Anyone who feels that the cameo might be an anachronistic, fuddy-duddy jewel should look to the work of Amedeo Scognamiglio, a sixth-generation cameo carver on a mission to make the age-old gem cool once more. “I want to keep the tradition alive though innovation,” says Scognamiglio from his Italian hometown of Torre del Greco, overlooking the Bay of Naples. “I use the same local materials and traditions as 300 years ago, but the designs are completely different.”
His bold, eye-catching creations for both men and women are emblazoned with an electric range of motifs – from skulls and serpents, spiders and monkeys (3mm blue agate cameo and rhodium-plated sterling Three Monkeys silver ring with tsavorites and yellow sapphires, £3,270) to more classical subjects such as of angels and muses (blue agate and rose gold-plated silver Couture Muse earrings with aqua rock crystal drops, tsavorites, blue sapphires and pink tourmaline, £19,300).
Fans of his work include Rihanna and Sarah Jessica Parker, and his burgeoning bespoke business (pieces from £3,200) is attracting a growing clientele. “People are approaching us for unique cameos of their homes and children – but it’s dogs that are the most popular,” says Scognamiglio. “I have a very successful client who wears her 10ct engagement ring next to an Amedeo cameo ring with a portrait of her French bulldog.” Initials, too, are sought-after and are given the Scognamiglio twist, with letters embellished with hand-carved skulls, crowns or flowers.
The choice of material for the cameos ranges from black lava to turquoise to marble, but Scognamiglio favours traditional white sardonyx shell on a dark background. “This combination gives more depth and a real 3D look,” he says. “I can play with detail in the eyes and nose, which is what makes it personal.”
The design process through to delivery takes six to eight weeks, with clients shown the near-finished cameo before completion. It’s a chance not only to make necessary adjustments but also to decide how to set the piece – whether as a ring, pendant or brooch, in gold or silver or studded with diamonds.