Covering twenty-five rooms the museum occupies the left wing of Pitti Palace, added during the 17th Century to the original15th Century core.
The rooms on the ground floor of Palazzo Pitti, originally the grand ducal summer apartments, and the mezzanine rooms were chosen in 1861 as the location of the Silver Museum, which collects various kinds of precious objects (gems, cameos, semi-precicus stones, ivory, jewels, silver....) to document the sumptuous life of the princes and the collections owned by the dynasties that ruled Tuscany, with specific attention to the Medici and Lorraine families.
The core of the collection of Medici origin was originally preserved in Palazzo Medici in via Larga (now via Cavour), where Cosimo the Elder had started in the 1 5th century a lavish and diverse collection of precious objects, which would be later increased by his son Piero and his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of the most valuable categories comprises the vases of Lorenzo, which are extremely valuable pieces both historically and artistically.
The enrichment of the family collections in the 16th century by the Grand Duke Cosimo marks the cultural policy of the Medici, aimed at protecting artists and at directly commissioning precious objects.
As a result Florence became one of the most qualified centres in the production of the socalled "minor arts". The grand ducal workshops, strengthened by the second Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco, organised their independent and functional premises in the Uffizi palace under Ferdinando I de'Medici in 1588.
Cutters of crystal, cameos and semiprecious stones, goldsmiths, etc. Competed in displays of invention and superb technique to produce the objects that still constitute the main core of the Museum.
Many of the jewels were sent as gifts to the kings and powerful families in Europe with which the Medici had formed a close network of relations.
One of the most refined examples is the gold-mounted lapislazuli vase by the goldsmith Bilivert, based on a design of Bernardo Buontalenti, which fully documents the preciousness of the 16th century Manneristic taste. Equally precious are the objects cut in ivory brought from Germany in the 17th century by Prince Mattias de' Medici and the large collection of cameos and the so-called "Galanterie ingioiellate" of Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici (early 18th century), who purchased precious jewels in the whole of Europe.
Equally extraordinary are the objects brought to Florence by Ferdinando III of Lorraine after his return from exile following the brief Napoleonic period. The oldest and most beautifully worked pieces are the gold plates, beakers, "corni potori" (drinking horns) and wooden cups mounted in silver and enamel.
The last section of the museum holds an eclectic collection of donations to the mueum: jewels from the 17th to the 20th Century, articles in the 18th-century floral style, as well as 19th-century neoclassic pieces, including tiny precios mosaic set 18th and 19th-century Sicilian and Neapolitan goldwork and the spectacular ametyst and diamond-studded Cartier Diadem from 1900.The displays in the last two rooms include fifty-eight plaster casts of te large decorative silver plates that were given each year to Cosimo III and successors for the feast of Saint John Executed by several baroque Roman sculptors, they were melted down by French in 1799.
The present arrangement of the museum aims at focusing both on the different aspects of the grand ducal collection and on the beauty of the rooms chosen to display it, which significantly umderline some of the aspects of the Florentine artistic culture. These include the great room frescoed by Giovanni da San Giovanni (1592-1636) and his assistants on the occasion of the marriage of Ferdinando II de'Medici and Vittoria della Rovere (1634), where sumptuous mythological allegories and references highlight the many aspects of the cultural and political life of the Medici under Lorenzo the Magnificent.