Ph. Melinda Gallo
Petra Casini had always dreamed of making her own path in life, one that would not involve her family business of stone cutting. She spent her entire life surrounded by stones: she was born and raised in Idar-Oberstein, the capital of Germany's gemstone industry, and comes from a long line of stone cutters on both sides of her family. Her grandfathers were both stone cutters: one cut agate and created cameos while the other one cut diamonds and semiprecious gemstones.
At a young age, Petra was drawn to the Renaissance, especially the frescoes and architecture, and wanted to spend some time in Italy. When, arriving in Florence to study Italian for three months, she saw the Duomo, she had a sense of déjà vu. She immediately felt as if she had arrived ‘home.' In that moment, she decided that she wanted to move to Florence permanently.
After Petra returned to Germany and finished her studies, her parents agreed to let her move to Florence-on one condition: she must have a profession to fall back on. To please her parents, she studied gemology at the Deutsche Gemmologische Gesellschaft in Idar-Oberstein and became a gemologist, thus allowing her to identify and evaluate gems and gemstones.
In 1981 with her diploma in hand, Petra moved to Florence to study art history. After she had been living here a few years, her parents stopped supporting her. She had to decide if she would make it on her own in Florence or move back home. Instead of returning to Germany, she asked her parents to send her some loose stones to sell. The box of stones she received were not easy ones for her to sell, but she managed to sell them.
Petra ended up creating a business for herself in Florence by selling loose stones to companies and factories in and around Florence. She eventually expanded her business to Milan, Vicenza and Arezzo, the important fashion centers in Italy. In the 1980s, her business took off because semiprecious stones were in vogue with the fashion industry.
She discovered that she had a great talent for finding the right stone for each client, based on the client's budget, preferred color and how the stone would be used. She understood not only the stones, but also how to successfully integrate them into a finished product for her customers.
In 2005, Petra moved her office to a shop in via Maggio (www.petracasini.com) with a workshop in the back and a showroom in the front. After moving to this new location, she decided, along with selling loose stones, to design jewelry. She began creating her own lines of jewelry. She continues to purchase stones from all over the world, like Africa, Brazil and Uruguay, has them cut in Idar-Oberstein and then mounted in Florence, working with a few local goldsmiths.
Petra believes that ‘the stone is a living entity and is the essence of a piece of jewelry.' ‘It's vital,' she insists ‘that the stone be in tune with the client.' She works closely with each client to design a custom piece of jewelry based on the selected stone and the client's needs and desires for the piece.
Whenever Petra needs to find some inspiration for a design, she exits her shop. ‘In Florence you only have to walk outside to be inspired,' she says. She still adheres to what her first art history professor in Florence taught her: ‘Just open your eyes and learn to see.'
Even though Petra never planned to work with stones, she has done it her own way in Florence. Petra feels even more at home in Florence now that she has created her own business and family: she lives here with her husband and two children.