Alchimia was founded in Florence in 1998 by Lucia Massei and Doris Maninger. The school is the natural result of these two friends and collaborators’ boundless energy and passion for design and artistry.
Located in the heart of San Frediano, Alchimia is just a few meters from the spectacular, 14th-century Brancacci Chapel—itself an elegant testament to the Florentine Renaissance. Alchimia finds itself in a place rich with history but also life, a city known for its legacy of artisans and many cultural associations—a pulsating repository of the arts and crafts as well as spirited society.
Doris and Lucia’s dream at times seemed like an incongruous challenge: to establish a school teaching contemporary jewellery in a city, which, with its shops along the Ponte Vecchio, had long been a source for traditional jewellery and craft. Their ambition was to make the school a critical center of modern aesthetics and approaches here, situated within a canonic artistic center yet engaging with a field that has expanded into increasingly global directions.
The success of this artistic proposition rests on a few elements: a combination of absorbing tradition with undertaking its future and endowment; the quality and commitment of its generous instructors; and active exchange by talented students meeting from all parts of the world, whose different cultural identities have together helped to mold the school’s own singular character.
There were also some tried and true traveling companions who helped define the soul of Alchimia. First was Giampaolo Babetto, a goldsmith and artist who, already a proven actor on the global stage, wholeheartedly believed in the project and began teaching in the first location, in Via dell’Orto. In 1999, when the school was only a year old, he first taught at a summer workshop, and then became a permanent teacher at the school, staying for another four years. In the early 2000s, Alchimia began a collaboration with renowned jewelry artists Manfred Bischoff and Manuel Vilhena, developing the three-year program that laid the foundation for Alchimia students to win their first major international awards.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, in 2008, Alchimia organized the Siamo Qui/We Are Here Event, collaborating with 12 of the world’s best universities in an exhibition held at the Pagliere in Porta Romana, and at a parallel symposium, held in the Palazzo Vecchio, with speakers and participants from all over the world comparing different perspectives on the state of art and dynamic developments in the industry. In the wake of the school’s rapidly growing profile, becoming more and more appreciated for the quality of teaching and its strong creative drive, this event secured Alchimia’s position as a leading international center for contemporary jewellery.
In 2010, the school left its headquarters in Via dell’Orto and moved into the wonderful Piazza Piattellina. Now under the artistic guidance of Ruudt Peters and Peter Bauhuis, goldsmiths and artists who lent even greater energy and innovation to Alchimia’s teaching methods, the school has since adopted a university model academic structure, with internationally recognized focused programs.
The school has participated in shows, events, and exhibitions, as well as collaborated with institutions from around the world. Among these, the Cheongju Craft Biennale in Korea stands out: Alchimia represented contemporary jewellery in the Italy Pavilion. Additionally, Alchimia has participated in the Marzee Annual International Graduation Show annually since 2001, winning, among other things, the esteemed Marzee Graduation Prize four times, thus inaugurating its place among the most important jewellery schools in the world.
The most significant accounts of the school’s exciting history are chronicled into two volumes, and in 2018, the 20th anniversary of Alchimia, the next publication in the series will be released.
Alchimia is an endeavor that, with courage and coherence, has believed and continues to believe in a kind of permanent instability, in rigorous enrichment of knowledge, but also in the systematic questioning of expressive codes and manufacturing techniques as a means of growth and sophistication. It was with this selfsame conviction that Doris and Lucia had imagined at the project’s birth, and students, graduates, faculty, and staff have no fear that Alchimia is not content to rest on its laurels but will continue this inquisitive, experimental tradition.