Atelier of haute joaillerie

In the heart of milan, Villa is an Atelier that tailors jewels: excellence expressed in unique designs and the most precoius gems.

At the junction of two of Milan’s main fashion thoroughfares lies a well-concealed yet thriving business. Even those who think they know every corner of the city might be forced to think again. Far from indiscreet eyes, it shines with a light of its own. It creates culture. It boasts a tradition dating back over a century and gives the gift of pleasure. Its DNA is strictly Italian, but the atmosphere inside is more reminiscent of a Parisian atelier. Because this is where haute couture jewellery is made. Welcome to the atelier of Villa jewellers, where every idea is made priceless. A tireless forge of creativity, where execution is the essential value of an aesthetic approach that reaches peaks of perfection.
One moves glibly amidst the most precious gems in the world: diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, tourmalines, peridots and lapis lazuli, to name but a few. The nonchalance with which the master artisans (four jewellers, one stone setter and one who does both) handle and pass these gemstones from hand to hand is surprising. Given their value we are more used to viewing them with a certain amount of reverential awe. Yet for them they hold no secrets; they reveal themselves in all their simplicity, and their intimate essence inspires the creativity of Filippo Villa. For in fact he is the one who designs structures, lines and profiles that exalt the beauty of each gemstone to the full, producing incredible pieces of haute joaillerie which have made this Milanese shop a reference point for true connoisseurs. He is the one who conducts the orchestra of the atelier’s master artisans, who – on the floor just above – mix and mould the precious materials in the right proportions, so that the final result is the perfect combination of the aesthetic concepts of balance and harmony.

The jewellers work with the gold, the alloys of which are produced in the atelier itself. Its identification code is 49 Mi, one of the oldest in Italy. They also work with platinum and, at times, iridium. All of them are shaped and formed and turned into the soul of the jewels, the setting that will at first receive the gemstones, and then become virtually invisible. The height of style is to make the structure as light as possible, almost airy. “Engineering at its purest state,” says Filippo Villa, “and the day we will manage to do without gold and platinum and use gemstones only, that will be a great day…”  The jewellers shape the gold and prepare the structure where the gemstones will be set. It is easy to make out what will soon become a dazzling pavé. The unit of measure is as minute as one hundredth of a millimetre, and precision is of paramount importance. The jeweller then passes the structure to the setter, who secures the jewel on a plaster support and, with a very steady hand, adapts the holes to the carat size of the different stones and earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets will start to glow. A ring studded with gemstones requires around 50 hours of work, half by the jeweller and half by the setter. A pair of gem-studded earrings can require up to 250 hours of work. Two techniques are used to set the stones; one secures them with small prongs, the other consists in pressing down the metal around the gems to render it invisible. The craftsman’s skill requires the utmost attention; at times one stone alone takes 20 minutes to set, and the real proof of the master’s skill is always the final result. The product must shine evenly, the light must be uniform, otherwise it means that not all the gemstones have been set in a way that respects the shape of the piece of jewellery. Then it goes back to the jewellers, who use files for the finishing touch, removing impurities with surgical precision, without touching the stones.

This very quest for perfection becomes a stimulus within the Villa atelier. Nothing is improvised here, everything is conceived to ensure that the finished jewel is perfect and harmonious. It is not hard to perceive the passion that drives the five artisans, the gestures of which are well calibrated, revealing great skill and experience. Years of training with a veteran of the profession has allowed them to attain levels of knowledge in a profession that has all the right credentials to be called a métier d’art. Fabio, the boss, Mauro, his brother, Alice, the only woman and a specialist in cufflinks, Marco the stone setter and Ivanov, who works on various fronts, consider themselves very lucky to know the secrets of the Villa atelier’s mine of creativity. A niche atelier, and one that boasts its own in-house wrokshop: “It’s the only way you can have everything under control, including creativity, style and quality. Our workshop combines beauty and excellence,” explains Filippo Villa. A workshop where every prototype further enhances the already sizeable archive: “In the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, my father produced plaster moulds of the jewels he had just made, so he could keep a record of all the work he had done. Today they provide a constant source of inspiration for us. It is just the same as fashion; everything comes around again, clearly reworked and up-dated according to the trends and materials of the moment.” Thus the pieces that have written the history of designer jewellery and whose uniqueness has made the difference are preserved for posterity. The sartorial nature of the jewels results in gems that are made-to-measure, ensuring they are one-offs. It is easy to see an attempt at immortalising the image of perfection in a resin cast. The perfection of Gioielleria Villa.