1850

Homeware from Omegna

Unioncamere

“A product that seems to have been created in alchemists' laboratories and which is indispensible to homes throughout the world”

Historical Background

The phases involved in the creation of “pots and accessories for the home” can be divided into three parts, according to the raw materials invented or used in the production of these objects.

The first homeware company in Cusio was Calderoni Fratelli, established in 1851 in Casale Corte Cerro by Carlo Calderoni, who had learned the art of making pewter in Germany. When he returned home, the craftsman began a small business producing pewter and brass items, which soon took on an industrial nature.

Calderoni was the first company to use alpaca alloy, an alloy composed of copper (65%), zinc (23%) and nickel (12%), developed by the Berndorf Metallwarenfabrik. 

The material was poor, however it appeared similar to silver and represented a valid alternative to it, both in terms of its intrinsic characteristics of shininess, malleability and resistance to corrosion, and also because it allowed objects to be produced at a lower cost.

One item always found in the catalogues of the era was the tea and coffee service. In this early phase, we find products that could be included in a “popular” line of metal homeware: crucifixes, candelabras, inkpots and small domestic utensils made from pewter and brass, such as boxes for ointments, pills and snuff, all created by the F.lli Piazza company, which began its production in 1880.

From its inception, the Lagostina company concentrated on the production of cutlery. As early as 1901 it could take credit for spreading the use of cutlery, thereby changing Italian eating habits. 

The metal used by this company was taken from the iron strips on cotton packaging that originating from the textile industries in the region and from the dismantling of navy ships. 

By using recycled iron, the company managed to produce utensils at a very low cost and its products were popular for that reason: cutlery had finally become affordable. 

Lagostina quickly became the foremost company in the production of tinned iron cutlery within Italy, and in just a few years the small industry in Omegna was able to meet the needs of the entire nation, with great success.Another great invention in homewares was introduced in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, who patented the Moka: a coffee pot destined to become an icon of Italian homeware tradition, and still a fixture in our homes.

The use of stainless steel as a new material for table and kitchenware was introduced by Massimo Lagostina. 18/10 steel is currently the most widely used alloy because it is more stable, non-magnetic, resistant to corrosion and stains and therefore very hygienic. 

Massimo Lagostina instantly grasped the potential of this new material for application in the kitchen, and so he started experimenting with its use within the company. He faced considerable difficulties however, when the processing problems were compounded by a widespread “scepticism” on the part of the technicians, who had been satisfied with using tinned iron for years.

At the end of the Second World War, production of homewares resumed with new energy and new confidence. Big investments helped companies expand and buy new machinery, while stainless steel established itself as the preferred material for kitchen items.

These transformations were accompanied by the advent of new means of communication, which saw the rebirth of the companies from the wartime. Steel still faced a technical problem, however: as it wasn’t a good conductor, the heat of the stoves did not distribute uniformly over the bottom of the pan, and food would stick and burn.

Cutlery moulds

It was Lagostina who once again found a solution in 1955 by using bases made of “Thermoplan”®: a system that involved coupling steel and aluminium in order to create the so-called “double bottom”, a simple device to encourage the distribution of the heat which soon proved to be an important innovation.

The Local Area

The Strona Valley and Cusio provided the geographical setting for a historical tradition in the metalwork: many people from the valley specialised in processing iron, brass and pewter. 

Their descendants founded homeware industries on a global scale, such as in the cases of Logostina, Alessi, Piazza and Bialetti. 

Even the origins of the nearby industrial district for sinks are to be found in the convergence of the centuries-old experience of the bell-makers in of Valduggia and that of the brass workers from Cusio. 

The Strona Valley generated numerous ingenious inventors. The Guglielminetti brothers devised a special flask adopted from the armed forces of various countries. 

The “Sesula”, a wooden shovel for clearing snow off the roads, was invented in Sambughetto. The first hydraulic lathe was built in secret by Gaudenzio Piana, who had seen an example of one in the prison in Genoa after the revolts of 1849. Baldassarre Cane was the inventor of the seltzer syphon.

In 1853 Baldassarre Cane used the profits from the seltzer syphon patent to found a factory for metalworking in Omegna, which was followed a few years later with the opening of the Fratelli Cane establishment by Giuseppe and Costantino. Their company became large and important, and was among the core companies in the sector until the Second World War. 

Following the example of the Cane family, in the subsequent decades others undertook the same type of work, ultimately creating homeware industries that are now brands known throughout the world, such as Lagostina, Alessi, Piazza and Bialetti.

Credits: Story

Curator — Camera di Commercio del Verbano Cusio Ossola
Curator — Ecomuseo del lago d'Orta e Mottarone - Direttore Andrea Del Duca

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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