authentic classic jewels

Cameos: An Updated Classic

Miguel Sirgado

Amedeo Scognamiglio, loyal to an old family tradition, designs cameos that are authentic classic jewels.

A cameo is, by definition, “a gem carved in relief”. But in reality a cameo is much more than that, it is a small work of art. It is fascinating to think that the method used for their production has been in existence since the times of the ancient Greeks, who, in turn, had taken it from the Persians during the Greek army invasions, under the command of Alexander the Great. The Romans later adopted this procedure and used cameos for decoration and jewelry. Of course, it is rare to find a piece from that period nowadays, unless you look in very specialized auctions.The story behind these fabled jewels captivated and inspired Amedeo Scognamiglio, a jeweler who decided to rescue this old tradition from an innovative and contemporary perspective. His extraordinary pieces reflect his ingenuity, creativity and knowledge of the subject and can be purchased at Amedeo, his boutique on New York’s Upper East Side, as well as in the exclusive Bergdorf Goodman department store, in the same city. They are also available in the exquisite windows of Dover Street Market in London, Tsum in Moscow and Luisa Via Roma in Florence, among others distinguished locations.


“The hand-carved sea shell cameos have always been considered little treasures”, explains Scognamiglio, descendant of a lineage of artisans specialized in these pieces, in Torre del Greco, a small village on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. “Modesty aside, I probably am one of the most passionate enthusiasts and connoisseurs on the subject of this age-old tradition”. In fact, Scognamiglio, alongside Roberto Faraone Mennella, have spent the last ten years designing a sophisticated collection of jewelry inspired by the Italian classical heritage for the firm Faraonne Mennella by RFMAS.

Traditional cameos incorporated the use of exotic materials such as narwhal tusks, jade, amber and unusual sea shells for their manufacture. A transcendental moment for this industry was the use of the shell Cassis tuberosa, which is ideal since their colors in various shades provide unmatched depth and transparency to the reliefs. This particular technique was developed in Italy, specifically in Sicily, and from there it reached Naples, before expanding to the rest of the country. In a few years, many Italian artists began to work in France and England, quickly spreading this practice throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.


“My family has been making cameos since 1850,” Scognamiglio says. “I have memories of my grandfather Giovanni… I can see him as if it were now, sitting next to a giant pile of shells, alone, in a large, dark room, selecting the best specimens for his cameos. Nonno Giovanni was a peaceful and very articulate gentleman who received a strict classical education from the Jesuits”.

These family memories and traditions defined Scognamiglio’ destiny as one of the best-known designers in the genre. “The masters of Torre del Greco learned their craft and passed it on from generation to generation in small spaces full of light in Naples, and had the determination to continue the tradition of their parents and grandparents,” explains the expert jeweler with devotion and pride.


“From the Spanish Kingdom of Naples until the unification of the Kingdom of Italy in 1865 and the Republic in 1947, through three civil wars and both world wars, the economic depression of the 1920s and the boom of the 1980s, the artisans of this little town at the foot of a volcano have kept intact their dedication and their art”.

Torre del Greco is still the only place in the world where shells, corals, and other similar materials are converted into spectacular jewels and fashion accessories. Amedeo Scognamiglio continues to turn cameos into works of art. His determination to follow the family tradition, and the brilliance of his creative mind make him a superb artist and a first class jeweler.


© | 2019