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A golden art for a gilded age

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The Empire State Building was completed just as the dazzling hedonism of the Roaring Twenties was drawing to a close and  the austerity of the Great Depression set in. The prosperity that allowed its construction was in part made possible through the work of Italian immigrants so it is appropriate that its most luxurious decorative symbol should have been restored with gold and aluminium leaf from Italy.

The historic landmark-designated lobby was completely renovated in 2009, including its 24-karat gold and aluminium leaf ceiling murals. “We provided the metal leaf and also advised on its application,” says CEO Fabiano Masserini, whose grandfather founded the company. “Since 2000, we have been the only company in the world with the skills to beat brass, aluminium, copper, gold and silver to the requisite quality levels.”

Nazionale Battitura Metalli occupies a unique niche in the interior design world. Its beaten metal leaf is gossamer thin and floats away in the lightest breath of air. Applying it is as skilled an undertaking as its manufacture.

“We beat gold and silver to a thickness of just 0.3 μ,” says Mr. Masserini. “There is no other company in the world that can match that.” To achieve this, the company has had to develop its own machines and techniques. “We are not just responsible for a product but for an entire specialism that is disappearing,” notes Mr. Masserini. “Once there were eight manufacturers in Europe with this expertise. Now we are the only one left that is able to produce all types of metal leaf. Surviving has not been easy, but things are changing for the better.”

Luxury is in demand again, as the company’s work on buildings such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai shows. “Foreign sales account for 90% of our turnover, and my work takes me all over the world,” states Mr. Masserini. “We go where economies are booming. For a while that was Russia, then the Middle East, and now the US market is strong again. For us, it is a sign of our business coming full circle and a sign that our skills will never go out of fashion.”

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