Marble’s sphere of influence
From the Italian newspaper Il sole 24 ore | January 2019
A pure block of stone, shaped by a diamond tip and honed to an extraordinary thinness
By CRISTINA PIOTTI
“Elisa Ossino? I discovered her.” Gabriele Salvatori, CEO of the eponymous design brand, based just kilometres from Tuscany’s artistic hub of Pietrasanta and the spectacular Carrara quarries, talks to us about his discoveries. One of which is the emergence of the now renowned designer who once upon time was a stylist for Salvatori photo shoots before Gabriele recognised a particular touch in her work and suggested that she design something for him. And so was born a long-lasting collaboration which created its own “new world”.
That first product was Urano, a sphere-like lamp created by hollowing out a cube of Bianco Carrara marble. “It’s shape was so pure, soft and sculpture-like, that when Elisa showed it to me, I was immediately struck by its beauty. But it also meant that we would have to grapple with the intricacies of electrics and lighting technology, things outside our usual area of expertise. Fortunately, however, we are one of the very few companies in our sector with an internal R&D department equipped to find solutions to this sort of stimulating challenge”.
And it all starts with a block of marble
The difficulty, he goes on to explain, was to find the perfect synthesis between two universe, ie marble and electrics: “It wasn’t so easy to implement the lighting aspect without spoiling the aesthetic of the piece.”
He continues: “The first prototypes had a structure which extruded slightly out of the stone and if we had tried to shape it we would have compromised the aesthetic. Then, after months of research we found a super-thin bulb casing with a rim in polished steel that reflects the surface, so it almost seems to float, but the steel itself isn’t visible.” The deceptive simplicity, the purity of form and the sense of suspension all contribute to making Urano seem more like a celestial body than a lamp. And it all starts with a block of marble. “We certainly didn’t make life easy for ourselves. I wanted to stretch the marble, making the profile as thin as possible, right down to almost 4 millimetres so that the eye sees just the finest of edges, almost like a veil. Then, gradually, moving away from the rim, the marble becomes thicker” explains Gabriele Salvatori, the passion exuding from him.
The choice of marble is crucial. “The first stage is to find the right block. It must be pure, with not a single deformity or impurity” he explains. “Then, we cut thick slices from the block and we make a cylinder from each of them. They’re then placed on a machine which creates the round shape. Then we use a diamond drill to carve them out, slowing down the speed as we go and filling the lamp with water to avoid overheating and any hairline cracks developing. Then comes the final “sanding” step which is done by hand and only by our most experienced staff. This is when we get down to the famous 4 millimetres.”
Each lamp takes at least two weeks to create: “But this is not a mere lamp. It’s a sculpture”.
URANO IS AVAILABLE IN THREE SIZES: DIAMETER 18 CM FOR USE AS A BEDSIDE LAMP, 30 CM AS A TABLE LAMP AND FLOOR LAMP WITH DIAMETER 50 CM