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History 1800

1800: From workshop to industry

In 1820, having been infected with the enthusiasm of the Industrial Revolution, Luigi Manetti began the process of transforming the family’s artisan workshop into a true mechanised factory. Along with the profits, the quality of the product also increased, and this led the workshop to receive three medals of merit at the National Expositions of 1861, 1881 and 1884.

During the transition years between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Florence dozed while the rest of Europe changed at an astonishing pace due to the French Revolution, the Napoleonic era, and the Industrial Revolution, which overturned all the old social, political and economic schemes.

During this time, the Manetti workshop was managed by Salvatore Domenico (1753-1816), who, with intelligence and foresight, understood that the future lay in the upgrading of the production facilities, and in the use of the new technologies being developed far away from Florence. Bolstered by his open outlook on the world, he sent his son Luigi (1791-1855) to find out more about them. From 1811 to 1816, Luigi travelled through Italy, Spain, France and Prussia. When he returned to Florence, the workshop was ready to become a factory. In 1820 he launched the first mechanised gold leaf production process. That same year he created the brand “Giusto Manetti Battiloro”, which was named in honour of his newborn son and the profession that his family had been passionately engaged in for centuries.

The decision turned out to be spot on: year after year, in addition to the quality of the gold leaf, the profits also increased, all of which is well documented by the city government’s tax tables from the period.

With the arrival of his eldest son, Giusto (1818-1890), at the company, the process of innovation continued: in 1840, the mechanisation of the rolling phase was introduced, which allowed both the thickness of the gold leaf and the production times to be significantly reduced. This represented yet another successful investment: Giusto Manetti Battiloro went on to tackle the second half of the nineteenth century with a clear advantage over the local competitors, who’s profits remained proportionate to the size of their shops. The gamble on quality and modernisation had been won: in 1861, “with a quantity of booklets of gold and silver leaf worthy of commendation, due to the perfection of the work and the quality of the metal”, the company attended the First National Exhibition in Florence, which was Italy’s capital at the time, and was awarded the first medal of merit. As the event’s catalogue explained, “the process is simple, and at first glance it may seem easy, yet there are few professions in which there is such a direct relationship between skill and results.” The second medal was received at the Milan National Exposition, in 1881; and the third at the Italian General Exhibition in Turin, in 1884.