“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. ■