Visuals and text by Bryan Doscher
The younger of the two goldsmiths, Alessandro Nucci, 23, sits behind the half-wall, half-glass partition, re-sizing a white gold ring emblazoned with an intricate butterfly. He smiles and waves enthusiastically through the reflection of the entrance on the plate glass divider, hammer in hand. The family-owned jewelry store faces Piazza Matteotti in the heart of town with a glass storefront and brilliant gold lettering announcing Krysos gioielli (jewelers).
Unlike many young Cagliese who seem to view the surrounding Apennines as a prison, Nucci dreams of following in his father's footsteps and remaining in town as a goldsmith. When asked what his dream was as a child, his smile twists to the left, eyebrows rising as if to say the answer is obvious. His expression is swift and easy as his hand sweeps from his chest outward, gesturing at every inch of his father's jewelry store, "this."
He started learning the craft his last year in high school when he was 17 after years of begging his father to teach him. Bruno Nucci, 62, has been training his son for the last six years to become an "orafo," a goldsmith, and to take over the business. The elder Nucci lived what can be considered a normal Cagliese life. Although the Nuccis have lived in Cagli for about three centuries, he left the town 40 years ago to live in Florence and learn his trade. He attended the Magistero D'Arte Applicata where he learned to work with gold and taught middle school students in Rome and Lombardy for two decades before following his craft back to his hometown.
These days Krysos is completely family-operated. With a pencil and paper, Bruno Nucci's wife Katia Bernaccioni, 57, draws, measures, and styles the designs. Bruno and Alessandro Nucci craft the gold into jewelry from raw material to finished product. All three of them serve customers.
The goldsmiths create the molds with hammer and pin, melt the gold in the back of the shop, and fashion the final piece at their shared workbench before it makes its way into the showcase at the front of the store. They only work with white gold, 18-karat, and diamonds. Their best creations are highlighted by the light shining down on them from the top of the jewel case, and are reflected on all sides except the front by mirrors. Currently, the two headlining pieces, tilted to face the entrance of the little store, are a solid gold frog and spider richly sprinkled with diamonds.
Bruno Nucci believes that gaining trust is one of the most difficult parts of running a business. It has taken him years to build the reputation of Krysos, and he was a bit nervous about the way his customers would react to having another goldsmith in the store. His son's proficiency in the craft not only has kept his father happy and proud, but has also helped to maintain and to expand the reputation of the Krysos "orafi" into the surrounding towns.
Alessandro Nucci is tall; he has a broad smile that looks as though it will reach from one side of his shaved head to the other. He wears two earrings, one white and one black. "George" - his nickname - is tattooed down the side of his right forearm in elaborate old English lettering.
His chin bears a small patch of a beard, and he winks frequently from behind the dark sunglasses that cover most of each side of his face. He is stylish, handsome, charming, and modern, and at the workbench his hands are possessed with a confident grace.
The tiny hammer flies swiftly toward the ring, shaping it around a metal form, the smooth even strokes molding the piece. His eyes don't wander from his work as he explains, "I was the one who wanted the business; my sister had no interest." His sister moved away, living and working in Bologna with her boyfriend, whom she met the same year her brother began his apprenticeship. She chased her dream into the city, arriving just like other small-towners from all over the country. Alessandro Nucci remains at home, an "orafo" like his father.
There are thousands of "Caglis" all over Marche with dreamers whose visions are too big for their mountain towns. The majority of the Cagliese youth appear to have a common restless mentality. They crave novelty. The idea of change, of motion, of anything taboo is profoundly alluring.
People have come from miles around the town to visit the Americans at night at the local night-life hot spot Cafe del Corso because it is different, it is a new reality brought to this little town.
Some of his peers follow their dreams away but are led back in the end nonetheless. Tomaso Majonchi, 22, is a freelance photographer and, just like the young goldsmith, loves his job.
"I get bored when I am on holiday," he explains in nearly perfect English. "I love to take pictures. It is my... how do you say... my passion."
He also has the restless bug in him, the bug that led Bruno Nucci away and that draws youth away to the Romes, Florences, and Milans of the world.
He hates to stay in any one place at a time but admits that Cagli is a wonderful place to call home. "I like to travel and I like to work but I will always come back here."
Majonchi attended the School for the Visual Arts in New York for just under a year, learning photography. He returned to live here with his family. The bug carries him off now and again, but Cagli will always be home.
Alessandro Nucci will take over the business when his father retires, and perhaps he will marry and establish a new generation of Nuccis designing, creating, and selling jewelry.