FICALBI e LITTA

History

In 1954 Sergio Ficalbi (1921-1986) and Ettore Litta (n. 1930) founded the firm by the same name with the trademark "630 AL". The headquarters of "Ficalbi and Litta" was in Viale Vicenza at number 14, successively moved to 31.

Sergio Ficalbi was born in Florence in 1921 in a family composed of eight siblings. The first to dedicate themselves to goldsmithing were Baldassarre, called Baldo (1903-1980) and Adolfo Gino (1904-1973), who did their apprenticeship in Florence at the jeweler "Risaliti" on Ponte Vecchio, where they were trained as goldsmiths and box makers. In 1925 Baldassare arrived in Valenza to work for the company "Carlo Illario e F.lli", with which he had come into contact while in Florence; soon afterwards, his brother Adolfo Gino also arrived in Valenza. In 1943 the two brothers Baldassarre and Adolfo Gino founded the company "Ficalbi F.lli". (with trademark "227 AL") specializing in the production of precious boxes. Another brother, whose name was Umberto, started working for "Ficalbi F.lli" as a dealer and around 1950-1951 he moved definitively with his family to Johannesburg, where he opened the jewelry shop "Ponte Vecchio".

After the outbreak of the Second World War and the entry of Italy into the war, Sergio was enlisted and embarked on the Navy destroyer Antonio Pigafetta; after September 8, 1943 he was taken prisoner in Germany as a military internment.  Returned to Italy after the end of the war, in 1946 he arrived in Valenza called by the brothers Baldassarre and Adolfo Gino, who initiated him to the trade of goldsmith and box maker. In 1948 he married Ines De Ambrogio, a daughter of entrepreneurs in the footwear industry, and emigrated to Argentina where he worked in the Settepassi branch in Buenos Aires. Returning to Italy after three years, in September 1951 he opened a small workshop in Valenza in a building in Viale Vicenza owned by his in-laws - his brother-in-law gave him a workbench - and began working for the company of his brothers Adolfo Gino and Baldassarre.

Sergio began making himself known and to free himself from his brothers around the mid 50s: his travels as a salesman around Italy also date back to this period, starting from the main centers near Valenza, such as Milan, Turin and Genoa.

Ettore Litta, before founding the "Ficalbi e Litta'' with Sergio, at first learnt the craft of goldsmithery and box making at the "Carlo Illario e F.lli" workshop, and then from the master goldsmith, box maker and guillocheur Marco Montini. He proved to be a very skillful goldsmith, especially in the realization of closures, and was able to successfully operate a workshop.

Around the mid-50s Ines De Ambrogio, Sergio's wife, got trained in the guilloché technique in Florence, which she practiced until she left the production to take care of the company's bookkeeping.

In the early '60s the company had 16-17 workers and was also supplied by other minor factories.

In 1970 Larry Ficalbi, Sergio's son, joined the company after three years of apprenticeship with Ersilio Tassinari, a goldsmith, designer and sculptor. Larry, who knew the French language well and soon learned English, began to deal with external relations. He made his first trip to Switzerland, and then to France, Belgium and Spain.

Until the 1980s, the company never took part directly in trade fairs, but allowed instead its items to be displayed by other companies: it was only with Larry that the first real attendance at events, including international ones, took place. However, episodically the company had already participated in competitions at trade fairs, obtaining some awards.

In 1957, the company took part in the IV national exhibition of silverware and goldsmithery in Vicenza and, with a gold powder case, won the second prize for the theme "Commercial goldsmithery for an object of good execution". In 1967 he took part in the XXXI Antiques Exhibition of Florence and obtained the special diploma for goldsmithing.

Specializing in the production of precious boxes, the company created a wide and refined range of containers in gold and noble materials, with enamels, engravings, embossings, and enriched with miniatures and gems. Occasionally also jewels for personal ornaments were produced through gold foil modelling, such as "slave" bracelets and necklaces. For decades the company was widely known and appreciated for its plate and gold fabric bags, for lighters (in the second half of the '50s it was granted the first license in Valenza for the silver and gold coating of ignition devices), for powder-holders, for lipstick holders, for snuffboxes, for cigarette cases and similar accessories, but also for the production of particular objects, such as reproductions of historical Fabergé eggs or the realization of a large and challenging model ship.

The manufacturing was completely handmade, so each object was unique in terms of weight, size, morphology, and usually as a result of specific requests from customers. The quality of the product was the main focus, regardless how long it took for its production.

The objects made by "Ficalbi e Litta" spread mainly to an exclusive clientele, who loved refined luxury, also consisting of well-known international personalities as testified by the magazines of the time kept in the archives.

The company ceased its activity in 2001.

Archives

The documents that constitute the historical archives of the company "Ficalbi e Litta" are preserved by Larry Ficalbi. The photographic binders represent a coherent and important series for understanding the productive process. Real drawings were not normally made and the finished objects, generally unique pieces to order, were immortalized through photographs in approximate scale 1:1. These images, even repeated several times, were an internal memory of the work carried out and presented the creative possibilities of the company to the customers. There are also technical registers, administrative documentation and media reviews. All the particular equipment of the company, destined to the production of plate and fabric boxes (such as looms and shapes), plus some silver objects, have been donated to the Amici del Museo dell'Arte Orafa di Valenza Association.

 

The following series can thus be identified:

 

-Photographers

-Accountability and administration (about 1950-2000)

-Technical registers

-Press Review

 

Sources

Lia Lenti, Gioielli e gioiellieri di Valenza. Arte e storia 1825-1975, Allemandi, Turin, 1994. Specific entry about the company, p. 411; illustrations table XXIV, images n. 800-803-804.

Lia Lenti, Valenza ou la joaillerie italienne, Nuvole, Sardigliano, 2010. Images at pp. 134-137; 140-141.

Domenico Maria Papa, Preziosa opera. Capolavori d’arte e tradizione orafa a Valenza, Interlinea, Novara, 2014. Picture on page 212.

Maria Grazia Molina, Migrazioni. Second part, "Valensa 'd'na vota", n. 27, 2012, pp. 53-75 (on the Ficalbi family see in particular pp. 74-75). 

FICALBI E LITTA.jpg

Ficalbi e Litta (1954-2001)

viale Vicenza n.31, Valenza (AL)