Argentiere Pagliai is one of the last silversmiths with its own workshop in Borgo San Iacopo, the heart of medieval Florence. Paolo Pagliai plies his craft here, assisted by a bright young team that he has ‘cultivated and created’ and young trainees who are still learning. Alongside him are his wife Raffaella and daughter Stefania, who represents the third generation of a Company, founded almost a century ago by Orlando Pagliai, which still today maintains the high reputation of Florentine silversmiths. Argentiere Pagliai, a reference point for antiquarians, collectors and long-standing clients from all over Italy, is also recognized as a prestigious Florentine Historic Company.
There were 26 silversmiths in Florence in 1841. Included in this blanket number were the chisellers and gold-beaters. Historically the silversmiths’ workshops used to be concentrated in the streets of the Oltrarno area, which are around the Ponte Vecchio, on which the goldsmiths were to be found. This is where the story of Orlando Pagliai, born 1906, begins. At the end of a career whose first steps were taken as a silversmith’s apprentice in medieval Borgo San Iacopo, it was to be his son Paolo who would inherit his enormous skills and artistry, and would transfer the Company back to where Orlando had started out.
Stefania, let’s start in the long distant past, with your grandfather’s experience.
In the 1920s boys were sent to the workshops at a very young age to learn their craft. My grandfather Orlando began his apprenticeship at the goldsmith’s Virgilio Mazzoli in Borgo San Iacopo, and then worked at the silversmith’s Rogai from 1931, still in that same street. He stayed there for a few years, until he decided to set up on his own and in January 1947 he opened his first silversmith workshop in Costa San Giorgio 77, on the ground floor of a convent where St Catherine of Siena had once lived. He was very talented and during his time at Rogai’s he had been involved with many important projects, but the problem now was to get known and acquire clients. My grandfather was undaunted and prepared handwritten cards which he distributed to the taxi carriage men, who in those days were to be found at the Cascine ,’My name is Orlando Pagliai, the silversmith who used to work at Rogai, if you need me you’ll find me at number 77 in Costa San Giorgio.
And did clients turn up?