is realised on international markets.
A decisive factor in the success of the gold industry in Valenza was the setting-up, in 1945, of the Valenza Goldsmiths' Association. It was created to tackle the serious lack of confidence of the post-war years and lay the foundations for a common production and marketing policy, aimed at transforming Valenza into a united and strong reality, able to compete on international markets. Today, it offers a wide range of services and represents over 700 companies in the Valenza area which, also thanks to the association, represent a leading production centre in the international gold jewellery sector.
Every year, the district uses 30 tonnes of gold and 80% of the precious stones imported into Italy. Among the most common company types are partnerships and limited liability companies, in the majority of cases family-run. They tend to be small, with an average of 5-6 employees per company. Entrepreneurial turnover within the district is also high, indicating intense social mobility. The workforce specialised in gold jewellery production is almost entirely made up of local people. Sub-supply is widespread and characterised by stable and ongoing relationships between customers and suppliers. The district's strong points are a rich heritage of technical and professional know-how, accumulated in a tradition of jewellery production going back over 150 years; the presence of expert workers, whose knowledge is passed on and assimilated directly "on the job"; close relationships between the businesses; and speed in adapting to the demands of the market. We should note the district's highly entrepreneurial nature, an important resource which has permitted the entire production system to mobilise the energies of all sectors of the population, in particular women. In recent years, marketing has become a critical aspect for many small businesses and in particular for craft workshops. For many companies the participation in the sector's national and international trade fairs is almost the only opportunity they have to reach new markets. Thanks to this possibility, since the late 1980s many companies have become leading international jewellery brands.
Area: province of Alessandria
Product specialisation: jewellery
Number of town council districts: 9
Surface area: 50 km2
Number of businesses: 1300
People employed: 7,000
Turnover: 1,550 million euros