It seems that in the age of mobile applications and fast-paced lifestyles, we are increasingly forgetting about old crafts and wonderful products that are the product of many years of experience, dedicated work and exceptional precision. At Zlatarna Celje, we are aware that in addition to constant upgrades in the field of modern technologies and monitoring of fashion trends, it is important to appreciate the goldsmith knowledge that travels from generation to generation. We are honored to present you a part of our professional team - our goldsmiths Srečko Ocvirk and Dušan Gradišnik, who have been with us for more than 30 years and are responsible for the production of many exceptional pieces of jewelry in Zlatarna Celje, and their successors, the younger a generation of goldsmiths, Blanka, Erika and Blaž.
What was the reason for becoming a goldsmith?
DUŠAN: My mother was a goldsmith, so I had the opportunity to get to know the beauty of the profession in elementary school, which I liked so much that I then decided to study to be a goldsmith. I am proud and happy that last year my youngest daughter Anja entered the world of goldsmithing and will continue to nurture the family tradition.
What did your first apprenticeship years look like? (school, apprenticeship, attitude towards masters in charge ...)
SREČKO: In 1975, when I was just starting my apprenticeship, we had a very strict teacher of practical work - goldsmith Ivan Leskovšek. However, we learned a lot, as we had to master all the stages of production, from start to finish. Of course, at that time everything was done only by hand. A position in the development department required years of proving and hard work. This had a special status.
Which jewelry product are you most proud of? / What is your favorite project in the history of your work?
DUŠAN: There have been a lot of projects over a period of 37 years. I have also participated in various exhibitions. I remember the most a necklace for which I won first place in the art design category at the 1992 international exhibition. My favorite project in the history of my work was a diamond necklace, consisting of many round links and made with the help of the then new technology of 3D jewelry design and laser soldering.
And if I can go into a little more detail; which type (stage or process) in jewelry making presents you with the greatest challenge and ultimately the greatest satisfaction and thus success?
DUŠAN: Each piece has certain stages of processing. It's nice to witness the growth from a golden bullion to the final product. A special success for me is the perfectly executed final product, which I make from the beginning to the end on the basis of a previous sketch and plan by a jewelry designer, and through a demanding process I add my goldsmith note to it. With this, I satisfy my professional manufacturing criteria, the vision of the designer and ultimately the customer. I am really proud of such products.
How much does jewelry mean to you?
DUŠAN: Jewelry has a great value, but for me as a goldsmith, of course, the most important product is a product with a clearly visible level of production difficulty.
How do you incorporate new technologies, such as 3D printing, into your work? Are they just an advantage or an obstacle for you?
SREČKO: New technology is very welcome in goldsmithing. But only on the condition that all involved know all phases of the work, i.e. from beginning to end. Although manual work is important, modern technologies are of great help to the goldsmith, as they ease the difficulty of the work and shorten the production time.
What does it look like to work with other members within the team of Zlatarna Celje experts, such as jewelry designers, technologists, blacksmiths?
SREČKO: Everyone needs to be connected.
DUŠAN: The cooperation is good. Together we learn on new projects and work together to solve problems in making products.
How does it feel to know that so many people wear jewelry that contains your energy? I am sure that people still wear jewelry that you created with effort and with all your heart many years ago, at the time of important turning points in your life when you got married, had children. All this energy captured in pieces of gold and silver is still with the people.
DUŠAN: It is a pleasant feeling when people recognize your efforts and are satisfied with the product you have created for them.
How do you see the younger generation of your successors? Are you worried about the profession, is your vision of the future positive?
DUŠAN: I'm not worried about the future of goldsmithing for now. However, I think there should be a greater emphasis on teaching and educating new goldsmiths.
Your knowledge and experience have been developed alongside many excellent old goldsmiths. Did you get any "golden advice" from them then, which will stay in your memory forever and you stick to it even today?
SREČKO: I got my knowledge from experienced old masters who knew a lot, but sometimes they didn't tell and show everything. They let you do all the hard work. But I believe in this saying: ''Knowledge is power! They can take your money, job, vacation and more, but no one can take away your knowledge!''
DUŠAN: Great masters from my past have always told me that you have to do your profession with your heart.
Can you briefly describe the atmosphere then and today?
SREČKO: The atmosphere has changed a lot. In the past goldsmiths were highly respected, and superiors represented an authority to be scared of. They could get mad at you if you didn’t greet someone loud enough. Yeah, that's how it used to be. Today, however, relationships are on a more friendly level.
Under strict supervision of the greatest masters, their successors also learned all about the work. Erika, Blaž and Anja will continue the tradition of exceptional gold jewelry making. Their fresh and professional approach to the tradition of jewelry making and creativity will help us satisfy even the most demanding customers.
How did you decide to become a goldsmith? When did your fascination with jewelry and its making appear?
BLAŽ: As a child, I was fascinated by the medallion around my grandmother's neck. Already then I wanted to know how it was made and where it came from. When I was walking around the town as a child, I was most attracted by the shop window of Zlatarna Celje, which is still there today. I have always been interested in stories about goldsmiths and their work, so I already knew in elementary school that I wanted to be a part of this beautiful story.
ANJA: I got interest in the goldsmith profession because of my father who is also a goldsmith. From a young age, I watched him do his job with passion and really enjoying doing it. He was the one who introduced me to the profession in more detail and showed that it involves a lot of creativity and making beautiful pieces. It was then that it became clear to me that jewelry is not just a piece of decoration, but has a special charm. This aroused even greater interest and respect in me, which consequently led me on the path of becoming a goldsmith.
Are you worried about your profession, do you think the profession is dying out?
ERIKA: I'm not really worried. It is true, however, that there are not a lot of young goldsmiths today. But I think they have still time to train for this rare and esteemed profession. In ten years, it may happen that the profession will be in a great crisis, as long as nothing changes in the field of youth education. It takes a lot of manual skill, patience, perseverance and many years of practice to transform into a goldsmith.
What do you think about modern technology that helps you in your work?
ANJA: Modern technology is of great help to us in our work. In particular, we can use it to help with smaller details and pieces that are extremely difficult or almost impossible to make in the traditional way.
ERIKA: Modern technology complements our work, as it simplifies many procedures. Keep in mind, however, that modern technology is difficult to use without a goldsmith, while a goldsmith can do their work without it. Only the production time becomes longer, which is definitely crucial for series and small series jewelry. With the help of a 3D printer and laser soldering, we can make an individual piece of jewelry in a few hours instead of days, which also affects the price of the product. The finishing of each product, however, still remains a matter of manual skill.