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Sophia Markoulakis | Photo: Sara Rey | May 16, 2018
Davide Bigazzi's Menlo Park jewelry studio brings Florentine craft to a cutting-edge setting.
The first thing you notice when you step inside Davide Bigazzi’s namesake jewelry studio is the antique tools that cover the walls. Nestled inside one of a cluster of Spanish Colonial cottages that make up Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park—a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovation—his tiny showroom and workspace evokes a yin-yang vibe: “These old tools are in contrast with the high-tech world of Silicon Valley,” Bigazzi says of his beloved instruments that not only help create his modern custom jewelry, but also support the budding jewelers who pop in and out of his space throughout the day for lessons.
Bigazzi, who is a master goldsmith and highly sought after for his chasing and repoussé skills—a technique that involves manipulating metal to form a high and low relief design—was once someone’s protégé. Now, after an established career as a studio jeweler in Florence, Italy, it’s his turn to nurture the creative dreams of others. Having spent the majority of his career working alone, he’s relishing the opportunity to teach. He explains that he feeds off his pupils’ energy and interest. Some come for one session and realize they aren’t cut out for melting and shaping metals; then there are those who get addicted to the process. And, yes, at times, he admits, “I become a therapist too.” In addition to one-on-one and small-group tutelage (three-hour session from $110), students can sign up for monthly three-day workshops in chasing and repoussé. Every summer Bigazzi and his business-partner wife, Elisa, also offer two six-night immersive jewelry-making experiences in Tuscany. The farmhouse they rent is near their studio, and every morning, students walk through a Chianti vineyard to get to work. Meals are included, and nights tend to linger late over food and wine, punctuated by the occasional quest to catch fireflies by the light of the moon.
Many of Bigazzi’s students start out as customers, having bought something for themselves or received one of his baubles as a gift. The affable Italian loves custom work and says that “a piece of jewelry has to tell a story.” His handcrafted designs are like wearable art, and his metal distortion and textural technique aid that story. “The metal is equally as important as the stone,” he observes. “They work harmoniously.” Bigazzi adds that he has more freedom here—in Silicon Valley—to create modern, cutting-edge jewelry. “It’s hard to be contemporary in Italy,” he says. “Every day, you walk by these ancient buildings; you always feel like you have to live up to these Renaissance greats.”
Visit Bigazzi’s website to sign up for Menlo Park classes and monthly workshops, as well as Tuscany summer workshops.
Originally published in the April/May issue of Silicon Valley