The A-Z of Jewelry: F is for... Florentine Finish

By Sarah Jordan
Continuing our series exploring the history of jewelry trends, Sarah Jordan looks at a specialist technique known as the Florentine finish.

F or generations, a specialist engraving technique has been passed down from one master craftsperson to the next, leaving it relatively unknown to those outside of traditional Italian workshops. Its beauty reflects decades of Italian artistry, specifically the ability to transform the surface of gold with decorative finishes. Known as the ‘Florentine finish’, this technique creates tiny cross-hatch engraved lines across gold jewelry, watches and, as was especially popular in the 1970s, furniture and light fixtures.

The most traditional Florentine finish is achieved by-hand with a selection of engraving tools. In some cases, these are simply slimline pieces of steel secured to a wooden handle. The finish is challenging for a whole host of reasons, notably the strength required to engrave, the patience and hand-eye co-ordination needed to make each line perpendicular and evenly spaced, and the fact that each line must be of consistent depth to create an even surface texture.

The Florentine finish is purely decorative, which makes the effort that is needed to produce it so extraordinary. What may look like a single engraved line on a piece of jewelry may be three, four or five strokes of the engraving tool. Once this process is complete the gold takes on a matte appearance, more akin to ancient treasure than a contemporary creation.

The Florentine finish refuses to be lost to history. Although not common in 21st century design, it has captured attention in recent years thanks to luxury Swiss watch brand, Audemars Piguet. The 2018 iteration of its iconic women’s Royal Oak is described as ‘Frosted Gold’ because of its Florentine finish. The artist? Carolina Bucci, of course.

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