Fedi Gerla, the charm of prestigious wedding rings
Interview with Edoardo and Mario Gerla, owners of the historic Milano's goldsmith company of wedding rings
We chose to explore the theme of wedding rings by interviewing Mario and Edoardo Gerla, the present and future of the homonymous family-run goldsmith company specializing in the handcrafted production and selling of wedding rings.
Gerla fedi, the charm of a 60-year history. Can you tell us about the origins of your company?
The history of the company began with my father Luciano. In the 1950s, my dad worked in a large machine shop.
A maternal uncle, owner of a goldsmith workshop specializing in the production of wedding rings, offers him a purely commercial collaboration: thus begins the adventure of my father Luciano who, riding his bicycle, visits the main goldsmith wholesalers in Milan which are all located in the Duomo area, to propose your wedding rings. An honest, dynamic and efficient person, he establishes a relationship of trust with his clients that consolidates over time and will prove to be particularly important when a few years later, on the death of his uncle, he finds himself having to start his own business from scratch.
The first Gerla invoice dates back to 1963, with my father developing the company also with the support of my mother for the administrative part. The first location in via Carlo d'Adda, then in Carlo Torre until, tired of working in the basement, he started looking for a larger and brighter location until he moved to his current location in the 80s: a perfect location located near in the center of Milan.
Grandfather Luciano remained in the company until he turned 80, with that daily routine that nourished and gave color to his days. He came every day and, if he found a chip on the ground, he would collect it saying "gold comes from the earth and the earth wants it back".
Even when he was no longer able to physically come to the company, the founding grandfather had a special relationship with his grandson, my son Edoardo, who went to visit him every Monday to tell him in detail - upon express request - what had happened during the week.
How was your business born and how did it develop?
Our company is artisanal and familiar, it was born in the 60s and we have reached the third generation. We have always worked only with wholesalers, both my generation and that of my father who founded the company.
We weren't used to looking for customers: we had around 30 wholesalers with whom we maintained a relationship of trust and continuity. Then of course the world changes and we thought it interesting to integrate wholesalers with a direct relationship with retail. So we started going directly to the shops.
We currently have a commercial relationship with wholesalers, distributors, in particular a distributor in Tuscany that follows central-southern Italy and a network of shops that we follow directly. The sale in the shops takes place starting from the choice made with our display kit which includes all the types of wedding rings in the range made of silver. The wedding rings are all visible in both men's and women's sizes because it is important to see the impact of the model in the two different product sizes.
In terms of production, we guarantee delivery 15 days from the order, an absolutely competitive timing of which we are very proud!
Does your business go beyond BtoB to also address end customers?
A few years ago we also decided to further integrate our presence on the market with a direct relationship with the public, the couples who get married. We try to make ourselves known to the bride and groom through our website and thanks to the fairs dedicated to the bride and groom. We have organized a space inside our laboratory to receive the public.
The spouses are truly enthusiastic when they can visit the laboratory where the wedding rings will be "born", the seal of their love.
How important are trade fairs for your business?
Fairs are certainly a good tool to make GERLA le Fedi known.
We have also tried to promote at Milano Sposi a collaboration activity with jewelers in a win-win perspective. It's a sharing in the Fairs dedicated to the bride and groom with the aim of making contact with customers for the purchase of wedding rings but allowing the jewelry store to maintain the relationship with the customer and develop loyalty that leads to the next purchase on the occasion of anniversaries, births, precious gifts in general.
It would be an extremely effective way to capitalize on relations with the public and take advantage of word of mouth, one of the most useful and effective tools for promoting our business also because it allows us to transmit values that go beyond the product, such as service, availability, respect of the delivery times of the wedding rings…strategic when it comes to marriage!
What is the value of the direct relationship with end customers?
We have customers from Milan and Lombardy in general but also many people who come from other regions and from southern Italy and live in Milan for work reasons; they buy their wedding rings from us even though the wedding ceremony almost always takes place in their hometown. We also have some customers from Switzerland.
Having a direct relationship with future spouses allows us to always be up to date with new requests and trends. Talking directly with people helps us understand the needs and satisfy the preferences of the public, which vary from person to person but still have some common features.
For example, we have noticed that there is no distinctive trait by age but more easily by geographical area. There are couples on their first but also on their second marriage, couples who have already lived together for some time and it often happens that they come to choose wedding rings with their children. Following a geographical criterion, as a rule, customers from large cities and northern Italy prefer the small wedding ring; moving towards southern Italy, traditionally we notice that customers prefer the largest and most full-bodied wedding ring.
In the direct relationship with customers, who wins between ecommerce or the headquarters?
In our range of services we have a site with an efficient and up-to-date e-commerce, but people don't like buying wedding rings online because they want to try, wear and evaluate them "on their finger".
So they come to visit us directly on site - spouses and witnesses who are traditionally in charge of purchasing the wedding rings. All ring sizes are available here and the shopping experience can be said to be truly complete.
In fact, our office is not a representative office but coincides with the factory which is always open and allows you to see the very place where the Gerla wedding rings are produced. People can see how their wedding rings are made, they can try and buy them.
We can also make the last live test fit up to enlarging or reducing them by 2 sizes and finally, if they wish, we can also keep them safely with us until a date close to the wedding.
What are the types of products you offer to future spouses?
The Gerla le fedi production mainly includes classic wedding rings in a range that goes from 1 gram to 12 grams:
- Weddind rings francesine
- Wedding rings regular
- Wedding rings flat
- Wedding rings mantonave - tipical italian style
- Wedding rings comfort with the fit rounded internally
- Wedding rings in two tone colors
- Wedding rings in three tone colors
- Wedding rings comfort with light weight
- Wedding rings with diamond
Comfort rings are currently in great demand. We also have the possibility of making hammered and brushed wedding rings, all finished by hand. The fact remains that 90% of people are oriented towards the classic faith, which can be easily combined with other rings especially for women. As for the materials, we deal in 18KT white, yellow and rose gold. Platinum is much less in demand today. in the context of the colors of gold, the color "champagne" is becoming increasingly popular, especially among young people.
Our public prices include pantograph engraving of the name and date. We also have the possibility of contacting an engraver who engraves by hand in an artisanal way, adding an extra touch of class to the faith.
It would be very nice to be able to offer Theca wedding ring boxes to future spouses, direct customers or through jewelers, a unique and exclusive case dedicated only to them and personalized with a phrase or simply the date and their names.
An object to keep to remember the most important moment of life!